Safaricom: CEO Succession Planning

Case from Journal

Reference no. 621-0017-1
Subject category:  Production and Operations Management
Authors: Lucy Simani WamalwaRenson Muchiri Mwangi
Published by:  The Case Centre
Published in:  “Case Focus – The Journal of Business & Management Teaching Cases, Middle East and Africa Edition”, 2021


Safaricom PLC is a household name in Kenya. Michael Joseph, the pioneering CEO, was credited with transforming the company by growing the subscriber base from 20,000 to 16.7, making Safaricom the most profitable company in East Africa. Robert ‘Bob’ Collymore, his successor, tripled its profits from KES20.9 billion (USD190 million) to KES74 billion (USD672 million) in less than a decade. Despite the company’s extraordinary success, episodes of CEO succession have created anxious moments. For instance, when Michael’s tenure was ending, there was a general feeling that he was irreplaceable. It was a nervous moment for the board as it sought a successor who could continue with Michael’s legacy. A similar situation confronted the board when, in 2019, Bob announced that he would be retiring as CEO. The board had a few months earlier extended his contract by a year. Upon the passing on of Bob, they appointed Michael, who had remained on the board after his retirement, as interim CEO. As the search for Bob’s successor intensified, diverging shareholders’ interests continued to emerge. The government unrelentingly demanded a Kenyan CEO. Vodafone Group, the majority shareholder, did not think CEO nationality was important and focused on identifying a person who would deliver results, a notion some minority shareholders entertained. Even as Michael stepped in as caretaker CEO and team leader of the search, the tension was palpable, and the situation required a delicate balancing act.