I have more on plate, says Michael Joseph on Safaricom exit

Michael Joseph.

Long-serving Safaricom official Michael Joseph.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Long-serving Safaricom official Michael Joseph has refuted claims that he was edged out of the board of giant telco saying the main cause of his resignation as director is to focus on the Ethiopia subsidiary where he is the board chairman and advisor to the chief executive officer.

The 77-year-old resigned from the Safaricom PLC board effective August 1st, 2023, after 23 years in the firm having served as founding CEO (2000 – 2010); interim CEO upon the passing on of Bob Collymore (July 2019 – March 2020); board chairman and board director.

“I was definitely not forced out. It was my own choice and the chairman, the CEO, other board members and the government wanted me to stay longer for sure. I notified the President (Ruto) out of courtesy. There’s never a right time to leave a company of this nature especially given my involvement with the company from the very beginning and I could stay on for another 10 years to be honest but I just think that at some point your value diminishes and I am not a great board person. I can do a lot more off the board than on it. Forcing me out of Safaricom would take a lot more than this,” said Joseph on August 9, 2023.

He steps down as a director exactly a year after he quit the position of board chairman paving way for John Ngumi who would later resign in January. Joseph’s exit comes at a time when there has been considerable reconfiguration of the telecommunication firm’s board with Adil Khawaja having been elected chairman in January 2023 while Ory Okolloh and Karen Kandie were appointed to the board as independent director and alternate director to the Treasury Cabinet secretary, respectively, in February.

“There’s a new chairman, new board members and maybe this is a good time to step down. I am not really a good board material. I am a CEO type of person, I like being in charge. I am not the kind of person that likes to take direction or waits for guidance and as a director, I feel a little restrained. Being off the main board gives me a little more time to concentrate on Ethiopia,” he said.

Joseph says the listed telco now needs stronger board participation as far as strategy and commercial prospects of the business are concerned. He says whereas the business has in the recent past faced subdued earnings, it is primarily a reflection of risks from the Ethiopia expansion and not the underlying fundamentals of the business.

“When I stepped down as chairman, I became a nominated director of Vodacom and so I represented Vodacom on the board so my replacement will certainly come from Vodacom. Hopefully, it will be somebody that brings a broader view about strategy and where the mobile industry is going” he says.