Finally it has been done. Safaricom has a new CEO. He is Peter Ndegwa – currently the CEO of Diageo Continental Europe. Peter Ndegwa has an extensive experience in management, having been the Chief Finance Officer, then Group Strategy Director, Sales Director Executive Director, at EABL before leaving for Diageo Continental Europe. In his time at EABL, he was considered the brain behind senator Keg, one of EABL’s most popular drinks.
His profile is rich. Away from the profile sent to news room, Peter Ndegwa has written in his own words thus ” Peter Ndegwa is a highly successful general manager and senior business leader who has built a reputation for delivering broad transformative change across a range of markets, organisations and functions. In his current role of Managing Director, Continental Europe & Russia., Peter is responsible for the full P/L growth of Diageo’s spirits and beer business across more than 50 countries.
Peter has been within the Diageo group for 15 years – He joined East African Breweries Limited in 2004 and has worked across the African business in commercial, strategic and finance positions in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.
“In 1992, he started his career at PWC in Kenya. He spent eleven years at the global firm including six years in the UK rising to become Associate Director within Corporate Finance and Strategy before leaving in 2004, to join EABL (a Diageo Company) as Strategy Director. He spent eight years across a range of senior roles including Strategy Director, Sales Director, CFO, and was also an executive Director on the EABL Board.
Peter then moved on to the role of Managing Director / CEO of Guinness Ghana and was later appointed Managing Director/CEO, Guinness Nigeria Plc in August 2015. In both these roles, he was recognised as a vibrant and engaging leader, particularly adept at leading business and organizational transformations through tough external operating conditions and competitive landscapes to deliver superior performance and value creation”.
Despite the high profile experience and qualification, not everyone is happy with Peter Ndegwa’s appointment. Their main concern is his native language, Kikuyu. Being a Kikuyu, those whose eyebrows have been raised cite concerns such as the possibility of Ndegwa becoming vulnerable to state manipulation.
One reason there was a delay in appointing Safaricom’s CEO to replace the late Bob Collymore was the push by the government that a new CEO at Safaricom ought to be a Kenyan, and Kenyans were not happy by that push. In the minds of Kenyans, a Kenyan CEO will be someone the government can manipulate to run down the biggest company in East and Central Africa. They feared that with a Kenyan at the helm of the telco, Safaricom will follow in the footsteps of Mumias, Kenya Airways, National Bank, and several other state run companies that were once vibrant but are today facing potential closure.
Check out: Can Safaricom collapse under a Kenyan CEO?
Peter Ndegwa being a Kikuyu has made the Kenyans who feared such a possibility fear that indeed what the state wanted was someone whom it could manipulate. These people find one loophole on Ndegwa’s appointment to push for this narrative, and the loophole is that Peter Ndegwa has no experience in the telecommunication industry. According to Peter Ndegwa’s profile, the only industries he has worked at are the Financial sector when he worked with PwC both in Kenya and UK, and the breweries sector when he worked with Diageo allied companies namely EABL, Guiness Nigeria and finally becoming the Managing Director of the parent company itself – Diageo. These experiences, the naysayers say, do not qualify him to head a technology company primarily dealing with telecommunication services. Thus, they reason, the only reason Peter Ndegwa could have been appointed CEO of Safaricom is because he is a Kikuyu. The President and the Chairman of Safaricom’s Board of Director, they say, are after all Kikuyus.
It is a fact that Peter Ndegwa is a Kikuyu, and even those who support his appointment have not shied away from this. Those who support him have gone ahead to recognise that if for whatever reason Peter Ndegwa may fail to surpuss Bob Collymore’s exceptional performance, then the naysayers will be quick to point to his tribe as the reason for the failure, so Peter Ndegwa must be ready to lead Safaricom with integrity and professionalism. They have urged him to look out for cartels who may want to use his position to influence the telco’s agenda – which ultimately will work to realising the cartels’ agenda.
I am not sure about you, are you worried that Ndegwa is a Kikuyu?