Ideas & Debate

Paying a heartfelt tribute to an exceptional man

Bob Collymore
Former Safaricom Chief Executive Bob Collymore who died last week. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kicking back with my daughter about four weekends ago, we laughed and were moved at the same time watching one of cinema’s biggest comedic stars, Charlie Chaplin, in his movie The Kid. Beyond his usual slapstick humour, he said something deeper. That life is a fine mix of tragedy and happiness. That it’s a picture with a smile – and yes, many tears.

That it’s routinely twisted by evil and despair. So what is life? Why is there a miserable fate laid upon us? And is there an undying hope? A million questions. But I climb down from this lofty realm of philosophy. Today’s article is a simple one. It’s a tribute to a great man. A hero: Robert (Bob) William Collymore.

As the market comes to terms with what has happened, it’s only fitting to reflect on the man’s work. Appointed almost nine years ago, Bob became Safaricom’s second chief executive after Michael Joseph. And during his time, he played a pivotal role; revenues rose to Sh233 billion (2018), up from Sh84 billion (2010), share price quadrupled, net profits jumped nearly fourfold to Sh55 billion from 2010, oversighted connection of over 200,000 homes to high speed internet and safely defended the telco’s strong market position (though lost some in recent years) at 67 percent with about 30 million subscribers. The man also showed character and great conviction: staff training on ethics and anti-corruption clocked 98 percent last year, up from 60 percent in 2013, 50 percent of employees and 32 percent of senior management are now women and at least 1.7 percent of the staff is abled differently. He assuredly went his own way. When he declared his wealth in 2015, he clearly demonstrated why he belonged to a different class. And when he prepared to hand over the reins of the company, it was obvious there was no NSE-listed company CEO that had done more good for the average investor than him. It’s difficult to imagine a richer source of advice and mentorship for the incoming CEO. He’ll be missed but his legacy will surely live on.

His involvement with Ghetto Classics is certainly preparing the canvas on which artists will one day create masterpieces. More importantly, this work is already helping break the cycle of poverty. The bottom line is that he leaves a great example that will continue to inspire.

To close this special tribute, here’s a poem (writer unknown) dedicated to this great man. “You were an example; You were a great leader; You were special; You were important; You were a role model; You were fun; You were a great heart; You were unique; You’re an inspiration; You were a friend; You were kind; Many loved you; You are gone; yet, you live on.


Many think fondly of you; many will remember you. And for a long time; your name will be engraved in the annals of history.” Rest in Peace.