Former Safaricom boss Joseph gets Kenya citizenship


Mr Michael Joseph is based in Newbury, UK, where he works as the managing director in charge of mobile money at Vodafone. FILE

Former Safaricom chief executive Michael Joseph has revealed plans to return to Kenya after securing citizenship, joining a long list of expatriates and diplomats who opt to live in Nairobi after their tour of duty.

Mr Joseph, an American citizen, is credited with having grown Safaricom from a nondescript unit of a former State corporation to East Africa’s most profitable company, impacting on the lives of millions of Kenyans through telecommunication and money transfer services.

He took advantage of the 2010 Constitution that allowed Kenyans to hold dual citizenship, which means he does not have to denounce his US nationality.

“Kenya is my home and it is my intention to return and find ways to continue to give back to Kenya,” said Mr Joseph in an interview with the Business Daily.

He is currently based in Newbury, United Kingdom, where he works as the managing director in charge of mobile money at Vodafone—Safaricom’s biggest shareholder. He also consults for the World Bank in matters of deepening financial services in developing countries.

It is during his tenure as CEO that Safaricom’s mobile phone-based money transfer service M-Pesa was launched, putting Kenya on the global map of financial services innovations.

Mr Joseph, 68, was in January appointed chancellor of Maseno University by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Acquiring Kenyan citizenship removes the headache of having to apply for and renew his work permit, and will also save Safaricom – where Mr Joseph sits as a non-executive director - the work permit fees and higher income tax payable by foreigners. It also gives him a free hand to be involved in planning of Maseno University’s growth plans.

Maseno was last year ranked Kenya’s third best university after Nairobi and Kenyatta; and at position 31 in Africa by Spanish research group Webometrics.
Mr Joseph holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cape Town.

His career in the telecommunications industry spans five decades.

He was Safaricom’s CEO for more than a decade between June 2000 and 2011. Many diplomats, expatriates and tourists who have served or visited Kenya choose to settle down in the country and seek permanent residence or citizenship.

READ: Michael Joseph looks back at M-Pesa growth seven years later

Recent examples include former US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger, opinion pollster Tom Wolf and Lamu investor Leslie Duckworth, who owns the exclusive Kizingoni Beach Houses.

Bill Lay, former chief executive of auto dealer CMC Holdings and currently an executive at KK Group and chairman of East African Portland Cement Company, was last year granted Kenyan citizenship.

Fashion designer Ann McCreath now calls Kenya home having arrived in Nairobi more than 20 years ago to work with medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières.

Other prominent people of foreign origin who have settled in Kenya are Dr David Silverstein, former President Daniel Moi’s private physician, investment adviser Jim Dry and Kestrel Capital CEO Andre DeSimone.

Mr Joseph outwitted competition from rival telcos to more than double Safaricom’s net profit to Sh13.1 billion in the year to March 2011 from Sh5.8 billion in 2005— after growing total sales nearly fourfold to Sh94.8 billion.

He is regarded as the father of mobile money— thanks to the success of M-Pesa — which has grown beyond the traditional money transfer service to include payment of utility bills such as electricity and water, settling shopping bills and receiving dividends.

His tenure saw M-Pesa revenue triple to Sh11.78 billion in the year ended March 2011 from Sh370 million in 2008.