When Safaricom needed an interim CEO, they called Joe, when they needed an interim chair, they called him again just as Kenya airways had done when they needed a turnaround chairman.
Michael Joseph who now takes the reins in managing Safaricom’s entry into Ethiopia is exceptionally the go-to guy, the Mr. fix it for corporate board’s Rolodex.
Safaricom this week announced Michael Joseph had stepped down as the company chairman after the announcement of former ICDC and Kenya Pipeline Company John Ngumi as the new chair.
The decision, Michael Joseph said, would free his hands to oversee Safaricom’s entry into Ethiopia and give the turnaround of Kenya Airways more time.
“I want to devote more time to supporting Safaricom’s investment in Ethiopia and relinquishing the role of Chairman allows me the flexibility and freedom to undertake this important role on behalf of Safaricom,” he said
“This will also allow me to devote more time to Kenya Airways during this critical time to ensure that we continue the work of restructuring and refinancing for KQ to remain on the journey towards profitability in the next 2 years.
Mr. Joseph was Safaricom’s founding CEO from the year 2000 to the time of his retirement in 2010.
Michael continued serving as a non-executive board member at Safaricom from 2008 until 2019 when he was again appointed as the chief executive on an interim basis following the death of Bob Collymore.
He relinquished the top post to Peter Ndegwa, whose appointment took effect on April 1, 2020.
Safaricom’s board again tapped Michael’s experience when Mr. Nicholas Nganga retired in July 2020 a position he has held until the current transition.
It is clear that to Safaricom’s board, there is the confidence that Michael Joseph is the safest pair of hands during transitions who can provide the necessary guidance and leadership to the company and its employees.
Michael Joseph has been the go-to guy owing to his technical know-how on telecoms, his brutal sincerity and his commitment to excellence.
Michael did not have smooth sailing from childhood, when he graduated from high school, his family did not have enough money to send him straight to university.
He instead worked on repairing phones for Telkom SA as an apprentice and joined compulsory army service for three years before joining engineering school.
He cultivated his knowledge of the mobile phone market as he worked for GTE for a decade where he rose through the ranks to Vice President before joining Vodafone in Hungary as a chief technical officer in late 1999 working in private practice and then joining Safaricom in 2000.
And he has a long resume including an advisory role to World Bank on mobile money (2011-2012), Vodafone consultant (1998-2000), senior vice president IWC (1996-1998), Director GTE Wireless (1990-1996), Proposal Manager Alta Telecom (1988-1990), Chief Estimator Pirelli Cable (1987-1988), Senior Vice President Davy Communications (1974-1986) and Technician-Engineer at the department of posts and telecommunication Cape Town (1963-1973).
Michael cemented his legacy in Safaricom as he played a key role in the Safaricom IPO in which we saw over 800,000 Kenyans become owners of Kenya’s most profitable company.
He helped Safaricom become a market leader, with an extensive corporate social responsibility programme and numerous innovative products and services the company introduced to the Kenyan market.
However, the greatest product the company introduced and which cemented his legacy at the telco has to be the introduction of M-PESA which has revolutionized the way Kenyans conduct life and business.
“I have managed to do what many others yearn to do and that is to change the life of millions of people through our products and services. Our business has never been stronger and I leave confident that the company is well positioned to succeed as it enters this new chapter of what is one of Africa’s most exciting growth areas,” Michael said when he first retired as CEO.
He attributed this overwhelming success to the team he had built at Safaricom and Mr. Nganga who was the chairman then showered Michael with platitudes describing how it was difficult to let him go and that it took two years to find his replacement.
“Close to two years ago, Michael shared with me his intention to move on to the next chapter of his life. Since then, we have been looking for a suitable person to take on Michael’s role,” Nicholas Nganga said.
But Michael has been irreplaceable, the American national who obtained Kenyan citizenship after the new constitution of Kenya allowed dual citizenship has gone on to make an even greater impact outside Safaricom.
The Michael Joseph centre bears his name and the dreams and aspiration of Kenya as a country trying to express deep artistic voices.
A leading Music event space for all music genres in Nairobi, the Michael Joseph Centre supports on average 120 Music artists in a year by offering the space to upcoming music artists to showcase their talents from all across the country at no cost.
The center is well known for exhibitions showcasing art, paintings and sculptural work. It’s a great space for contemporary artists, both local and international to showcase their pieces also at no cost.
A hundred years from now, Michael Joseph will be remembered just how will depend on who you ask among the millions that he has impacted.