NAIROBI – Safaricom Board has elected Adil Khawaja as its chairman, replacing veteran corporate banker John Ngumi who was pushed out in January after a five-month stint.
Safaricom, the largest telecommunications provider in Kenya and among the most profitable company in the East and Central Africa region, made the communication on Thursday, January 26.Khawaja as its chairman, the company said on Thursday.
Khawaja, is a lawyer with 30 years of legal profession, and a known ally to President William Ruto.
The statement said he has previously served on boards of other Kenyan firms, and is currently the managing partner at Dentons Hamilton Harrison & Matthews, the oldest law firm in Kenya established in 1902.
He has also served in among other boards Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, CMC Motors Group, the Kenya Power and KCB.
CEO Peter Ndegwa sais among the projects Khawaja will help shepherd at Safaricom is the scaling up of operations in neighbouring Ethiopia, after the launch of its network there last year.
The exit of Ngumi was followed by the announcement of the appointment of Khawaja as a non-executive director.
“The board announces the resignation of Mr John Ngumi as a director and consequently as the chairman of the board with effect from 22nd December 2022. The new Chairman will be elected by the Board of Directors in the coming weeks,” the statement by Safaricom said at the time.
“He is recognised as a leading name in the Kenyan legal profession and has been globally recognised in various practice groups as one of the most sought-after lawyers in Kenya,” the firm said at the time.
Ngumi, a close ally of former President Uhuru Kenyatta, had only been nominated to the Safaricom board by the National Treasury in its capacity as a 35 per cent shareholder on August 1, 2022.
The changes in the telco might also affect the management, with fears CEO Ndegwa might also leave.
In an interview with Citizen TV on Thursday, Ndegwa said the decision about his future would be determined by the board.
Ndegwa acknowledged there has been social media speculation about his future at the company saying, “When you run a business of the size of Safaricom, just like a football team, there will always be views about what is happening to the manager, the captain and so on”.
“But, from where I stand, the decisions about my role are usually for the board, and now that we have a new chairman I’m sure it is a question that can be asked both to the Board and the Chairman,” he added.
In a tone suggesting an exit, Ndegwa said he knows he has had “a very successful three years”.
“I came in at a time when this country was faced with Covid-19, we’re a company that has served the country, kept the country connected, and now we’re converting ourselves into a purpose-led technology company,” he said.
He further termed expansion into Ethiopia as a major milestone as well as 5G launch.
He, however, said he plans to continue playing the role he has played for the future because “the management is focused on ensuring that this business continues to transform lives and play its role in Kenya. I will continue to lead this business to the future”.