Bob Collymore, CEO of Kenya’s Safaricom, Dies Of Cancer At Age 61

Written by Peter Pedroncelli
Bob Collymore
Robert Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015 in New York. He is holding a phone that is marketed by his Nairobi, Kenya-based phone company. AP Photo – Mark Lennihan

Bob Collymore, who helped build Safaricom into Kenya’s most profitable company, has died after a battle with cancer.

Collymore was expected to step down from his role at the mobile network operator in August. Safaricom is the largest telecommunications provider in Kenya, and one of the most profitable companies in East and Central Africa. The company grew huge based on the popular mobile money transfer service, M-Pesa and a growing customer base, SABC reports.

Collymore was in charge of Kenya’s largest mobile operator for nine years and Safaricom’s share price rose more than 400 percent during that period, according to BusinessLive.

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On Monday, July 1, Safaricom announced that Collymore had died at the age of 61 after almost two years battling cancer.

“It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing away of Robert (Bob) William Collymore, CEO of Safaricom Plc, which occurred at his home in the morning of 1st July 2019,” the firm said in a statement.

Collymore traveled to the U.K. in October 2017 to receive treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, and he had since been undergoing treatment for the same condition, SABC reports.

The Guyanese-born businessman is survived by a wife and four children.

Originally set to step down in August, Collymore agreed to stay on until 2020. The Kenyan government, which owns 35 percent of the company, insisted that a Kenyan be chosen to succeed him, according to Reuters.

There has been no word as yet on who Collymore’s successor will be.

Bob Collymore’s success at Safaricom

Safaricom, which is 35 percent owned by South Africa’s Vodacom, controls about 62 percent of Kenya’s mobile market, with 30 million subscribers, SABC reports.

Britain’s Vodafone, the U.K. mobile-phone company which owns 65 percent of Vodacom, also owns a separate 5 percent stake in Safaricom.

Collymore became the governance director for Africa at Vodafone and Kenyan subsidiary Safaricom in 2006.

In 2010, he was appointed the CEO of Safaricom, a position in which he would achieve great growth for the company.

Since 2010, the mobile operator’s share price increased by more than 400 percent under his guidance, according to BusinessLive.

Earlier this year Safaricom posted a 13 percent rise in its core earnings for the full year to end-March to $875.86 million, driven by growth in M-Pesa, according to TheStandard.

Colleymore was popular and beloved by many for his down to earth nature and the way he stood up for the rights of others.

In his final tweet on Twitter to his 1.34 million followers, he stood in solidarity with those wanting to criminalize rape in Senegal.

“I’ve signed @BlackQueenSN and @ONECampaign’s petition to demand the criminalisation of rape in Senegal. Together, we can put an end to gender-based violence @oneenafrique. #StopSexualViolence #Doyna,” the tweet read.

Many have posted their condolences on Twitter in the wake of his passing.