In Summary
  • He was convinced that a company can contribute towards reducing income inequality through its innovations and services.
  • Bob, who passed on Monday morning, would buy the pastries made by Chris Mwaniki, who is now a Form Four student.
  • M-Pesa Kadogo aimed at helping millions of Kenyans sending less than Sh100 access mobile money at no cost.

Whenever Mr Robert Collymore visited the M-Pesa Foundation Academy, he would allow himself one indulgence — some sweet pastries made by a student at the school in Thika.

Bob, who passed on Monday morning, would buy the pastries made by Chris Mwaniki, who is now a Form Four student.

The young man would also sell them to his fellow students as he nurtures his ambition to be, in his own words, a future Cake Boss.

His cake business has already made a cumulative profit of Sh200,000 in two years, and by the time he graduates, he expects to collect half a million shilling from his school.

KEEP PROFITS

The school will allow him to keep his profits after school and use it as seed capital to set up a business in the outside world.

It’s the policy for all students who make a profit from the capital issued to them in Form Two to try some form of business.

“There is Chris Kirubi,” the young man said of the successful billionaire industrialist and investor, “and one day there will be a Chris Mwaniki. I would like to be a good entrepreneur who can make a difference by building a business that will employ Kenyans and transform their lives.”

BUSINESS BUZZWORDS

It is not every day that you encounter a teenager talking in business buzzwords like a corporate chieftain, but this is the reality that Mr Collymore helped create for hundreds of young boys and girls attending one of Kenya’s most ambitious education experience at the Academy.

This is the story that you hear across the country from Kenyans who have been touched by Mr Collymore’s work.

“We are striving to mould young people who are focused on making a difference in the world, by nudging them to follow their passion and stride into the real world, secure in the knowledge that they have been equipped with the right academic credentials and mental state to face the world,” said Mr Collymore just under a month ago.

RINGSIDE VIEW

I have had a ringside view of corporate Kenya for nearly 20 years.

First as a pesky business reporter and editor covering Safaricom from its rocky beginnings in 1999, documenting its dramatic rise in the noughties under Michael Joseph and when Mr Collymore was appointed as the new boss in 2010.

At the time, the company seemed to be headed for turbulence but then it embarked on a path that would transform it into super-star company.

Then one day, as it also seemed to be headed to the bottom in 2012, I unceremoniously found myself on the other side of the ring standing by as “Bob’s PR man” as he once called me.

Coming to Kenya to work at Safaricom in 2010 closed a significant loop for the man whose ancestors had probably left Africa centuries past, bound for Guyana, where he was born 61 years ago.

NEW REALITIES

However, he learnt early on the need to adapt to new realities and pulling himself up by the bootstraps after his mother jokingly threatened to kick him out of their house if he failed to get a real job that could pay bills.

And then began an illustrious career spanning the globe.

When he got to Safaricom, Bob found a company wondering what direction to take.

On the one hand, he was managing restless investors and long-suffering shareholders who were wary that a devastating price war initiated by one of the company’s rivals was hurting the fortunes of the company.

The company’s share price, after a much-hyped share sale on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, was at its lowest and its profit had dipped the previous year.

TO THE RESCUE

This is where Mr Collymore’s power of righteous conviction and enduring quality as a great leader would emerge to the rescue.

He took a contrarian view, and refused to engage in the price war, which he viewed would be a race to the bottom.

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