Bob Collymore, also known as Robert William Collymore, was born in 1958 in Guyana. Bob was a Guyanese-born British businessman and the C.E.O of telecommunication giant Safaricom. The late C.E.O spent the majority of his childhood in Guyana where his grandmother took up the role of parenting, as his mother left him under her care to work in the United kingdom so as to better his future.
Early life and education
Collymore’s business acumen was nurtured at the age of 12 when he developed an interest in artwork and begun crafting and selling art pieces by using plasticine sent to him by his mother who was based in the UK.Out of his crafting business, he was able to make good amounts of money.
When he was sixteen years old, he relocated to the UK to live with his mother in 1974. Collymore was admitted to The Selhurst Boy’s High School in London and he completed his formal education. At Highschool, he had it rough because he had to endure racism from his fellow students because he was the only black student at the time.
Contrary to other students, Collymore turned down the opportunity to join Warwick University due to scholarship ineligibility. He, therefore, did not pursue his university education.
I wanted to go to university and I disliked not having gone and for some years after I wished I’d gone. Now it doesn’t matter, but I would always advise a young person to go to the best university you can find.He once said in his many interviews.
Despite lacking a university degree, Collymore utilized his skills in his job and funded workshop training to enhance his knowledge and build his future. Prior to his C.E.O position in Safaricom, the business mogul worked in different firms that affiliated with business management and administration.
Collymore once served as a Chief Officer of Corporate Affairs at Vodacom Group Limited and a purchasing director for the UK Business of Vodafone. Between 1994-1998, he worked as Purchasing Director for Dixons Stores Group one of the Largest Electrical retailers in the UK.
Bob later became a non-Executive Director of Safaricom Limited in September 2006. In 2010, he rose through the ranks and was promoted as the Safaricom CEO replacing Michael Joseph who was the outgoing C.E.O. Michael Joseph was the Safaricom C.E.O since its launch in 1998.
Collymore was faced with a major challenge during his first year in office because Safaricom shares had incurred a loss of about 50 percent of their value from the Initial Public Offer of Sh5 in 2008. But Collymore had a plan and during his tenure, Safaricom’s share price has increased by more than 400 percent to Sh28 currently.
Wealth, properties and Networth
Bob Collymore once revealed that Safaricom paid him a total amount of Ksh 10million per month while he was in office. The late C.E.O also has properties worth Ksh.277 million. Through his CEO position at the leading telecommunications giant, he accumulated Ksh. 109.5 million in one year including interests and dividends. Collymore had an estimated net worth of Ksh 277.3 million in cash, properties, and shares.
The legendary C.E.O also acquired Ksh 18.4 million worth of shares in Safaricom and Vodafone PLC shares worth and his financial balances have a sum of Ksh95.4 million in real money according to online reports and financial analysts.
Marriages and Family
Bob Collymore married thrice and divorced twice before settling with his Kenyan wife Wambui Kamiru in April 2016.
The first marriage was a mistake for sure. I was too young — in my 20s. The second one was not a mistake, what was a mistake was how we conducted it,”
Bob was married to a caucasian lady from the UK but the two later divorced years after he was appointed Safaricom CEO and they both went their separate ways and sired a daughter.
The eloquent CEO later met his wife Wambui Kamiru in Nairobi during a fundraiser for survivors of the Loreto Convent Msongari school bus crash that occurred in July 2011. Wambui was part of the event in her capacity as an alumnus and Bob was there representing Safaricom Foundation in the fundraising the two socialized at the event and later became exclusive. The two had dated for three years and their wedding ceremony was held privately in Kitusuru which top corporate CEOs and dignitaries were in attendance.
From his previous marriage, Bob Collymore sired two children which he got with his partner before an annulment. His wife Wambui Kamiru, was married to Joseph Kinyua in 2007 and blessed with two twin daughters whom Bob Collymore raised as his own.
Unfortunately, on 1st July 2019, Bob Collymore succumbed to Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) at his Nairobi home at the wee hours of the morning leaving his wife widowed and four children behind.
In 2017, Bob was diagnosed with blood cancer – Leukemia and was taken to hospital in the UK. Initially, he was misdiagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency instead of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in Nairobi Hospital. His terminal illness was a rare blood cancer characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal cells in the bone marrow and which interferes with normal blood cells.
He underwent treatment at University College London Hospitals (UCHL) in London, the United Kingdom accompanied by his wife Wambui. By the time of his diagnosis, doctors informed him that he had had the disease for probably six months.
Before his referral to his treatment center in London, he visited Nairobi Hospital where he underwent 30 blood tests. Eventually, a bone marrow test indicated blood problems in his system and he was admitted while in London where he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and his condition required a six-month treatment process.
Being diagnosed with cancer for me wasn’t such a big deal. A lot of people seem to think that’s a bit strange. But for me it was, you know, if you got cancer you got cancer. You can’t undo it.
In an interview, he said the disease required him to make certain lifestyle changes like keeping away from social gatherings such as parties to avoid contracting any infections. The terminal disease meant his immune system was completely destroyed and it had to be rebuilt, making him susceptible to all types of illnesses. If he caught flu, for example, it would last even two months.
He succumbed to the disease at the age of 61 in his home on the 1st of July 2019 after a two-year battle. His death caused national mourning and sadness in the country. President Uhuru Kenyatta was among the first leaders to mourn Collymore’s death, noting that the country has lost a distinguished corporate leader.
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Achievements and contributions
In 2018, Collymore resumed his duties as CEO of Safaricom after taking a medical leave in the UK. He continued to undergo treatment at a number of hospitals in the country until his demise.
Mpesa-Under Collymore, M-PESA has evolved from a basic SIM card-based money transfer application into a fully-fledged financial service. He allowed Mpesa to partner with banks so as to offer loans and savings as well as merchant payment services through the use of Lipa Na M-PESA Paybill.
Network Coverage-Safaricom, under Collymore, began laying fiber in the ground and allowing others to go through poles for Kenyans across the country to get connected and by 2017, the company had invested about Ksh30 billion every year geared towards improving and expanding its network coverage, which was, by then, encompassing about 95 percent of Kenya’s population.
Hiring more people with disabilities-In July 2018, Collymore announced that Safaricom would increase the number of staff living with disabilities to 5 percent by March 2021, up from the current 1.7 percent, as part of its strategic business objectives. As part of its Diversity and Inclusion Programme introduced in 2016, it is reported that Safaricom has so far employed 96 members of staff with various disabilities including visual and hearing impairments, paraplegics, and people living with albinism and dwarfism.
Most preferred Service provider-In the last 9 years that Collymore has been a CEO, Safaricom has passed the 30 millionth customer milestone, cementing the firm’s position as the most preferred mobile service provider in the country.
Safaricom Jazz Festival-Being a huge fan of Jazz Collymore facilitated the company to start the Safaricom Jazz festival in 2014. The festival aims to celebrate jazz musicians as well as local talent far from growing the company’s brand. The proceeds collected from the Safaricom Jazz festival go to initiatives like the Ghetto Classics, a program that teaches music to children living in poverty, equipping them with skills and opportunities to succeed.
Through Bob Collymore’s different initiatives, thousands of people across Kenya have something positive to say about how the company has lifted them and made changes in their lives.