Michael Joseph Biography: Michael Joseph is the new board chairman at Safaricom. He took over from long serving chair Nicholas Ng’aNg’a who has gone into retirement.
Joseph successfully headed Safaricom from 2000 to 2010 when he stepped down for the late chief executive officer Bob CollyMore. Unknown to many people, early in life, he had hoped he would be a veterinary officer or ranger but his life would take a different trajectory.
Joseph has faced it all, starting from a not so bright education to attend technical school before joining the South African army as young man.
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“I wasn’t star in school. And in university I struggled in my first two years,“ he admits narrating that he would only catch up with books later own in the university.
In fact he would not have made it to university with his middle school grades but technical school papers helped him get an admission letter to cape Town university.
“You have got to take chance in life,” he says alluding to his move from South Africa to America in the eighties.
Well, Michael Joseph has been a man of many chances. From his education, to marriage to a career that exploded Safaricom from a small company housed at an apartment in Nairobi to multi-billion company.
For a man who does not prefer wearing suits anymore, he says that he has had his own shares of failure. In 1986, he left South Africa to start a company with American investors.
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“I moved for several reasons,” he thoughtfully explains,”I had gone through divorce, I had two young daughters to take care of and South Africa was in the depth of apartheid and I wasn’t too sure what would happen.”
The investment he had in the US was a huge flop as his American friends failed to invest in the company as they had agreed before his decision to move. “I actually lost a lot of money.. ..That was one of the lowest points of my life.” He recalls.
That would be made worse by the fact that he was in a new country, had obviously lost a lot of money and had children waiting back at home.
On his marriage, Michael Joseph explains that he has been through four marriages. “Along the way I married a couple of times, I married four times… this is my fourth and last marriage” he says smilingly.
He explains that marriage is another part of life where some things work and others simply don’t. “There are reasons for each.” He notes.
From the time he came to Kenya in 2000 with five Vodafone employees starting out Safaricom in an apartment at Norfolk towers, Michael Joseph has rewritten the narrative of business success.
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Safaricom he admits is the biggest success in his life but whether he would do the same to Kenya Airways, he ponders, would be something to look at. “Can that be replicated?” He queries, “That is not a foregone conclusion” he quickly answers himself.
He adds that the ingredients that made Safaricom successful were way different from what he is currently handling at Kenya Airways.
“You are measured by your last success. Everybody remembers me for Safaricom and Mpesa, but if I fail at Kenya Airways they will remember me for that,” he said.
Michael Joseph Biography: Parts of this feature are adapted from the SDE.
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