Bob Collymore, the artist who changed Safaricom.

Author:Collins, Tom
Position:Tribute
 
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Bob Collymore, the CEO of Safaricom, Kenya's biggest telecommunications company, passed away on 1 July. Tom Collins pays tribute to a man whose talents went far beyond leading one of the most profitable firms in the region

When Bob Collymore passed away on l July after battling acute myeloid leukaemia for several years, Kenya, East Africa and the world mourned the death of someone who had come to represent so much more than just the boss of Safaricom, East Africa's largest company.

Waiting outside his top-floor office at Safaricom HQ in Nairobi, your correspondent remembers a feeling of slight nervousness as the towering figure opened the door. But sitting on a comfortable leather sofa, Collymore allayed all fears as he proceeded to cannily dissect the telco's successes while making frequent forays into the world of philosophy, music, art and the spirit of entrepreneurship in Kenya.

In what we now know was his last magazine interview, Collymore revealed to African Business in May that he would like to be remembered for more than his ability to grow shareholder value and increase profit. These interests--ideas, music and art were the lifeblood of this business executive, who, like the conductor of an orchestra, introduced different tones to the Safaricom symphony that have now been etched into the memory of Kenya's private sector.

Growing up in Guyana, Collymore turned seashells into jewellery, which he would then sell, in a precursor of his later ability to merge business and art. The Safaricom Jazz...

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