Safaricom boss Bob Collymore dies at 61


Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore during an interview with Jeff Koinange on the JKL show.
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore during an interview with Jeff Koinange on the JKL show.

In Summary

  • Two years ago, Collymore was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
  • It is a type of cancer that starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow.
  • He was out of the country for 9 months as he received treatment.
  • His tenure at Safaricom was to end in August 2019 but the company extended his contract by one year.
  • Collymore was recently appointed as a Board member for the National Cancer Institute.

Safaricom’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore has died.

A statement from the telecommunications company on Monday morning said he succumbed to cancer at his home.

“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 on the morning of July 1, 2019,” the statement reads.

Also Read: Collymore reveals how he was misdiagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency

According to Nicholas Ng’ang’a, Chairman of Safaricom, Collymore had been undergoing treatment in different hospitals and most recently Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi.

Collymore leaves behind his wife, Wambui Kamiru, whom he married in 2016 and four children.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday sent a message of condolence to Collymore’s family, friends and the Safaricom fraternity.

“It is with deep sadness that I have this morning received news of the death of Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore after years of battling cancer. As a country, we’ve lost a distinguished corporate leader whose contribution to our national wellbeing will be missed,” State House said in a statement.

Deputy President William Ruto described Collymore as a distinguished corporate titan, whose shrewd leadership at the helm of Safaricom was commendable.

Also Read: ‘I’m back!’ Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore returns to work after sick leave

He noted that Collymore steered the company to new heights and contributed immensely to the evolution of Kenya’s corporate scene.

“Collymore was exemplary, brilliant and courageous, especially in the manner he battled cancer. Condolences to his family, colleagues and friends. Rest In Peace,” Dr. Ruto said in a statement.

On his part, ODM leader Raila Odinga said the Safaricom CEO served Kenya with dedication and sustained the country as a communication hub in Africa.

On May 8 this year, Collymore was appointed as a Board member for the National Cancer Institute alongside Citizen TV’s Mercy Oburu.

And last year, the Safaricom chief executive was appointed to the Vision 2030 Board.

His tenure at Safaricom was come to an end in August 2019 but the company extended his contract by one more year.

He had said he owes the telco for time spent away from office during the time he was battling with cancer.

In an exclusive interview with Citizen TV’s Jeff Koinange in August last year, Collymore revealed chilling details of how he was misdiagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency.

He narrated how he fell ill and it took a long time before doctors realised he had a serious medical condition.

“I had been feeling unwell for awhile, tired and with high temperatures from time to time; it got so bad that I could not make it to company events,” he said on the JKL show.

During a visit to Morocco, Collymore said he started experiencing flu-like symptoms, his body would start shaking and had severe pain in the shin; the bones at the front of the leg below the knee.

“I thought to myself it’s not something you experience unless you kick something really hard,” he said.

He then called his wife to tell her what he was feeling and she suspected that he had malaria as his symptoms seemed similar to that caused by the mosquito-borne disease.

Also Read: Bob Collymore outlines key targets for fresh 14 months term 

However, when he returned to Nairobi and went to get checked, he was told he had Vitamin D deficiency and was given supplements.

Collymore said he was not satisfied with the diagnosis and decided to seek a second opinion from Dr. David Silverstein at the Nairobi Hospital.

“He did 30 different blood tests that cost me $1,000 (Ksh.100,000) but said he could not get what the problem was. He needed to do more tests which meant I had to be admitted,” the Safaricom CEO added.

This was the first time that Collymore said he had ever been admitted to hospital and the first test they did involved removing bone marrow from his body and testing it.

It is at this point that Dr. Silverstein told him that the problem could be with this blood and since he is not an expert on such issues, he referred him to a specialist in the U.K.

This was back in 2017 and with the Kenyan election coming up and his company’s end-year events, he told the doctor that he would oblige after he discharged his duties.

However, Dr. Silverstein was adamant that Collymore should leave the country that very night.

He left for London and it is there that a haematologist diagnosed him with Acute Myeloid Leukemia: a type of cancer that starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow.

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Story By Rachel Ombaka
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