Message from our incoming CEO

I am delighted to be joining Safaricom, even at a time when humanity is facing one of the biggest challenges in modern history. While it is a difficult time for all of us, I am encouraged by the commitment I have seen from my colleagues as they find innovative ways to support our customers and the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic is revealing how important digital connectivity and tools have become. Amid unprecedented disruption, digital technology is holding the world together. It is helping us to share vital resources and information and to continue working as officials, employees, students and front- line health workers. It is helping us to ensure that supply chains can still function globally, and that we can continue to exchange the goods, services and equipment we need.

At the same time, the pandemic is exposing the digital divides and inequalities between us and how vulnerable certain sections of our society remain. It has illuminated the tremendous socio-economic importance of being able to access the internet and the positive impact internet-enabled devices like smartphones have on incomes and the ability of communities to withstand crises like this. Access to the internet is emerging as one of the foundations of sustainable socio-economic empowerment.

Becoming a purpose-led technology company

As we focus on the next phase of our journey, we remain steadfast not only on our Transforming Lives purpose but also on our vision to be a purpose-led technology company. Through being digital- first and an insight-led organization, our aim is to continue delivering a wide range of products and services designed to present sustainable solutions to some of society’s most pressing challenges.

Becoming a customer-centric organization

Our outgoing CEO, Michael Joseph, has done well in rebuilding customer trust during the year. Customer trust underpins everything else we do. We are unlikely to fulfil our purpose or achieve our sustainable business goals if Kenyans do not trust us and, ultimately, reward us with their loyalty.

The truth of this is reflected in the positive results of the customer trust focused ‘For You’ campaign launched by Michael and the team earlier in the reporting period.

I would like to congratulate Michael and the team for introducing the ‘For You’ campaign and the strong performance they have achieved this year. I am keen to build on this success and momentum through a fundamental shift in the way we think and approach customer experience across the organization. We are going to shift our mindset and no longer consider customer experience from a capacity perspective, but from a customer obsession perspective, where everyone in the organization will own customer centricity as the most important part of their job. This will entail listening more to our customers, drawing from their frustrations and imagination to co-create better solutions. I believe that this shift will intensify the connection with our customers and with our purpose even deeper.

Peter Ndegwa, Chief Executive Officer (incoming), Safaricom PLC

Shared value partnerships

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of partnerships. As my late predecessor, Bob Collymore, pointed out: we cannot solve the urgent, widespread challenges created by inequality in our society in isolation. The public sector cannot achieve this without the help of the private sector. We need to connect and collaborate if we are to tackle such multi-dimensional and pervasive social challenges. The pandemic has already reinforced the necessity of this approach, whether we are partnering with the Ministry of Health to disseminate public health information or partnering with the banks to provide microbusinesses with vital financial support through M-PESA.

Supporting SMEs

We need to support micro-businesses and SMEs. Some estimates suggest that small businesses provide employment to around 80 per cent of Kenyans and account for as much as 40 per cent of all economic activity. Small enterprises like these are the heart of our society and the lifeblood of our economy.

Our Lipa Na M-PESA merchants fit into this category and we are already witnessing the negative impact of the pandemic on their activity. In response, we have increased transaction limits and zero- rated person-to-person transactions below KSh 1 000 and M-PESA wallet to bank transactions. It is a great start, but we know that more will need to be done to help SMEs get back on track.

In our efforts to support SMEs recover from the impacts of COVID-19, we aspire to be the partner of choice in enabling the small businesses grow and thrive. To achieve this, we will deepen our partnerships across our various business ecosystems. We have already begun exploring ways in which we can partner with government and the banks in this regard. We are also looking at how we can continue to expand our merchant till app from a payment platform into a holistic suite of business tools; for example, we will be launching the Lipa Na M-PESA Business app in the near future. This app will empower SMEs and microbusiness owners to access statements, make payments, and monitor their business performance in real-time.

Connecting a million low-income Kenyans to the internet

Despite the high level of mobile telephone penetration in Kenya, a large section of the population is unable to afford 3G- and 4G-enabled devices and still relies on 2G-enabled (voice and SMS) handsets. We recognise that this digital divide will take time to bridge, but I am passionate about doing so. We upgraded 1 551 sites to 4G, which increased the 4G coverage to an additional 20 per cent of the population. We will be supplementing the growth in 4G coverage with device financing plans such as Lipa Mdogo Mdogo. A partnership with Google and Teleone, the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo offering will enable customers to upgrade to affordable 4G-enabled handsets using a flexible payment plan and from as little as KSh 20 a day. Our aim is to enable a million more low-income Kenyans to connect to the internet through this campaign.

Developing the untapped agricultural potential of Kenya

The pandemic has exposed an unacceptable level of food insecurity in a country with great agricultural potential like ours. Having grown up in rural Nyandarua County, I am acutely aware of the tremendous socioeconomic benefits that can be gained by supporting and empowering smallholder farmers like my parents. The fact that 1.4 million farmers have already signed up to use our DigiFarm platform is extremely pleasing and I am committed to intensifying our efforts in terms of leveraging our technological capabilities and our capacity for innovation to create sustainable solutions like this.

Shared value thinking to drive sustainable innovation

Safaricom has played an important role in Kenyan society for the last 20 years and I am eager to see that role expand as we continue to identify and exploit new opportunities in critical areas like agriculture, health and education. DigiFarm is a great example of our commitment to shared value thinking and our focus on creating sustainable business solutions, but I am excited by the vast opportunities that still exist for commercially viable innovations that deliver lasting, high levels of social impact.

A unique moment in history

In closing, I am delighted to be joining Safaricom at such a unique moment in history. The year ahead is likely to be full of unusual challenges, but I am confident that we will navigate our way through the uncertainty and continue to play a key role in supporting the country through the pandemic and the period of recovery and renewal afterwards. I would like to congratulate every member of staff for their commendable work and achievements during the year and thank the members of the Board for their confidence in me. It is a great honour to lead this company into its next phase of growth and I am excited to explore the opportunities that lie ahead.

Peter Ndegwa, Chief Executive Officer (incoming), Safaricom PLC