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Still in 2014, he introduced the Safaricom Jazz festival which celebrates jazz musicians as well as local talent far from growing the company’s brand. The proceeds collected from the festival are directed towards supporting initiatives such as the Ghetto Classics, a music program that teaches music to children living in poverty. Bob was a lover of arts and classical music. It’s no wonder the explicit details he gave on how would have like his memorial service to proceed included a request to have, ‘Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber’, a classical piece played in its full eight-minute length. “The first time I ever listened to that piece with him was when we had first met. It is such a powerful piece that brings tears to your eyes,” said his widow Wambui Kamiru Collymore during an interview. Safaricom’s share price leaped by more than 400 percent to Sh28.00. The customer base also grew to 62 per cent of the mobile market share from 19 million subscribers in 2015 to over 30 million in 2018. In June 2017, when Safaricom repositioned its brand from telecommunications to a digital lifestyle enabler. The slogan was changed from ‘The Better Option’ to ‘Twaweza’ to mean that when ‘we come together, great things happen’.
My son would have never played at Safaricom Youth Orchestra, SIFJ & subsequently awarded a scholarship to Berklee College in Boston were it not for the efforts of Bob Collymore. #CelebratingBob pic.twitter.com/i5kvGJUDxI— Creative Industry Ambassador (@davidmuriithi) July 1, 2020
Many remember him as just the Safaricom CEO, but the Guyana-born Collymore built his grit in the industry while schooling in the UK, hustling for a while as a commuter train announcer, an insurance underwriter and a telecom clerk. He rose through the ranks in various telephony companies until he became Kenya's Safaricom boss. He was a man of integrity who turned his nose up at corruption. “He used to say that corruption begins with businesses, because businesses are the ones with money; and that corruption can end with businesses,” remembers Wambui Collymore. In December 2015, he shocked many when he declared his wealth. He revealed that he earned an average of Sh9 million a month and that his net assets were worth USD2.7 million; in the form of bank deposits and a house in London. This inspired other corporate leaders to take the same route in transparency. Bob was a social man who loved his friends and family. In January 2019, he issued a statement on how Kenyans should treat phones with caution saying, “It’s ironic that the mobile phone, the device that keeps us connected to the world around us, is also disconnecting us from the people closest to us.”
In memory of a friend and an iconic servant leader....a man who taught me a lot about living a purposeful life, and that a person’s a person no matter how small.— Sylvia Mulinge (@sylmulinge) July 1, 2020
I truly miss him. #CelebratingBob pic.twitter.com/E2mqAAjpI8
He was part of a ‘boys club’ made up of businessman Ally Khan Satchu, Radio Africa Group CEO Patrick Quarcoo, politician Peter Kenneth, Citizen TV News Anchor Jeff Koinange, Scangroup CEO Bharat Thakrar, British High Commissioner Nic Hailey, Kenya Commercial Bank CEO Joshua Oigara and MD standard chartered bank Lagos Lamin Manjang. It was during a dinner with his friends at his home that he informed them that he did not have much time left. “Guys I only have a couple of weeks to live, maybe three or four. This thing is not working I have ran out of options. … Please don’t grieve, I am the one dying not you guys,” Peter Kenneth said quoting Collymore in a TV interview with the ‘boys’. In October 2017 Bob went to the UK to receive treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia and returned in July 2018 to resume duties. He beat cancer twice before succumbing to it in 2019. He wanted to be close to his family when it happened. “He didn’t want to go out of Kenya then something happens there, he preferred to be with his family in the house for any eventuality, he was very focused and clear about that,” said Kenneth. President Uhuru Kenyatta also visited Collymore at his home just a week before he died and spent close to one hour with his family. During his memorial service at the All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi, the President revealed details of the last conversation he had with Bob Collymore before he died. “There are four things that Bob loved but the fourth I cannot say it here: Bob loved Kenya, he loved Safaricom as if it was his own … a part of his family and Bob loved his wife and his children, dearly … like I said the fourth one I won’t mention but some of you here know what it is,” said President Uhuru. He narrated how h received a call from Bob some weeks earlier informing him that he may not be able to continue at the helm of Safaricom for a full year as he had promised. “I just want to tell you, I made you a promise that I would hang on for another year with the company but I will have to break that promise,” said Uhuru, quoting Bob Collymore. Collymore told him that his ‘chapter was closed’ (at the age of 61) and his greatest concern was the future of those he would be leaving behind. “A friend we have lost as part of our soul … and even as we celebrate, there is still pain of being left by somebody who cared so passionately about the things that he did,” President Uhuru noted.
One Year later, Our Captain's Spirit lives on through his Amazing wife, @WambuiKamiru and The BOYZ Club! Thanks for bringing us together, Wambui! We shall continue to keep #CelebratingBob @bharatthakrar @Peter_Kenneth @PatrickQuarcoo @KCBGroup @PSdxb @xtiandela @stivogichbwoy pic.twitter.com/yGpoB1QgTW— Jeff Koinange, MBS (@KoinangeJeff) June 30, 2020