Safaricom CEO's plan for Meru University

Equity Bank boss Dr James Mwangi, the immediate former Meru University of Science and Technology Chancellor when he handed over to Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa at the institution's main campus at Nchiru, Meru County, on Friday, February 9, 2024. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Expectations are high on Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa after he took over at Meru University of Science and Technology (MUST) as the new chancellor.

Mr Ndegwa succeeded another corporate giant, the Equity Bank Group CEO, James Mwangi.

Stakeholders are keen to see how far Ndegwa will take the University Dr Mwangi’s successful tenure.

Mwangi leaves behind a rich legacy at the university where he became its inaugural chancellor 10 years ago and provided leadership and personal resources to help in its growth.

Ndegwa is a household name in corporate leadership, having led prominent companies with a global presence, and as he goes into the academic sector following his appointment by President William Ruto, expectations of him.

Ndegwa took over on Friday during a ceremony attended by students, university staff, and other guests including Njuri Ncheke elders.

Welcoming Ndegwa as the second chancellor, Mwangi said; “I am deeply confident that he will bring immense value in implementing the university’s vision”.

Ndegwa brings a wealth of management experience to the university, having steered Safaricom to the corporate behemoth it is today, after taking over from two other corporate geniuses, Michael Joseph and the late Bob Collymore.

But leading a university is a different ball game altogether, as Ndegwa who has also had successful tenures at brewers Diageo and EABL, may find out. Often, universities are caught up in politics, student unrest, and financial challenges and it will be interesting to see how he will navigate through this labyrinth.

Meru University has, in the past, been a centre of leadership wrangles, disaffection by both students and lecturers and alleged interference from local politicians.

“I think it is very important to understand, acknowledge, and respect the traditions of institutions that we lead. And that is the way we can lead those institutions in the right way,” Ndegwa said.

On a light touch, Ndegwa told the gathering that his wife graduated last year with a doctorate in business administration and he had flown to Liverpool for the graduation ceremony.

“I told her, look now we are going to be invited to these functions as Mr and Dr Waititu! When I was announced as the incoming chancellor of Meru University, she was very disappointed. She said I was going to get a doctorate I did not struggle for. I told her that I have worked for a long time in my career to deserve to be a chancellor,” Ndegwa said.

He added: "Institutions are made by people. When I was appointed to this position, I consulted some people. I am keen to be involved in the university's activities. It is not a ceremonial role. Once I put my heart to anything, I give 100 per cent”.

“I am deeply humbled by the responsibility entrusted to me and excited about the journey that lies ahead."

He said that together with the university's entire management, they will prioritize the welfare of everyone, the teaching and non-teaching staff, as well as the students.

“I believe that university should provide not just an education but an experience that nurtures a person's intellectual growth," he said.

He added: “My passion for education is not merely a professional commitment but a personal conviction. I have benefited a lot from education. I came from a very ordinary background like many of you and I know how important education is."

“Education has had a huge impact on my life, shaping my journey right from Ngai Ndeithia Primary School, which I visited last year to see how it was and to support them, to Starehe Boys Centre, then to the University of Nairobi,” he said, adding: "I will work to make this institution a hub for innovation and technologies, and environmental conservation interventions."

Ndegwa paid glowing tribute to Dr Mwangi who a decade ago donated Sh100m for the establishment Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship Centre (IIEC), one of the most imposing buildings at the institution.

“Your visionary leadership, dedication to education, and commitment to sustainable practices have set a standard that inspires us all. I am delighted to inherit the role from someone who has dedicated himself to the advancement of knowledge, empowerment of individuals, and betterment of society through initiatives such as the Wings to Fly Programme."

“As I take over this mantle, I commit to equally dedicate myself to taking this great institution to the next level and building on the foundation that you have built. There are always errors every time you take over a role. You always have to think about what error are you managing, and what is the responsibility and mission to go after," said Ndegwa.

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