Get to know the new Chairman of Safaricom PLC, John Ngumi

John is one of Kenya’s most celebrated bankers. During a 35-year banking career, he established himself as East Africa’s foremost corporate and investment banker, working with local and international/global corporates that have an East African regional presence, state-owned enterprises, sovereigns, and financial services groups.


He has played pivotal roles in developing regional capital markets, in establishing the regulatory frameworks underpinning these markets, and in persuading East African governments to turn to local capital mobilisation to finance budgets


John has had a particularly close banking relationship with the telecommunications sector dating back to the late 1990s, when the sector underwent the radical transformation that saw the previous monopoly, Kenya Posts & Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC) unbundled into discrete units, including Telkom Kenya, Safaricom and Postal Corporation.


In 1998, partly as an outcome of having been involved in the work that led to the Kenya Communications Act, John was appointed a Director of the inaugural Board at the Communications Commission of Kenya (now Communications Authority). This Board presided over the unbundling of KPTC and, among other things, issued the inaugural operating licences for Safaricom and Kencell.  John also led debt and derivatives transactions for Safaricom totaling KES 30 billion, including Safaricom’s inaugural KES 4 billion bond issue in 2001.


In addition to being an investment banking deal maker, John played key roles in developing Kenya’s capital markets as we know them today, including his leading role in the development of capital markets regulations


John has also been Board Director in both private companies and state-owned enterprises. For the latter, he is best known as the inaugural Board Chair at Konza Technopolis Development Authority, as an extremely active and effective Board Chair at Kenya Pipeline Company Limited, and currently serves as Board Chair at the Industrial & Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC), which is leading the effort to implement the Kenya Transport & Logistics Network, encompassing Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Pipeline Company Limited and Kenya Railways Corporation. He also serves on the Kenya Airways PLC Board


In March 2021 John was appointed Chair of a Presidential Taskforce on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to reviewing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) between the Kenya Power & Lighting Company PLC and Independent Power Producers (IPPs), following a sustained public outcry that PPAs were skewed against KPLC, leading to unsustainably high consumer power tariffs. The Taskforce reported back to President Uhuru Kenyatta in September 2021 with a raft of wide ranging and radical recommendations. Thereafter the President appointed John Chair of the Steering Committee charged with overseeing implementation of these recommendations. This Committee submitted its report at the end of June 2022. Currently John is currently chairing the government team negotiating with IPPs on tariffs.


John is also in the forefront of efforts to position Africa as a global leader in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, as part of the global fight against the negative impact of climate change.


In all that he has undertaken, John’s overriding professional goal has been to see Africa freed from economic hopelessness. He believes robust and efficient financial services will be a key factor, hence his pivotal role in developing financial markets.


“We can better ourselves and our circumstances, so let’s stop whining about past injustices, instead let’s focus on sorting out our problems and cease relying on foreigners, or on foreign aid, to do the job for us” – John Ngumi