Something to Ponder

Bob Collymore
Bob Collymore is the CEO of Safaricom and a cancer survivor. PHOTO| COURTESY

The Inspiration of Bob Collymore

The continent of Africa just lost a great man this week. Bob Collymore, CEO of Africa’s most successful venture, Safaricom. Safaricom is Kenya’s and Africa’s leading multinational communications company. Before joining Safaricom in 2010, Bob, as he was popularly known was Vodacom’s Chief Officer, Corporate Affairs, based here in South Africa. Before that, Bob was the Governance Director for Africa at Vodafone and Marketing Director Vodafone, in charge of the Asian market.

This man had a long and illustrious career, influenced and changed the course of history, not only for corporate but for individuals and as well as nations. During his memorial service on 4th July and in fact since news of his demise broke Monday morning; accolades have flown like a river from all corners of the world. The British citizen  of a poor background was born in Guyana and brought up by his grandmother in the absence of his single mother who was residing and working in the United Kingdom. From an early age, his grandmother instilled in him a very strong sense of discipline and commitment.

Many corporate leaders boast of university degrees and other qualifications from institutes of higher learning. In fact, there are few who have climbed the corporate ladder without those qualifications. But, not Bob Collymore. Though he rose to lead one of the largest corporations in Africa, Bob had no college education. He could not get a scholarship to see him through university and so he exit the formal education scene at the age of 16 where he was forced to look for employment to earn a living. Starting on the floor of departmental store in the UK, Bob cleaned the store floors and stacked shelves. He worked tills and worked himself up the corporate ladder to end up at the top.

What is so inspiring in this story is that like other focused and dedicated giants of our time, Bob Collymore proved to himself and the world that university education is not the epitome of success. It is not everything. Dedication, focus and hard work is. To the young and jobless college and university graduates, here is a good lesson. If the white-collar job is not forthcoming, do not lose hope. Take whatever is available and dedicate yourself to working hard. Focu on where you want to go and start wherever you are. Read widely. Education is not only found within the four walls of a classroom of lecture theatre. Bob Collymore had a passion for reading. Reading keeps one on the know as to the happenings and trends in the world. Self education is much more useful as you are not restricted to a few chosen topics by a lecturer.

To our youth, what to take from the life of this fallen giant –  believe in yourself and move towards your destiny. Bob Collymore died having achieved the highest that the world could offer. From the humble beginnings cleaning departmental store floors and stacking shelves, he exited the world as an CEO earning 10 million Kenya shillings – roughly R100,000 a month.  Not a bad record of achievement.

Bob Collymore, you were a legend, an inspiration. May your soul rest in peace.

Lucy Thairu