What The Vodacom Buy Into Safaricom Tells Me

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Safaricom HeadquartersA lot of curiosity among Kenyans after Vodacom Group Ltd., South Africa’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, bought $2.59 billion stake in Kenya’s Safaricom Ltd.

Vodafone owns Vodacom, understood.

So it is a simple ownership restructuring (i am not sure that is simple enough but no biggie). More of that later.

With the simple transaction, Vodafone has opened our eyes to some very interesting insights. One, to calculate Safaricom’s worth, just assume $2.59 billion is 35 % the value of East Africa’s most profitable company (some add’ with monopoly tendencies because of an initial capital which they have since recouped’), then ask what of a 100%? That answer is the value of Safaricom.

Now sit back and wonder how many ministries can that money run for a year. While at it, wonder loudly why Safaricom is still charging your grandmother ‘ya kutuma na ya kutoa’ (include withdraw transaction amount when sending).

Vodafone has more faith in South Africa than in Kenya(politically and economically) (Have they sensed a regime change in the offing??) Looks like the recent talk of Safaricom being a national threat, ‘divide it into three, its too big for the Kenyan economy’,’it has Kenya’s economy by its balls and that is not good for any economy,’ the coming number inter-operability etc etc has had someone somewhere thinking.

That tax avoidance is becoming a big issue in the world, especially if you are a multinational operating ‘in a country where people still die of hunger or have no toilets or clean water. To avoid a lot of back and forth, straighten ownership, lump it under one. Have your own subsidiary own the other one in the very continent that the other one operates in. It will ensure that tax men and women charge you less. It will also ensure that in case of anything the two countries sort it out.

Smooth so far. Sleek actually.

Until you look at SA-Kenya business cultures.

Vodacom’s buy in may mean–strongly–a possibility of strong South African influence on Safaricom (which peculiar Kenyans see as their own). This might mean changes in management style. Might mean more South African corporate culture. Might mean South African leadership at Safaricom. Might mean more of South African ways of doing things. While South Africa has been here before, they came in stealthily. In my interview with Michael Joseph (Vodacom)–just before he retired–he shared how he is/was a South African whose first job was repairing manual telephone headsets. He has since been Kenyanized. (Michael if you are reading this, you owe me a cup of coffee). Bob(Vodafone)on the other hand is a Guyanese–that means a British citizen in other words. He has since been Kenyanized.

In Kenya, you just don’t introduce a *Sarrafrikan* brand or name or a person just like that and succeed. Most of the South African brands that have come through and survived past one year cannot fit the palms of a hand.We hate each other like that. But we are cool pips.So the idea of making MPesa appear owned or managed by a South African or a South African company might backfire deadly.

You can take an M-Shwari loan with this.

MPESA is marwa by thwon.

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