Yesterday, Safaricom celebrated its 18th birth day since it started telephony operations in Kenya. Today. we look at the history and evolution of the largest telecommunication company, in Kenya, by subscribers.

The are Safaricom’s Key milestones in the last 18 years.

  • In 1997 – Safaricom launched as a subsidiary of Telkom Kenya with 17,000 customers.
  • 2000 – Vodafone acquires 40 per cent stake and management role (May); how you heard about the joint venture while in South Africa and applied for the job and got it; Safaricom sets up office in an apartment at Norfolk Towers.
  • 2000 – 55 employees deployed from Telkom; 9 sites in Nairobi; Safaricom launched as The Better Option (October), reduces the price of SIM cards to KES 2,500 and sponsors the inaugural Lewa Marathon.
  • 2001 – 0722 prefix launched.
  • 2002 – led the democratisation of mobile phone services with the introduction of low denomination airtime (KES 100 scratch card) and SIM cards at KES 99.
  • 2003 – introduced per second billing; launched Simu ya Jamii, a public-use phone which marked the drive into the mass market; launched the Safaricom Foundation and hit the one million customer mark in June that year.
  • 2004 – mobile Internet is launched, paving the way for a data revolution; customer base grew to two million (October) and profits hit KES 5 billion, unheard of at the time.
  • 2005 – launch of Sambaza, the immensely popular flashback (call me back) service; customer base grows to three million.
  • 2006 – Safaricom moves to its new corporate headquarters in Westlands and hits the five million subscriber mark in December of that year; staff numbers grow to 1,100.
  • 2007 – M-PESA is launched on 7th March 2007 and hits one million subscriber mark in November that year; Safaricom purchases country’s first 3G license, embraces green energy by launching solar and wind-powered base stations in Northern Kenya and Coast region.
  • 2008 – subscriber numbers hit 10M in March; Safaricom introduces East and Central Africa’s largest IPO at KES 5 per share. IPO is concluded in June and attracts KES 2.4 billion in investment, spreading the company’s shareholding to 750,000 individual shareholders.
  • 2009 – Safaricom launches Bamba 5 and Bamba 10 airtime scratch cards (the lowest denominations in the market); customer base grows to 15 million (December) and the company invests in Kenya’s pioneer undersea cable venture.
  • 2010 – subscriber numbers grow to 16 million, with post-pay customers at 140,000; 5 million Kenyans access the Internet through Safaricom’s network.
  • 2010 – online customer support launched (Twitter & Facebook); EBU launched to manage corporate and SME customers.
  • 2010 – profits hit KES 20.9 billion; first mobile bank account launched in partnership with , is launched; Safaricom takes over title sponsorship of annual Rugby Sevens; takes over as CEO.
  • 2011 – Safaricom leads corporate Kenya in Kenyans For Kenya, a national fundraising campaign aimed at helping an estimated 3.5 million Kenyans facing starvation – the campaign raised over KES 680 million.
  • 2011 – Safaricom launches Lipa Karo, allowing learning institutions to receive school fees via M-PESA.
  • 2012 – M-PESA hits 15 million active users; Safaricom partners with to launch M-Shwari; launches , a pay-as-you-go solar lighting kit and iCow, a USSD-based platform that provides dairy farmers with information to increase their profits.
  • 2013 – Safaricom launches its first sustainability report, becoming the first corporate entity in Kenya to do so.
  • 2013 – Lipa Na M-PESA is launched (June) allowing thousands of businesses in the country to accept cashless payments for the first time.
  • 2013 – Safaricom becomes the first company in Kenya to introduce customer service in the form of online self-care, and unveils the Series.
  • 2014 – the value of M-PESA transactions exceeds KES 2.1 trillion, nearly half of Kenya’s GDP.
  • 2014 – M-Ledger introduced allowing users to track their M-PESA transactions.
  • 2014 – Safaricom launches Kenya’s first 4G network in Nairobi and Mombasa (December).
  • 2014 – USD 1 million Spark Venture Fund launched to invest in late seed to early growth stage start-ups that use mobile-based technology as an enabler. 5 start-ups invested in over the next 4 years , , Lynk, iProcure and Farm Drive.
  • 2014 – Safaricom launches an E-waste Management Programme and Children’s Rights Policy to further re-affirm its commitment to promoting and safeguarding the rights of the children.
  • 2014 – Safaricom launches the Safaricom International Jazz Festival.
  • 2015 – M-PESA comes home in April, with the relocation of servers from Germany to Kenya delivering higher, more efficient performance including the ability to handle over 900 transactions per second.
  • 2015 – Safaricom partners with to launch KCB M-PESA, further deepening financial inclusion.
  • 2015 -Safaricom introduces a Diversity and Inclusion Programme aimed at achieving gender balance and creating a more inclusive workforce.
  • 2015 -Safaricom launches first True Value Report, detailing the company’s economic impact beyond its profits –report shows that Safaricom sustained 682,000 jobs and generated KES 315B in revenue to Kenya’s GDP, equivalent to 6% of the country’s GDP in FY 2014/2015
  • 2017- Safaricom launches the Chapa Dimba Na Safaricom Football tournament for the youth.

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