Bob Collymore, the head of east Africa’s biggest telecoms company, Safaricom, and a pioneer of mobile money, said the ultimate purpose of his business was “transforming lives”. In doing so, he helped inspire a generation of corporate leaders to think bigger. The British chief executive, who has died aged 61 after a long battle with cancer, led Kenya’s largest mobile operator through a period of rapid growth, turning Safaricom into east Africa’s most profitable business. Under his leadership since 2010, the company’s revolutionary mobile money service, M-Pesa, evolved from a fledgling peer to peer transfer system to become the backbone of the country’s digital economy, used by two in every five Kenyans. The desire to engage with everyone from Kenya’s president to the poorest motorbike taxi driver was key to Collymore’s understanding of the potential of digital services, says longtime friend, Aly-Khan Satchu, a Nairobi-based investment adviser. Not everything succeeded. The company’s hyped e-commerce platform Masoko, for example, failed to meet expectations. But Collymore was willing to fail in his pursuit of success. An avid reader, saxophone player, jazz enthusiast and a collector of African art, Collymore was a vocal champion of the fight against corruption in Kenya, a member of Richard Branson’s B-Team initiative of global leaders, and a patron of the arts. He created the Safaricom International Jazz Festival and the Safaricom Youth Orchestra and supported his Kenyan wife, artist Wambui Kamiru, as she built up The Art Space, a Nairobi gallery.