“Please Call Me” inventor wants 5 billion dollars compensation

As a Kenyan, you must have used or received the “Please Call Me” service made popular by Telecoms giant Safaricom. The “Please Call Me” service has been used in the country since September 2009 saving many a situation.

Before being introduced in Kenya, the idea was initially used in South Africa, first on trial basis, then in a full-blown way after it became overly successful.

However, the man who invented the idea, Kenneth Nkosana Makate, says that Vodacom owes him billions of shillings. Before going to court demanding payment Makate used to work for Vodacom as an accountant.

Inventing a revolutionary idea “Please call me”

Kenneth Makate was employed by Vodacom as a trainee accountant. At that time, he was in a long distance relationship with his girlfriend whom he later married.

He says that it was unusually hard to keep in touch with his girlfriend whom he says could not then afford to buy airtime to call him. True to the adage that necessity is the mother of invention, Makate claims he came up with the idea where someone without airtime could request the other person to call them.  During that time, he came up with “Please call me.”

Makate wrote the idea down and, on the advice of his manager and mentor at Vodacom, took the idea to Vodacom’s Director and Head of Product Development, Mr Geissler. They agreed orally that Vodacom would experiment with the idea and, if it proved commercially viable, Makate would be paid a share of the proceeds subject to the exact terms being negotiated at a later stage. Vodacom rolled out the idea in March 2001 which proved to be a runaway success, generating billions of rands for Vodacom.

The “Please Call me” concept was later adopted by other subsidiaries of Vodafone who own part of South Africa’s Vodacom. In Kenya, Safaricom which is 40% owned by Vodafone introduced the service in September 2005.

Makate, however, did not receive a penny and after unsuccessful attempts to have Vodacom honour his oral agreement, he instituted legal proceedings, which eventually culminated before the Constitutional Court.

Ongoing Court cases

Kenneth Makate first went to court in 2011 to seek compensation for his contribution. This was after he met Chris Schoeman who helped him fund his legal battle against Vodacom. The Constitutional Court ruled that the company must pay Makate “reasonable compensation” for his help on the Please Call Me.

Vodacom has now offered Makate R49 million (Kshs. 371 million) but he terms this as a “shocking insult.” Instead, Makate wants R70 billion (Kshs. 530 billion). There is even a movement associated with ANC which has started to push Vodacom to pay Kenneth Makate the stupendous amount.

 

Please Call Me movement
Please Call Me movement

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