Customers queue for mobile money transfers, known as M-Pesa, inside the Safaricom mobile phone care centre in the central business district of Kenya's capital Nairobi July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

For years Safaricom subscribers,the largest in the country have been treated to one familiar voice anytime they call someone whose phone is witched off.The  polite message “Samahani, mteja wa nambari uliyopiga hapatikani kwa sasa (Sorry, the mobile subscriber cannot be reached) has been with us for 15 years now.

But finally ‘Mteja amepatikana’. The voice belongs to a Mombasa-born lady, Ms Maggie Wazome, who currently works as a support analyst at Safaricom’s customer care departmentMaggie 2

Maggie had been waiting for the opportune time to open up, which she believes is now — when Kenya’s most profitable company is marking 15 years since it was switched on.The former student of the Blanes Secretarial College recorded the voice over months before the mobile service provider opened its doors in October 2000.

The word “mteja” as used in Ms Wazome’s message has long become part of everyday Kenyans’ conversations and is a widely accepted colloquial term for being offline.She was called to read the lines by one Andrew Crawford, who ran a recording studio and who was then in charge of producing commercials at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).Maggie 3

At that time she was not an employee of Safaricom and neither did she know  what the lines they were recording were intended for.About four months after Mr Crawford informed her that her voice had been accepted, Ms Wazome saw a newspaper advertisement in which Safaricom was looking for customer care representatives among other staff. She applied for it and, during the interview, she shocked the panel by telling them she was the one behind the “mteja” voice.

The mother of two landed a customer care representative job and later promoted to her current position. She now handles problems that have been escalated to her by those at the call center.

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