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Kenya: State of the Internet

AfricaFocus Bulletin
January 30, 2017 (170130)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Kenya has long been a global technology leader for innovation in mobile and internet technology, including the use of mobile phones for uses as diverse as cash transfers and crowdsourcing of reports on election violence (in 2008). Kenya also features an active press and civil society accustomed to speaking out about national issues including corruption and human rights violations. With national general elections scheduled for August this year, these assets can play important roles in sustaining peace and democracy. But they may also be threatened by government restrictions or by use of social media for propaganda and incitement to violence.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a report on The State of the Internet in Kenya from the Bloggers Association of Kenya, released in November 2016, as well as two short articles with relevant updates on recent technological advances, including solarpowered TV's aimed at rural markets.

For the role of Ushahidi, developed to monitor post-election violence in 2008, visit and

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Kenya, see

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on information and communication technology, see

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

State of the Internet in Kenya 2016

Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)

November 2016

[Excerpts: full report, as well as the report for 2015, available at]

Growth of the Internet in Kenya

For this report, we tracked the 36 most active blogs within the BAKE server and the stats from individual blogs for the period between October 2015 and October 2016. According to our analysis of the data collected, the blogging scene has seen a huge growth in the terms of monthly readership in the last one year. Overall monthly visits (readers) increased by 46 per cent from 12.4 Million to 18.1 Million. There are many factors which have contributed to the growth of blogs readership including the high increase of the number of Kenyans who can access Internet through their phones. But more importantly, blogs are seen by many Kenyans as authentic means to get news and opinions which mainstream media would normally shy away from. This could be described as Anti-Traditional Media Sentiment and the blogs are increasingly filling the gap.


The growth in Kenya's Internet penetration has seen the media and entertainment economy significantly move online. The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) quarterly sector Statistics Report Fourth Quarter for the Financial Year 2015-2016 (April-June 2016), indicates that the Data/Internet market reached 26.8 million during the quarter while the estimated number of Internet users grew to 37.7 million users during the period under review.

The report further records that Internet penetration declined from 87.2 per cent recorded last quarter to 85.3 per cent. This drop is attributed to the revision of the base population figure used in the computation of penetration from 43.0 million to 44.2 million in line with the Economic Survey 2016.

According to the Kenyan Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2013-2017 (Outlook) report by audit firm PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), Internet access is a key driver of entertainment and media advertising and content dispersion in most segments. The Internet market consists of both consumer spending on Internet access and the revenues generated from Internet advertising. PwC estimates that the total entertainment and media expenditure in Kenya will exceed US$3 billion in 2017. Internet traffic in Kenya has increased due to the reinforcement of international bandwidth capacity. Increased capacity has benefitted both the fixed and mobile segments. The report further asserts that Kenyan Internet advertising is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.9 per cent over the forecast period, growing from a low base of only US$2 million in 2008. Search and mobile advertising will be the main growth-driving segments over the forecast period.

Mobile Data and Smartphone Penetration

Kenya's mobile penetration has increased from 89.2 per cent to 90 per cent according to the CA report. The report says that the continued growth in mobile subscriptions has been driven by proliferation of mobile data services such as m-commerce and mbanking services as well as handset affordability.

According to the Consumer Barometer survey by Google, the percentage of people who use a smartphone to access the Internet in Kenya has increased from 27 per cent in 2014 to 44 per cent in 2016.

Notable platforms in Kenya


According to Facebook, there are 6.1 million Kenyans on Facebook.

The visit by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and CEO, in September 2016 was a validation of the growth of the platform in Kenya and also the ICT sector. In his visit, he announced that he wanted to learn from both the local developers and entrepreneur community. He visited the iHub, Twiga Foods and Andela on his first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa.


According to a story published in the Economist in May 2014, it is believed that Twitter's co-founder, Evan Williams, sent the first ever tweet from the lounge of the Mount Kenya Safari Club in August 2007.

According to Nendo, a digital research company, there are 2.2 million monthly active Kenyans on Twitter. 1 million of them use Twitter every day.


According to Nendo estimates, WhatsApp has 10 million users in Kenya. It has become an important channel for person-to-person communication and has become a driver of conversations on other social media platforms as content shared on WhatsApp finds its way on Twitter and Facebook.


Nendo also estimates that there are 3 million Instagram users in Kenya and 1.5 million LinkedIn users.

The role of blogs and Social Media

Blogging platforms and Social Media have become alternative news sources for Kenyans. Time and again, even mainstream media has either used the platforms to first air their news or rely on it to gather news. The government has used it to communicate and respond to critical issues.

As alternative, reliable and dependable sources of news, Jackson Biko and Morris Kiruga have stood out in the past year for credibly showing the world society's ills and struggles.

Crowdfunding had yet to get an impetus as did when Jackson Biko through his blog wrote about Mr. Emmanuel Otieno aka Jadudi who was fighting cancer. He told the story of the then 22-year-old university student from a humble background who had undergone three brain surgeries, but still had a lot of fight in him and sought financial help to go under the knife for the fourth time. As a result of Biko's piercing storytelling coupled with Zawadi Nyong'o's brilliant Social Media campaign, Ksh. 6.4 million was raised in 46 hours.

Mr. Kiruga, popularly known as Owaahh, has cut a niche for himself as the best historical and research-focused blogger of our time. While he has been blogging for over six years, it is his serialized story on the corruption at Imperial Bank 17 in February 2016 that put him on the national radar. He continues to consistently write features that are well developed for online readers.

The industry has also grown to be an environment with legitimate career paths which employ full-time writers. Platforms like HapaKenya, Techweez, Tuko, Ghafla! and Soko Directory among others continue to have full-time staff on their payroll. Most of these are in the media industry, but a few of them are secondary offline careers built around an online presence.

Social Media has also claimed its stake as a force to reckon with its never ending fierce critiquing, highlighting and pushing policy makers to take actions on issues. Mark Kaigwa, in an academic article titled; From Cyber Café to Smartphone: Kenya's Social Media Lens Zooms In on the Country and Out to the World asserts that journalists now consider Twitter a part of their beat, using it as a core part of their job.

Kaigwa says it has become common to see news broken on Twitter by a blogger - whether a hobbyist, informed industry insider, or cyberroving reporter pouncing on a story—legitimizing it (at times, plagiarizing it outright!). Kenyan media outlets routinely source and quote tweets and other comments from Social Media for their news stories.

Nanjira Sambuli argues that going by the last decade of growth and contribution to public policy directly and indirectly, Social Media cannot be taken for granted. What is casually referred to as "hashtag activism" has considerable successes in bringing duty bearers to shame and account.

Freedom of expression and the media in Kenya

The last year and a half has been difficult for media freedoms in Kenya. Journalists and bloggers have felt the wrath of power and influence when doing their job in a manner that is striking similar to the old, dark days of Kenya. When Kenya promulgated the Constitution on August 27th 2010, with robust provisions for journalism practitioners, it was never imagined that these provisions will remain just on paper.

Article 19 East Africa, last year documented that that each month from January to September 2015 had cases of intimidation. Over 60 journalists and bloggers were silenced, intimidated, harassed and some even killed in a spate of violence against freedom of expression, freedom of the media and access to information. The cases of threats against journalists and bloggers have been all over the country, with the fewest incidences being in the northern part of Kenya. Isiolo, Meru, Embu, Kiambu, Kitui, Mombasa, Kwale, Kajiado, Nairobi, Narok, Bomet, Kisii, Kisumu, Bungoma, Uasin Gishu and TransNzoia counties all recorded threats to freedom of expression. The Police, state officials, politicians and other individuals have contributed to the silencing and intimidation of journalists. In the period this report covers, at least two journalists or bloggers were threatened every month.

Kenyans online have also not been spared the wrath of excessive force and impunity. The use of 'improper use of licensed telecommunication gadget' under Section 29 of the Information and Communications Act was rampant. It criminalized publishing information online which is deemed unlawful by the authorities. The section has since been declared unconstitutional.

Others were charged with "undermining authority of a public officer," for criticizing government officials on Social Media, a charge under section 132 of the penal code (Chapter 63 Laws of Kenya) which was enacted in 1948 during the colonial rule. Robert Alai, when charged under this section, filed a counter suit challenging its constitutionality. The case is ongoing.

[extensive set of additional cases discussed in full report]

Bloggers and Social Media concerns for 2017

In August 2016 after President Uhuru Kenyatta met Governors, they agreed to take stern actions against media houses and Social Media users who propagate hate. They argued that the reason for coming down heavily on incitement and hate speech was to maintain peace and a stable united country before and
after the elections.

The concerns are however, that these leaders will take advantage of the agreement to arrest, intimidate and prosecute their critics without any link to hate speech. The previous actions with how Governors have been against journalists and their critiques online who call them to order and journalists who highlight maladministration and corruption worry. For instance, West Pokot Governor, Simon Kachapin and Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua are some examples of how they have reacted to journalists who report on corruption. Governor Mbugua was also accused of using the police to silence critics.

Another concern bloggers have is the possibility of the Internet being shut down during the 2017 General Election. This action has been an emerging trend by various African countries during elections and has cast doubts of the Kenyan government maintaining the Internet since they have closely associated themselves with these countries including Gabon, Uganda and Ethiopia. Additionally, Kenya was one of the countries that voted against the landmark UN resolution condemning Internet shutdowns.

Mr. Walubengo, a lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT argues 66 that Kenya, having a more sophisticated leadership, can encroach on Internet freedoms in more subtle ways than many other African countries can. It is unlikely to orchestrate a countrywide Internet shutdown like what typically happens in Uganda or Zimbabwe. However, they can achieve the same effect by shutting down selected zones of the country as and when they deem it necessary.

He says that, "mobile-based technologies are inherently geo-location based. It is therefore easy to propagate congestion or otherwise take down GSM base-stations in one or two targeted counties without affecting the rest. This could be done to contain perceived sources of "unrest" - be they of political, social or economic nature. Citizens within those zones would be without access for as long as it is considered necessary for government authorities to get on top of a situation."

In addition, the executive has been critical of critics of its regime, especially its policies, sending alarm to whether they will accept criticism of election mistakes and mishaps if they were to happen. It has equally resented peaceful assembly and demonstration on political issues.

The African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) in Durban, October 2016 made a statement as an outcome of a multi- stakeholder practicum regarding the practice of Internet shutdowns on the continent. The statement highlighted that shutdowns violate individual rights, companies and media organizations with content online. These institutions and individuals lose credibility, revenue, and audience when the Internet is shutdown while individuals can lose jobs. In their recommendations, they affirm that multi- stakeholder forums within countries should help determine when in extreme cases the Internet could be shutdown.

A report by the Brookings Institute published in October 2016, affirmed that Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion last year. The report arising from 19 countries highlights reasons for ordering these disruptions as safeguarding government authority, reducing public dissidence, fighting terrorism, maintaining national security, or protecting local businesses. While they acknowledge that the economic loss is a conservative figure, the report underlines that Internet disruptions are creating significant detrimental impacts on economic activity in a number of nations around the world.

Azuri Technologies offers solar 24 inch TV to Kenyan rural households and sees "real opportunities" in the other 12 countries it operates in

25 January 2017

Balancing Act: Telecoms, Internet and Broadcast in Africa

Kenyans in rural areas are increasingly looking to buy solar TVs. Rising expectations mean that they want something similar to a Kenyan living in the city, not a downscaled product with less content and a smaller screen. Azuri Technologies is seeking to meet this need with an alliance with pay TV provider Zuku. Russell Southwood spoke to its CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth about its ambitions.

Azuri Technologies' Bransfield-Garth has seen a major shift in the rural areas of Kenya:"We went to Kenya in 2011 and everybody was buying a little solar light. That was the big thing they wanted. Things have now moved way beyond that. They now want a reasonable approximation to mains electricity. It's moved to a need phone charging and wanting a TV."

"It's a bit like PC buying in the 1980s in the UK. You had to put everything together. It's the same for a solar powered TV. You can get the TV but you're not sure what channels you can get. What we wanted to offer was an integrated solution and we've done that through a partnership with Zuku."

The integrated solution includes a satellite dish, a decoder and solar power plus a content package. The Zuku Smart+ entertainment package gives the user 48 TV and 21 radio channels:"It's got all the national channels plus a bunch of international channels including BBC World. There are Zuku specific channels including Zuku Sports, Zuku Swahili, Zuku Kids, Zuku Life Glam and Zuku Nolly:" The TV is something that would not look out of place in the developed world and we're offering it on a Pay-As-You-Go basis."

Priced at Kshs 149 ($1.50) per day, users can get a complete home power package including a 24-inch television (designed to work on low power and made in China) with built in Satellite TV service providing up to 5 hours of normal viewing per day, four room lights, mobile phone charging and a rechargeable portable radio:"We're bringing TV to people who've never had it before. It's a future market."

Users make payment using mobile money. Once payment has been made to Azuri Technologies, the user gets a text message to his or her mobile phone. This gives them a code number that they type into the unit and this provides them with the amount of credit they've paid for. When the system runs out of credit, it locks the user out. Payment can be made for as little as a week.

Only launched in December last year, it has so far - not surprisingly – only sold in the hundreds:"There are 12 million household and only 5 million have TVs. Most of them in rural and peri-urban areas don't have a TV. Our traditional markets are in rural areas and the Government is keen to get TV-take-up.

Although there is no data yet, Bransfield-Garth estimates that there are between 0.5 million and 1 million households have solar lighting systems. Solar TVs of this sort will probably be smaller in number but around the hundreds of thousands.

This package is the first of what is designed to become a family of products with different content and partnerships and even larger TVs:"We wanted to set a baseline and to offer a product that's not at the bottom of the range. It's not a case of 'it's better than nothing'." This is fighting talk and obviously aimed at the much smaller screen m-Kopa product that we covered last year:

Azuri Technologies sells its other solar products in 12 countries including Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Togo, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Angola:"There's potential to roll-out in the balance of countries we operate in. We need to find the right content partnerships."

What do you think the most promising out of these countries will be?:"There are real opportunities in all of them"

Zuku Satellite TV CEO Jay Chudasama said: "This is a very exciting opportunity we are giving our customers and viewers to have more choices and enjoy the experience to watch over 40 Zuku TV channels that offers high-quality and affordable family entertainment with emphasis on the local content".

Customers can enjoy local free-to-air channels, international channels and Zuku branded channels including Zuku Sports, Zuku Swahili, Zuku Kids, Zuku Life Glam and Zuku Nolly.

Customers pay the top-up rate via mobile money, allowing customers to use the system as much as they want for the credit period. After as little as 2 years of payments, customers will own the equipment and continue to pay only for the satellite service. The service is initially available in selected regions of Central Kenya and will be rolled out progressively nationwide in 2017.

Balancing Act: Telecoms, Internet and Broadcast in Africa

Mobile Money helped 2 percent of households in Kenya rise out of poverty

6 January 2017

Being able to send and receive money by cell phone has helped lift 194,000 households in Kenya out of poverty, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science. Women especially have benefitted from the spread of mobile money, which has helped many move from farming into business, economists say.

With mobile money, people can transfer funds back and forth over text. By the end of last year, these services had reached 93 countries; in Kenya, they are now used by 96 percent of households. Kenya's dominant mobile money service, M-PESA ("M" stands for mobile, and "pesa" is Swahili for money), launched in 2007.

There are only 2,700 ATMs in Kenya, but 96 percent of households use a cell phone. M-PESA is appealing, particularly in rural areas, because you don't need a bank account or internet connection to use it.

Kenya now hosts more than 110,000 mobile money agents—people who can help users deposit cash into their accounts or pick up payments others have sent them. "You can think of them as simply human ATMs," says coauthor William Jack, a professor of economics at Georgetown University.

The service is cheap (although not free), and can be used to purchase goods or send money to friends and family. "It's not integrated with another financial product like a credit card," Jack says. "There's only one institution involved, the cell phone company."

Mobile money is also useful because many families in Kenya are dispersed across the country. "There will be a brother or son who works in Nairobi and sends money home to his mom, there'll be a husband who works in Mombasa an sends money up country for school fees," Jack says.

Before the rise of mobile money, it was time-consuming and costly for these families to share funds. "There was no easy way to do that electronically; people would literally take two or three days off work and catch a bus 1,000 kilometers to deliver 30 or 40 dollars and then come back," Jack says. "Mobile money allowed that process to happen literally at the press of a button, and at relatively low costs."

To find out how these services have helped people over time, Jack and his colleague, Tavneet Suri of MIT, surveyed households around the country between 2008 and 2014. The team examined how financial wellbeing changed as mobile money agents became more plentiful in certain areas.

"It's kind of like saying, if you can get better access to an agent, how is your life different?" Jack says. "On average, they're a bit richer."

Jack and Suri estimate that access to mobile money has helped bring 2 percent of Kenya's households out of poverty, with the most marked benefits seen in families headed by women. They believe that access to M-PESA has helped 185,000 women save more and start businesses.

"Mobile money might have been more convenient, it might be safer, it might be more private," Jack says.

Mobile money is also beginning to offer more sophisticated financial services like M-Shwari, a bank account that people can operate through M-PESA. "It has been integrated with a couple banks to provide a credit service and a savings service," Jack says. "People have talked about insurance being provided over the phone."

Being able to use mobile money hasn't made people rich. "It's not clear how far above the poverty line they went," Jack says. But fewer homes are surviving on less than $2 a day.

M-PESA gives people a way to safely store and manage money, and this directly improves their financial wellbeing, he and Suri concluded.

Source: POPSCI

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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