Advert in the Daily Nation of Nairobi: "90% of Kencell
users talk about their bathrooms."
Kencell is the second cellular operator in Kenya,
inaugurating their service yesterday in Nairobi. It is
owned by Vivendi and the Sameer Group, the latter being
a local holding company for locally incorporated branches
of Firestone, Everready, several banks, an auto retailer, a
tea processor, and others. I am told that some senior
government officials are shareholders, but I personally
have no knowledge of this.
In what looks like an advertising supplement, Kencell
tells us that their new payphone service "is part of our
universal obligation as per our licence and will assist the
general 'mwananchi' to benefit from our GSM technology
to keep in touch. Kencell intends to have 100 payphones
in Nairobi and Mombasa by the end of this year and aims
at having 2000 payphones all over the country by 2005."
The term "mwananchi" (MWA-na-N-chi, not mwa-NAN-chi
as many non-Kenyan's like to say it) is Kiswahili for
"ordinary citizen" or literally "person of the country". I'm
always hearing the Swinglish expression "ordinary
mwananchi" perhaps meaning the unprivileged. Kencell
thus seems to be saying that their payphones will make
cellular service available to the lower income groups of
I've noticed that these call boxes are very popular just
about everywhere I travel in Africa. Where call boxes do
not exist (or do not work), telephone "call centers"
operated as private (often informal) businesses are quite
popular. The price per unit at these call centers or
payphones may be higher than one would pay on a
residential handset or cell phone, but without the need for
the capital investment in the phone itself, the subscriber
joining fee, and other up-front costs. These up-front
costs these days are about $400 in Kenya.
These initial capital investments are viewed by many as a
major hurdle to access for middle and lower income
groups in Kenya and elsewhere. Payphones, call
centers, telecenters -- these are all widely viewed as a
key solution to this problem.
Of course even without a capital investment requirement
to the individual, if the per minute charges are still high,
affordability remains a problem.
These are some of the issues I would expect we might
discuss at the upcoming conference in Grahamstown:
See in particular the agenda for seminars on day 2.
Other perspectives on this issue greatly appreciated.
Jeff @ Nairobi
Information and Communication Technology Programs
Tel +254 (2) 862400 x2762
Email [log in to unmask] (preferred)
Email [log in to unmask]
PO Box 30261