Internet, social media use and e-commerce on upward trajectory in Kenya
Kenya recorded the highest number of new internet users in East Africa between 2019 and January 2020, and as more people work from home and turn to e-commerce retailing and social media to connect with each other in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, internet use in the country is reaching new heights and e-commerce is on an upward trajectory.
The 2020 Digital Report, published on 30th January 2020 revealed that the number of new internet users in Kenya increased by 3.2 million, surpassing its neighbors – Rwanda, Burundi Uganda and Tanzania by over 1.9 million people.
The report which examines how people around the world use the internet, mobile devices, social media and e-commerce also revealed that Kenya had the highest number of internet users in East Africa, at 22.86 million – just 6.99 million lower than the total number in it’s four neighbors in the region.
In total, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania had 29.85 million people using the internet in January 2020.
The data also shows there are more people using social media in Kenya than elsewhere in East Africa. The country had 8.8 million social media users, 660,000 more than in its four neighbors combined.
In total, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania had 8.14 million people using social media in January 2020.
Globally, the report established that the number of internet users increased to 4.54 billion while social media users increased by 321 million to reach 3.8 billion people.
While noting that close to 60 percent of the world’s population was already using the internet, the report concluded that more than half of the world’s total population will use social media by June 2020.
And that number could go well past the estimate due to measures put in place by governments to contain COVID -19. A survey published by the Pew Research Center on April 1, 2020 showed that internet use has increased around the world as countries impose lockdowns, curfews and other social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus.
According to the survey conducted in 34 countries, 36 percent of Kenyans own a smartphone while 43 percent use social media, and 48 percent use the internet.
But these numbers are improving really fast given that more people are connecting with each other online as they practice social distancing.
To begin with, Kenyans can now file court cases electronically and hearings conducted via video link, The Daily Nation reports.
According to the report, only matters certified as urgent are being heard virtually through Skype and Zoom and orders are sent to the applicants via email.
To add to this, telecom operators in the country are making it easier for learners to study from home. Airtel Kenya, for instance, is offering free access to the Longhorn e-platform where learning material can be accessed on Windows mobile platforms, Android and SMS, Capital FM reports.
Interestingly, despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, internet providers are recording double profits.
A report by Soko Directory revealed that Kenyans were spending at least 5 million hours of continuous viewing on data powered by Safaricom, Kenyan’s largest telecom company.
According to the report, the number of Facebook users is at its highest, with at least 100,000 Kenyans using Facebook Live.
The report quoted Safaricom’s CEO as saying that the company had “recorded double-digital growth in data volumes” as more Kenyans study and work from home.
Growth in e commerce as virus spreads
Kenya recorded its first coronavirus case on 12th March 2020. As of Wednesday 15 April 2020, the number of cases stood at 225 with 10 deaths and 53 recoveries.
The government has since banned travel in and out of the worst affected regions – the capital Nairobi and the counties of Kwale and Kilifi and Mombasa.
The good news is that e-commerce retailers are reporting a rise in the number of people visiting their platforms, according to a TechTrends report.
The report quoted Sam Chappatte, the Jumia Kenya MD as saying that the company had “seen a shift in sales” because “customer behavior has changed” making the company record “high sales in hand sanitisers, masks and household cleaning products.”
Prioritizing Digital Payments Over Cash
Following the government’s move to encourage digital payments to prevent the spread of the virus through the physical exchange of cash, Safaricom, waived fees for M-pesa (the country’s largest digital money transfer service, with over 20 million customers) transactions below 1,000 Kenya shillings ($100) – for three months, beginning 17 March, 2020, The East African reports.
Besides the fee waiver, the company increased the daily M-Pesa transaction limit for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) from 70,000 Kenyan shillings ($700) to 150,000 Kenyan shillings ($1500), the transaction limit from 140,000 shillings ($1,400) to 300,000 shillings ($3,000) and the amount of money individuals can hold in their M-Pesa wallets to 300,000 Kenya shillings ($3,000).
As of January, Kenyan’s internet and social media penetration was 43 percent and 17 percent respectively, the highest in East Africa, according to the 2020 Digital report.
The country is the region’s internet giant, and as the world grapples with COVID-19, the number of Kenyans using the internet and social media are increasing significantly. And as to whether the high numbers will be maintained post the epidemic remains to be seen.
|Country||Internet users||Increase in internet users||% increase in internet users||Social media users||Increase in social media users|
Internet and social media numbers in East Africa between 2019 and January 2020. Source – Digital 2020 Report.
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The England manager has said he will speak about the matter with players ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifier GARETH SOUTHGATE has said he will talk with players about how to respond to racism if they encounter it on the pitch. The England manager is set to meet with the team ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria in October to discuss how to deal with any racist abuse.
Abok Isaac Kiche talks about his journey into writing and his upcoming book.
He works as a senior relationship officer at a bank but Abok Isaac Kiche has a side engagement that adds to his income.
Kiche is a motivational author and speaker.
He does not consider writing as a side hustle but since launching his first book on May 1, 2015, he has sold 2000 copies, making $6,000.
He is a frequent speaker in over 30 schools across the country where he charges between $50 and $100 for a two-hour session. Since he started in 2013, he has made about $5, 000 from motivational talks.
The book titled, ‘Climbing the Mountain of Success, retails at just $3. It was published by Benchmark Education Publishers in his third year of study at Maseno University.
“The mountain represents the challenges we face, climbing-are the steps we take to walk over these challenges, ” Kiche explains.
The book highlights hindrances to academic excellence. Using real-life examples interspersed with relevant quotes, he compellingly sets out valuable tips on how students can easily leap over hurdles in their academic journey.
At the bank, he majors in microfinance and individual loans. As part of the job, he guides groups and individuals looking for financial support to start businesses and those applying for loans to upgrade their businesses.
“This is part of the motivation process. I am passionate about transforming my society to become great by utilizing its full potential. I always encourage people to change their attitude and focus on the bigger picture,” says Kiche.
When he is not working, he visits schools and universities to market his work.
“There is a ready market for motivational books especially in secondary schools and universities. These are groups of people who are undergoing their academic stage which is characterized by ups and downs hence their spirits must be awakened. Many are sleeping giants who should be awakened and directed towards excellence,” says Kiche.
Back at Maseno University, Kiche was the Director of Academics in the Student Organization of Maseno University (SOMU).
Besides earning him fame and recognition, authoring the book gave him an edge in campus politics.
“We told freshmen that traditionally the Director for Academics had to be a writer. This was positive propaganda,” says Kiche.
It is rare for students taking science and mathematics related courses to embrace the literary world.
Kiche went against the grain. Despite taking Bachelor of Science in Applied Statistics-an arguably demanding course, he successfully penned the book.
As a young boy in grade eight obsessed with the Bible, the Yala primary school alumnus had no idea that he was developing his writing skills.
“I would read the book of Proverbs so many times and try to interpret it,” says Kiche.
He can now bask in this early taste of success, but his upward trajectory has not been smooth sailing. The book is reminiscent of his early life.
The last born in a family of 6, Kiche describes his background as average. His parents could raise school fees, but he would walk for three kilometers to school.
Since he was a chronic latecomer, his teachers would cane him every morning. Unlike some of his classmates, he did not drop out.
“Irrespective of the challenges we face, our focus and determination propel us to the top. The challenges I passed through while growing up were my key motivation (to write the book) plus my desire and passion to motivate my generation to focus on their greatness irrespective of the mountains (challenges) they face, ” says Kiche.
He went to Kabianga high school in Kericho County where he nurtured his oratory skills. The school exposed him to dozens of leadership forums. He would represent the school in public speaking competitions at the regional and national level.
He remembers rubbing shoulders with the then cabinet secretary for Education, the late Mutula Kilonzo who presented him with an award during the 2011 national public speaking competition. Kiche had come 5th in the competition where he had given a talk on ‘The Kenya We Want.’
The achievement would earn him a scholarship at Mind Grow Institute of Leadership in Nairobi. As soon as he finished high school, he enrolled at the institution where he acquired leadership and guidance and counseling skills.
In his gap year, he served as an untrained teacher at Yala high school. His interaction with students and the challenges he had experienced while schooling prompted him to put pen on paper.
“I got a better understanding of the psychology that drives a student, particularly at high school level. All that knowledge and experience inspired me to write the book,” says Kiche.
He began writing in September 2013 on joining Maseno as a freshman. However, when he told the dean of his school about it, he advised him to put his plans on hold as he needed to prioritize his studies.
“I saw that as a mountain!” Kiche quips.
His desire to write was unwavering, much to the disappointment of his girlfriend. Furious because he had devoted more of his time to writing than the relationship, she broke up with him.
One and a half years later, the dean would give a moving speech at the book’s launch and the estranged girlfriend would try making a comeback.
“She called me several times…” Kiche says wryly.
Kiche looks forward to serving in a political position. He has leaped into writing and he isn’t turning back. He is currently working on his second book, ‘ On the Road to Success.’
” I have completed five out of nine chapters to be launched by the end of this year (2019). The book focuses on what one needs to lay on their path to success,” says Kiche.
For now, he takes his dreams seriously as he gets most of his writing ideas in his sleep before keying them in his computer.
“Never give up-you have the ability, never give up-you have the potential, never give up,” Kiche says with finality, his voice laden with conviction.
THE NEW SHOPPING CENTRE IN WESTERN KENYA SET TO SPUR THE REGION’S SOCIAL-ECONOMIC GROWTH.
The Lake Basin Mall (LBM), the largest in Western Kenya, is expected to provide visitors with a fully-fledged shopping experience, add to the country’s GDP basket while boosting the region’s economy and ease the unemployment burden to the country, once it is fully operational.
According to the 2019 Economic Survey report highlighting Kenya’s economic performance for 2018, wholesale and retail trade accounted for 6.3% of the country’s GDP, ahead of the manufacturing sector and slightly behind the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector which accounted for 4.2% and 6.4% respectively of the 6.3% overall GDP growth recorded in 2018.
The shopping complex is owned by the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA), a government agency established in 1979 by an Act of Parliament to plan and coordinate the implementation of development projects in the Lake Victoria catchment area.
The entire project cost the taxpayer over 4.1 billion shillings ($41M).
The five-floor shopping complex has a floor area of approximately 60,000 square meters. It is located at Mambo Leo junction along the Kisumu-Kakamega road approximately 3.5 kilometers from the Kisumu CBD.
The complex comprises of a modern mall with all social amenities, a lower floor parking area for 330 cars and recreational areas. It has a three-star hotel, showrooms for vehicles and other household goods, a tire center for servicing vehicles and has an electric perimeter fence and 24-hour CCTV cameras for security monitoring. The National Police Service is also expected to post officers to the mall to enhance security.
The entire project covers an area of approximately 8 acres. Construction began in August 2013 and ended in 2016.
“A date has not been set yet for the official launch of the mall, but it has been open for the public since 2017. There are a few shops and offices that are already operational,” said Dr. Raymond Omollo, LBDA managing director.
Jobs in Western Kenya
Once it is fully operational, the shopping complex is projected to raise 220 Million Kenya shillings ($2.2 M) annually in rent besides generating revenue from other sources such as parking fees and advertising billboards.
“The mall is meant to encourage local investment, but foreign investors are also welcome. More than 500 jobs can be created, and this can ease unemployment and help grow the region’s economy and that’s why we built the mall,” said Dr. Omollo.
The government is struggling to cope with unemployment in the country. The Economic Survey report released by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics in 2019 revealed that the government created fewer jobs in 2018 compared to 2017 despite the country has recorded the highest GDP in years at 6.3 % in 2018 compared to 4.9% in 2017.
According to the survey, the government created a total of 897,000 jobs in 2017 against 840,600 jobs in 2018 -a drop by 56,400 jobs.
Sustainable Energy Use
The mall complex is fitted with solar panels that power the hot water system in the hotel and provide street and perimeter security lighting at the complex. The design also provides for skylights that ensure adequate natural light in the mall. It has a biodigester for recycling of water.
“One of our core mandates as the LBDA and provided in the Act (of parliament) that established the Authority is to pursue mitigation and adapt to climate change and ensure mainstreaming of cross-cutting issues in basin development,” said Dr. Omollo.
The LBDA’s compliance with green energy requirements is also informed by the Climate Change Act 2016, a regulatory framework providing for mechanisms to reduce Kenya’s carbon footprint. Under the Act, assented into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta in May 2016, all public and private entities must integrate climate change responses into their development planning.
Tenancy agreements are still in progress with the retail space going for between 40 Kenya shillings ($0.4) and 80 Kenya shillings ($0.8) per square foot depending on the size and its location.
“As of now, the LBM is narrowing down to one (anchor tenant). We are in negotiations with a few interested international and regional retailers. As of today, (June 2019) 65% of the mall has already been booked and paid for,” said Dr. Omollo.
It has been alleged that the mall’s budget overshot by over 1.6 billion Kenya shillings prompting the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC)-the anti-graft agency, to in November 2018, question nine former and current members of the LBDA management over the issue.
“The investigation is on-going, and it would be prejudicial to discuss it. The project was cleared as value for money by a team from the State Department of Public Works. The project’s final count was 4,138,895,104.89 (close to $41.4M),” said Dr. Omollo.
Underfunding and Debt
The LBDA which depends on government funding faced financial constraints that delayed completion of the project. According to the Auditor General’s report on the financial statements of the LBDA for the year ended 30th June 2017, the Authority secured a 1.5 Kenya shillings ($15M) loan to clear debts owed to the contractor of the mall.
In it’s 2017/2018 financial year, the Authority allocated one billion Kenya shillings ($10M) towards the partial clearance of a bank loan.
The Authority also recorded a 47% drop in its total income by the end of June 2017 after the government slashed its budget.
Dr. Omollo said a delay in paying the contractor led to the accrued interest which in turn increased the final cost of constructing the mall complex.
Establishing the complex is part of the Authority’s long-term strategy to engage in income-generating projects that will enable it to generate its own revenue and supplement its budget.
For now, efforts to get the mall fully up and running are on-going. Dr. Omollo said the delay in completing the Kisumu-Kakamega road which is right next to the mall had stopped some would-be tenants at the mall from starting operations right away.
“We are in a strategic location. The Kisumu-Kakamega road that is being constructed will give access to the mall. We have engaged a property manager who oversees both letting and management. We encourage business owners and the public to visit the mall and talk to him for spaces available,” said Dr. Omollo.
I’ve been reflecting on this “go back to your country” thing.
For me, I am fortunate enough to not have experienced outright racism related to being an immigrant.
What I have experienced as recently as today though is being singled out for my accent.
It is a very strange experience because I don’t have a heavy accent, and so I forget I have traces of British and Kenyan accents until people point it out.
This feels like being jolted out of a dream. The American dream, if you will.
And for some reason it hurts. I can’t explain why but it just feels like it creates distance between me and the person asking me.
Accents are supposed to be invisible.
You are not supposed to know you have an accent until you travel. But if you have grown up your entire life hearing:
“Do you have an accent?”
“Where is your accent from?”
“Do I detect an accent?”
“I can’t quite place your accent where are you from?”
It creates a permanent feeling of being a foreigner in your own home.
I’m a US citizen but yet I’m constantly reminded that I’m “from” somewhere else.
No matter how much you try to assimilate or integrate or become “American” you are reminded that you are just 98% there and you will never make up the gulf that is the 2%.
I love when people ask me about Kenya. I can talk all day long about my other home and country. But asking about my accent feels very invasive. It’s another way of saying “you’re not from around here are you?”
I know people mean well and I try to answer with as much grace as I can.
But my advice for those of you who want to comment on someone’s accent, maybe wait until they talk about their heritage first. That’s a good rule of thumb.
To know me, is to know that I am Kenyan-American. But let me be the one to bring it up proudly first.
Jaden Smith created a water filtration system for the people of Flint, Michigan, and launched the “I Love You” food truck on his birthday this month to feed vegan meals to the homeless in Los Angeles. Now the rapper and young entrepreneur says he’s ready to become a full-time inventor. “I want the world to know that I am switching professions and that I am becoming a full-time inventor,” Smith tells Complex .
Taiye Selasi’s piece, pretty much inspired the very creation of this blog. Here it is in its entirety:
by Taiye Selasi
It’s moments to midnight on Thursday night at Medicine Bar in London. Zak, boy-genius DJ, is spinning a Fela Kuti remix. The little downstairs dancefloor swells with smiling, sweating men and women fusing hip-hop dance moves with a funky sort of djembe. The women show off enormous afros, tiny t-shirts, gaps in teeth; the men those incredible torsos unique to and common on African coastlines. The whole scene speaks of the Cultural Hybrid: kente cloth worn over low-waisted jeans; ‘African Lady’ over Ludacris bass lines; London meets Lagos meets Durban meets Dakar. Even the DJ is an ethnic fusion: Nigerian and Romanian; fair, fearless leader; bobbing his head as the crowd reacts to a sample of ‘Sweet Mother’.
Were you to ask any of these beautiful, brown-skinned people that basic question – ‘where are you from?’ – you’d get no single answer from a single smiling dancer. This one lives in London but was raised in Toronto and born in Accra; that one works in Lagos but grew up in Houston, Texas. ‘Home’ for this lot is many things: where their parents are from; where they go for vacation; where they went to school; where they see old friends; where they live (or live this year). Like so many African young people working and living in cities around the globe, they belong to no single geography, but feel at home in many.
They (read: we) are Afropolitans – the newest generation of African emigrants, coming soon or collected already at a law firm/chem lab/jazz lounge near you. You’ll know us by our funny blend of London fashion, New York jargon, African ethics, and academic successes. Some of us are ethnic mixes, e.g. Ghanaian and Canadian, Nigerian and Swiss; others merely cultural mutts: American accent, European affect, African ethos. Most of us are multilingual: in addition to English and a Romantic or two, we understand some indigenous tongue and speak a few urban vernaculars. There is at least one place on The African Continent to which we tie our sense of self: be it a nation-state (Ethiopia), a city (Ibadan), or an auntie’s kitchen. Then there’s the G8 city or two (or three) that we know like the backs of our hands, and the various institutions that know us for our famed focus. We are Afropolitans: not citizens, but Africans of the world.
It isn’t hard to trace our genealogy. Starting in the 60’s, the young, gifted and broke left Africa in pursuit of higher education and happiness abroad. A study conducted in 1999 estimated that between 1960 and 1975 around 27,000 highly skilled Africans left the Continent for the West. Between 1975 and 1984, the number shot to 40,000 and then doubled again by 1987, representing about 30% of Africa’s highly skilled manpower. Unsurprisingly, the most popular destinations for these emigrants included Canada, Britain, and the United States; but Cold War politics produced unlikely scholarship opportunities in Eastern Bloc countries like Poland, as well.
Some three decades later this scattered tribe of pharmacists, physicists, physicians (and the odd polygamist) has set up camp around the globe. The caricatures are familiar. The Nigerian physics professor with faux-Coogi sweater; the Kenyan marathonist with long legs and rolled r’s; the heavyset Gambian braiding hair in a house that smells of burnt Kanekalon. Even those unacquainted with synthetic extensions can conjure an image of the African immigrant with only the slightest of pop culture promptings: Eddie Murphy’s ‘Hello, Barbar.’ But somewhere between the 1988 release of Coming to America and the 2001 crowning of a Nigerian Miss World, the general image of young Africans in the West transmorphed from goofy to gorgeous. Leaving off the painful question of cultural condescenscion in that beloved film, one wonders what happened in the years between Prince Akeem and Queen Agbani?
One answer is: adolescence. The Africans that left Africa between 1960 and 1975 had children, and most overseas. Some of us were bred on African shores then shipped to the West for higher education; others born in much colder climates and sent home for cultural re-indoctrination. Either way, we spent the 80’s chasing after accolades, eating fufu at family parties, and listening to adults argue politics. By the turn of the century (the recent one), we were matching our parents in number of degrees, and/or achieving things our ‘people’ in the grand sense only dreamed of. This new demographic – dispersed across Brixton, Bethesda, Boston, Berlin – has come of age in the 21st century, redefining what it means to be African. Where our parents sought safety in traditional professions like doctoring, lawyering, banking, engineering, we are branching into fields like media, politics, music, venture capital, design. Nor are we shy about expressing our African influences (such as they are) in our work. Artists such as Keziah Jones, Trace founder and editor Claude Gruzintsky, architect David Adjaye, novelist Chimamanda Achidie – all exemplify what Gruzintsky calls the ‘21st century African.’
What distinguishes this lot and its like (in the West and at home) is a willingness to complicate Africa – namely, to engage with, critique, and celebrate the parts of Africa that mean most to them. Perhaps what most typifies the Afropolitan consciousness is the refusal to oversimplify; the effort to understand what is ailing in Africa alongside the desire to honor what is wonderful, unique. Rather than essentialising the geographical entity, we seek to comprehend the cultural complexity; to honor the intellectual and spiritual legacy; and to sustain our parents’ cultures.
For us, being African must mean something. The media’s portrayals (war, hunger) won’t do. Neither will the New World trope of bumbling, blue-black doctor. Most of us grew up aware of ‘being from’ a blighted place, of having last names from to countries which are linked to lack, corruption. Few of us escaped those nasty ‘booty-scratcher’ epithets, and fewer still that sense of shame when visting paternal villages. Whether we were ashamed of ourselves for not knowing more about our parents’ culture, or ashamed of that culture for not being more ‘advanced’ can be unclear. What is manifest is the extent to which the modern adolescent African is tasked to forge a sense of self from wildly disparate sources. You’d never know it looking at those dapper lawyers in global firms, but most were once supremely self-conscious of being so ‘in between’. Brown-skinned without a bedrock sense of ‘blackness,’ on the one hand; and often teased by African family members for ‘acting white’ on the other – the baby-Afropolitan can get what I call ‘lost in transnation’.
Ultimately, the Afropolitan must form an identity along at least three dimensions: national, racial, cultural – with subtle tensions in between. While our parents can claim one country as home, we must define our relationship to the places we live; how British or American we are (or act) is in part a matter of affect. Often unconsciously, and over time, we choose which bits of a national identity (from passport to pronunciation) we internalize as central to our personalities. So, too, the way we see our race – whether black or biracial or none of the above – is a question of politics, rather than pigment; not all of us claim to be black. Often this relates to the way we were raised, whether proximate to other brown people (e.g. black Americans) or removed. Finally, how we conceive of race will accord with where we locate ourselves in the history that produced ‘blackness’ and the political processes that continue to shape it.
Then there is that deep abyss of Culture, ill-defined at best. One must decide what comprises ‘African culture’ beyond pepper soup and filial piety. The project can be utterly baffling – whether one lives in an African country or not. But the process is enriching, in that it expands one’s basic perspective on nation and selfhood. If nothing else, the Afropolitan knows that nothing is neatly black or white; that to ‘be’ anything is a matter of being sure of who you are uniquely. To ‘be’ Nigerian is to belong to a passionate nation; to be Yoruba, to be heir to a spiritual depth; to be American, to ascribe to a cultural breadth; to be British, to pass customs quickly. That is, this is what it means for me – and that is the Afropolitan privilege. The acceptance of complexity common to most African cultures is not lost on her prodigals. Without that intrinsically multi-dimensional thinking, we could not make sense of ourselves.
And if it all sounds a little self-congratulatory, a little ‘aren’t-we-the-coolest-damn-people-on-earth?’ – I say: yes it is, necessarily. It is high time the African stood up. There is nothing perfect in this formulation; for all our Adjayes and Achidies, there is a brain drain back home. Most Afropolitans could serve Africa better in Africa than at Medicine Bar on Thursdays. To be fair, a fair number of African professionals are returning; and there is consciousness among the ones who remain, an acute awareness among this brood of too-cool-for-schools that there’s work to be done. There are those among us who wonder to the point of weeping: where next, Africa? When will the scattered tribes return? When will the talent repatriate? What lifestyles await young professionals at home? How to invest in Africa’s future? The prospects can seem grim at times. The answers aren’t forthcoming. But if there was ever a group who could figure it out, it is this one, unafraid of the questions.
From the Unchained Podcast : Gabriel Abed , founder of Bitt.com and Vice President of the board of directors, describes how he went from mining Bitcoin to persuading governors of central banks to not quash Bitt’s goal to create central bank digital currencies in the Caribbean and getting the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to pilot one starting next year…[ more ]
The Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 List features 120 of Africa’s brightest achievers under the age of 30 in four categories: business, technology, creatives and sport. The list celebrates pioneers who are building brands, creating jobs, innovating, leading, transforming and contributing to new industries and ultimately impacting positively on the continent.
Christine Gathiuni’s Journey to Creative Entrepreneurship
After one year of no consulting work, Christine Gathiuni was demoralized and disillusioned. Then one day God gave her a vision of a creative business idea she could pursue.
“In the vision I saw lots of used shoes being transformed into beautiful colors and designs, makeovers, fashion and up cycling combined. (This was) divine vision from God-to upcycle and design used shoes as a service to clients,” recalls Gathiuni.
Gathiuni now makes money from giving old shoes a makeover. She is the founder and director of Afrishiq, a first rising enterprise that primarily restyles worn out shoes.
She says Afrishiq is a fusion of the word African and Shiq- a play on ‘chic’ meaning tasteful or stylish.
Clients bring their own shoes for color and design modifications including:
- Changing heels to wedges
- Resizing by up to one size
- Changing stilettos to chunky heels
- Shortening stilettos
- Changing closed shoes into open shoes
- Fixing new soles
- Fixing extra cushions in linings
- Accessorizing with flowers, straps or bows
Creating Eco-Friendly Shoes in Kenya
Before branching out into other types of fabric, Gathiuni worked primarily with shoes in African fabric. She has since incorporated bags, belts, sunglasses, boxes and accessories into the business idea.
In 2019, she ventured into custom made orders for apparel that she sells locally and overseas. Although she is still in the rudimentary stages, she reveals that the market has shown interest.
“The business model is profitable to the tune of 30 to 40% net profit monthly. I have three permanent employees and four others who add to the team depending on the type of order,” says Gathiuni.
Gathiuni sees a connection between her business model and environmental conservation.
“Clients are reducing their respective garbage while saving money plus we also use recycled materials for some of the work. Sustainability is key because there is no limit as to the number of times a pair of shoes can be revamped,”Christine Gathiuni
Growing up in Nairobi, she wanted to become a vet. She loved animals. However, upon graduating from high school, she decided to join the United States International University-Africa (USIU) in 2000, to pursue a degree in International Business Administration.
For five years Gathiuni had travelled across Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda doing holistic plans for individuals and families. She was a certified financial planner working at a financial advisory firm. But she quit the lucrative position to work as an Independent consultant for a donor funded programme.
However, it was not long before she was out of work. She had to come to terms with joblessness, something, she had never experienced before.
Upon graduating in 2004, she had worked in hospitality and sales for four years before moving to the financial advisory firm.
“l resigned because l was ready to consult on my own. l would travel around the country doing training and workshops for youth and investment groups. It was for a United States Aid for International Development (USAID) program,” says Gathiuni.
The USAID programme which started in 2010, ran for only two years.
As the program wound down, Gathiuni was optimistic about finding more training projects. She put out feelers in all her networks but no opportunities were forthcoming.
The vision God gave her was vivid and detailed and it immediately launched her out of her idle season.
Even though she had never worked in the creative space before, let alone designing, revamping or repairing shoes, she was highly convinced that her long-awaited opportunity had found itself in her hands. She grabbed it and held on to it, tightly and as it were, prevented it from slipping away.
She embarked on finding someone to work with.
Working With Local Designers
“I found a cobbler at a design and repair shop. When I used his services, we talked and he realized I would have more opportunities, so he left and came to work for me,” recalls Gathiuni.
Moving from offering financial services to a self-employed entrepreneur was not an easy journey for Gathiuni. Even so, demand for her services was growing, steadily giving her the confidence to carry on.
She started by giving her old shoes a makeover. Her friends and acquaintances, on seeing her in the restyled shoes, became her primary clients. Soon they were making referrals to her which ultimately grew her customer base.
After one years of running the business, Gathiuni started to attend trade fairs, expositions and other events around the country to showcase her products and services. She also set up a Facebook page to market her products online.
In 2016, she attended the African Women in Cultural Leadership (AWCL) program, organized by the Arterial Network as a mentee. She had been recommended to the network by experts in the creative industry.
The mentorship, she says, broadened her knowledge on different aspects of running a creative business. She also acquired skills on how to organize and run events on a limited budget.
Some of the challenges that Gathiuni faces in her business are standardizing the quality of output during busy seasons, getting good quality shoe soles and meeting demand for the shoe makeover service.
To offset these challenges, she hopes to get a bigger and better workshop with more equipment and machinery and to employ more people. She works from a small workshop in Umoja, a neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya and has a drop off point in the Central Business District where clients bring their orders.
Gathiuni’s background in finance has played a key role in keeping her business afloat.
“I enjoy bringing my finance background into the creative space from time to time. Fashion business requires corporate knowledge especially when wholesale clients come to negotiate. Creative entrepreneurship is dynamic and unique and allows for more self-expression than the financial services industry.”
So, to what does she attribute her success thus far?
“My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who leads me in all things,” concludes Gathiuni.