Connecting the dots

Linda Kwamboka: one of Nairobi’s tech pioneers Mobile phone use in Kenya has risen sevenfold in as many years, internet access is ever cheaper and smart handset technologies are freeing people from traditional bonds. By Mike Pflanz. HURLINGHAM, April 30, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – High on the muddy Kinangop escarpment, where the rain off the mountains nourishes fertile soil, a farmer with a crop of snow peas is negotiating prices with a trader up from town. The farmer is being offered 8¢ a pound. Until recently, he’d have no way to know that down there where the buyers are, that same pound of peas would fetch him 37¢. Today, however, he can pull his cheap Nokia from his grubby pocket, send a text message to a dedicated shortcode and, moments later, the live market price will beep back into his inbox. His text message had bounced along mobile phone masts Read More…

Arrest this development?

A view of new apartments through the shrouds wrapping one of Nairobi’s under-construction shopping centers Mike Pflanz offers a personal view on Nairobi’s construction boom, and what it could mean for the city’s future. WOODLEY, April 13, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – The face of this young city is undergoing radical plastic surgery. In what the media here never fail to call “the leafy suburbs”, 1930s stone-built bungalows behind manicured hedges are being torn down and multistory apartment blocks rising high in their place. Out on the upgraded highways snaking into the city, red tiled roofs stretch across acres of what was once empty grassland tended only by Masai cattle. Malls are morphing from charming clusters of family-owned grocers and butchers, where everyone knows your name, into many-outlet monoliths to Mammon. At well-to-do dinner parties, this is a constant topic of slightly disapproving conversation. Think of all the traffic. Have they Read More…

A bright future?

Workers correct colors at a Nairobi printing firm looking forward to expanding its business Economic growth, stalled by the global financial crisis and Kenya’s election violence, is rising once again. Nairobi’s businesses are poised to reap rewards, Mike Pflanz finds. INDUSTRIAL AREA, April 11, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – With an incessant computer-controlled hiss clack clack, hiss clack clack, a million-dollar machine the size of a bus was churning out 14,000 bank flyers an hour. Over in the corner, sales pouches for a cellphone firm’s SIM cards were being folded. Nearby, neat stacks of An Introduction to Public Health stood ready for shipping. This 44-year-old firm, Colourprint, housed in a nondescript factory off a pot-holed road, is one of hundreds of companies clustered in Nairobi’s industrial area.

Old media and new in a revolution reaching young Kenyans

Anonymity assured: “DJ B” records his pirate radio show By Mike Pflanz KAREN, April 4, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – The collection of hipsters, artists and passionate young designers that is the team at has broken many taboos and launched itself into the consciousness of an entire generation of previously ignored Kenyan young people in its short life. The group is behind the immensely popular comic book, a linked radio show broadcast daily on 22 FM stations nationwide, and a booming online community on Facebook, Twitter, text message and a website. Together, all these media are used to one end: to boost the confidence, pride and outlook of the 27 million people, 73% of Kenya’s population, who are aged under 30.