Aroma Cafe

The brilliant, curious, story of how one establishment in Mombasa has used the on-going debate on “husband battering” in Kenya to do some brilliant marketing:

From NTV Kenya:

The upsurge in the number of husband battering cases continue to dominate debates in various parts of the country but in Mombasa the issue has been captured in a different way. One café in the coastal city has chosen to put it in black and white. Aroma Café has written pro-men messages for anyone to see and the management say it is their way of discouraging the vice that has given Central Kenya a bad name. The high-class restaurant has even gone to the extent of preparing cookies labeled “Love Men” in their effort to condemn husband beating.

Disrupting The Kenyan Movies Industry

I just read a very well written and thought-provoking article on how piracy affects the Kenyan movie industry: Secrets About Piracy Revealed By Jitu Films Director. It seems that a very interesting problem plagues our industry:

  • Piracy is apparently illegal in Kenya.
  • However, all those “DVD for 50 bob” shops in town sell nothing but illegal pirated stuff. But they sell foreign films and so no one bothers to go after them. (An instance of how the law fails local film makers).
  • Those shops in town can never dare try to sell Kenyan movies because they need a special license to do so and because if they did, the city council will be on top of them quickly.
  • This presents an interesting problem for local film makers: they cannot hope to compete on price with foreign films. Would you buy “The Rugged Priest” at 100/- when “Avatar” is available at 50 bob?
  • To add to that, there is no local DVD factory hence local film makers have to import these and pay import taxes on top of all the other ‘normal’ taxes int heir industry. Essentially, they are unable to sell their movies at 50 bob and remain financially viable. The illegal shops in town selling pirated stuff pay no taxes.
  • This creates a situation where locally made movies are more expensive than foreign movies. They are also harder to find because to sell them you need a special licence which the 50 bob shops typically do not get.

Of course this creates an industry in which it is difficult to make much good money. What do you think can be done to overcome these problems?

IN my mind, piracy is a problem that can be best solved by offering a more convenient alternative. However, I am not to sure what, exactly, can be done to bring up such an alternative.

Through my brief work with Space Yangu, I read numerous emails from people asking us where they could buy Kenyan movies. I believe there’s demand here and money to be made – someone just needs to figure out the logistics. I can think of two approaches to a solution:

  1. Someone to open a chain of little shops in Nairobi (and eventually elsewhere) to sell Kenyan movies. (this was suggested in the linked article)
  2. Someone could open up a huge online shop that sells and delivers a wide selection of Kenyan movies. Perhaps it could eventually lead to a Netflix like service.

What do you think can be done?

Where to Get Content For Your Website

When you build your website, or when you launch an online business, a problem that you may have not anticipated becomes apparent. Where do you get content to put in your new website? We all know that good compelling content is what makes or breaks a site, right? So where can you get it?

1. Steal it
This is easy. Just Google any random topic and you will find thousands of places where you can steal from. Copy-paste and you’re done. Easy peasy. Except it does not work and is a little stupid in this day and age.

Sadly, it is worth noting that a significant number of clients who I have worked with before think this is what they need.

2. User-generated content
The idea here is that you hope people will come to your website and entertain themselves while at the same time filling your website with content. This approach has worked for many websites out there but it probably will not work for you. Sawa?

Sturgeon’s Law says that 90% of everything is garbage. This is even more true when you try to deal with user generated content.

Traditionally in Kenya, sites that depend on user generated content do not fair well at all. This is how zuqka died despite being backed by a whole lot of money. Mgangagenge expounds on this:

…UGC needs 24-hour surveillance of user behaviour to monitor usage trends, offensive content, and most of all, SPAM. Once you neglect a UGC site, it either degenerates into a flame war a la mashada, a porn site a la KenyanList/eastafricantube, or a SPAM farm a la Zuqka.

3. Mass Semi-Amateur Content
You know This is their content generation strategy of choice. Basically what you do is pay an army of underpaid freelancers to write articles for your website in mass. Learn more.

Of course the quality of content will be higher than user generated content but I personally do not feel that the difference in quality is very pronounced. I would not recommend this for your website.

Besides, Google is clamping down hard on this. Be warned.

4. Using Talented Expert Writers
In theory, this sounds really good. You can hire expert “artists” to write beautiful stuff, polishing every little bit to perfection. If you can do this consistently, your site will be known for its quality, well researched content. I would recommend this, but I feel it may be too expensive for almost everybody. I am tempted to call this the “New York Times” (NYT) approach.

Speaking of which, have you had a look at the NYT financial performance lately? If the NYT brand cannot make this method work, what makes you think it will be sustainable for your relatively small brand? Pole.

5. Scalable Content Creation
If you are going to be able to generate content that is high quality yet affordable and which advances your business goals then you will have to get creative.

A while back Ok Cupid published an article titled “How Your Race Affects The Messages You Get“. Please have a look at that article again – they received thousands of comments and no doubt many other websites talked about it.

Ok Cupid did something very smart. They used a kawaida user survey to publish an interesting, easily consumable, easily share-able piece of content. Brilliant! And you know what? Ok Cupid can do this over and over again because they already have the tools in place. All they need to do is come at it from a different angle and be the at the top of the social news sites again.

What’s the lesson here?

As a business you should strive to collect (or to be privy to) unique information. In almost every business imaginable, you can collect unique information and with just a bit of creativity whip it into amazing content for your website.

Are you a wedding planner? Whats the most comment color themes at your weddings?; Do you sell spare parts? What item breaks down the most? How can people take care of it better?; Do you sell cakes? Why not share unique recipes? What is bought most often? etc etc

The idea is that if you run any business, stuff that you do every day can be turned into simple and interesting content for your website.

If you have not yet started collection interesting data, you can start analyzing existing data. The recent Open Data movement should get you started! Keep in mind that anyone else can do this, though, so use it as a temporary solution while you build your own unique stuff.

Lazy African Scum

This, my friend, is what is wrong with Africa Kenya:

They call the Third World the lazy man’s purview; the sluggishly slothful and languorous prefecture. In this realm people are sleepy, dreamy, torpid, lethargic, and therefore indigent—totally penniless, needy, destitute, poverty-stricken, disfavored, and impoverished. In this demesne, as they call it, there are hardly any discoveries, inventions, and innovations. Africa is the trailblazer. Some still call it “the dark continent” for the light that flickers under the tunnel is not that of hope, but an approaching train. And because countless keep waiting in the way of the train, millions die and many more remain decapitated by the day.

“It’s amazing how you all sit there and watch yourselves die,” the man next to me said. “Get up and do something about it.”

More: You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum!

ePay-Kenya: A Tried and Proven Way to Withdraw From PayPal in Kenya

The lack of a good and reliable way to withdraw money from PayPal in Kenya is one of the factors which hinder the average Kenyan’s potential to earn online most significantly. On Like Chapaa, we have had a long and hard struggle to try to find and identify the best way to withdraw from PayPal in Kenya. I believe that we have a contender for this title in e-Pay Kenya.

e-Pay Kenya opened its doors in January 2009 as e-pesa then rebranded in 2010 to ePAY-KENYA. Esther Kimani of e-Pay Kenya reached out to us to provide more information on what e-Pay does. This article is based on her information to us, and on good reports their customers.

e-Pay Kenya offers two ways to withdraw your hard-earned money:

1. Moneybookers
“We have an Merchant Agreement with Moneybookers allowing us to officially run a Money transfer website using their services. This explains why the moneybookers fee is lower (11%) than Paypal. We therefore do not operate under any fear of account limitation as we operate with blessings from Moneybookers. We deliver within the hour but often less,” says Esther Kimani of e-Pay Kenya.

2. Paypal
Esther continues, “We use a third-party gateway to avoid the direct interface with Paypal because we have experienced the danger of doing so (when we operated as e-pesa). This explains why the transaction charges are higher (14%) than Moneybookers but then our users enjoy the following benefits:

  1. Peace of mind when dealing with us as there is no possibility of our users’ accounts being limited by PayPal
  2. Our third-party gateway does fraud tests on our behalf to minimize fraudulent transactions.
  3. We have a strict KYC (Know Your Customer) policy. All our users have to send Identification Documents in order to have their accounts verified, thus allowing them to make transactions.
  4. We demand that users forward their Paypal Transaction Confirmation emails before they can cash their money. We use this document to authenticate the bona fide account holders. We have caught up with fraudsters who hack into unsuspecting paypal account holders’ accounts.
  5. Delivery within 24 hours but often less.”

The bulk of the fees are charged when you deposit money from Moneybookers/PayPal into e-Pay Kenya. Their charges at this time are as follows:


  • Deposit 11%
  • Withdrawal USD 3 irrespective of the amount


  • Deposit 14%
  • Withdraw USD 3 irrespective of the amount

It seems to me that e-Pay Kenya has a very well thought-out service. It is the best of all such businesses that I have come across so far. It is a bit pricey, but as we wait for PayPal to open itself up, e-Pay Kenya remains a good and reliable alternative.

What do you think of e-Pay Kenya?

As far as I know, the REAL e-Pay Kenya is at:


No Sir, Don’t Get A Website!

Hands up if you are a “web designer” in Kenya. These days it seems that every other person on the streets does ‘websites’. Good for you, good for you (us?) all! It seems that it is boom time in Kenya as far as websites go. As many web designers as there are, there seems to be even more people who want websites….

So this year I have come across many people who want websites and are willing to pay good money to get one. trouble is, most seem to have LITTLE idea of how to use a website for their business. For the web designers in the room, I am sure you have met that guy who wants a quick website up in a week. They send you their company profile and bam! one week later you have them up and running. They then ask you to create a few email accounts based on their domain name and every thing goes well. Or so it seems. One year later, when it is time to renew the domain name, the guy is:
A. shutting down the website (what does this even mean?); or
B. renewing the domain name (for the email addresses) but does not care much about the website (and will try to get away with not paying for the web hosting); or
C. ignoring your emails and calls

So what happened?
Simple. Most people and businesses in Kenya get a website because it is the “in” thing. It is just what people do – you “have to get” a website dammit! But once they actually have their website, they have no idea what to do with it. It will forever remain an expensive “brochure” lost in a sea of millions of other websites and the hefty amount paid to the web designer will be a painful reminder.

You think I am over-generalizing things? Want a quick test to prove my theory? Good, because I have one. Ask three random people who recently had websites made for their business if they ever earned a single shilling from their website. How many of these websites even get more than 20 “hits” a day consistently?

Sadly, in Kenya, we build websites and then we forget about them and get busy “running the business”. The website was just something we knew we had to do.

Think about your business. Do you have a website? What, exactly, does your business gain from it? Is having your website address on your business card enough return on investment for you? If yes, then good, I am happy for you.

If the answer is no. Well, then, you’re in trouble. A website, in my humble opinion, is meant to sell your products and/or your business. You should have a reliable way to measure how much of your revenues were directly or indirectly attributable to your website.

Otherwise, you should not have paid so much for that flashy beautiful site. Maybe next time you should get a picture of your business card as your homepage and leave it at that!

Learn to Code

In case you have not realised it yet, computer programming skills are as necessary for success today as reading and writing have been for the past few centuries.

In fact, “You’re a second-class citizen if you don’t know how to read and write today, and in twenty or thirty years the same will be true for people who don’t have basic computer programming skills. Those who don’t understand–at the very least–the concepts of order-of-execution, variables, data structures and recursion will be as socially and economically disadvantaged as the illiterate are now.

There was a time when literacy and basic arithmetic were skills reserved only to intellectuals and monks. Today our monks are programmers who know how to wield magic and illuminate scrolls of code. If you don’t understand what an array is today, or how to loop over it, then you’d better learn or you’ll be screwed tomorrow. The reasons unfold below.” – The Future of IT (click to read more)

Do you know the basics of programming? Are you ‘literate‘?

In case you want to learn the basics of computer programming, then you are in luck. Renown Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun is going to be running a free online course that promises to teach you the basics of computer programming in just seven weeks.

The course is:

Learn programming in seven weeks. We’ll teach you enough about computer science that you can build a web search engine like Google or Yahoo!

You can sign up for free here: