Kenyan bloggers take note: the views in this article are strictly mine. Kennedy Kachwanya who is the chairman of Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) has not contributed to nor endorsed these views.
Bloggers Association of Kenya was established about six years ago particularly for ensuring that the Kenyan story is told by Kenyan bloggers. Over those years, BAKE has helped grow the number of bloggers, blog sites, blogging categories, and even create blogging as an independent career path in Kenya. As I write this today, there are a number of bloggers, including myself, whose sole source of income comes from blogging activities.
Thanks to the activities of BAKE, blogging in Kenya has reached a status where it can effectively compete with the mainstream media houses. When it comes to revenue share, advertisers are starting to give the blogging sector the same level of consideration they have been giving the mainstream media. This means that Kachwanya and his team have done a great job in making Kenyan bloggers be people worth mentioning – people worth emulating.
Kenyan Bloggers are yet to effectively tell the Kenyan story
Although blogging has grown in bounds, the Kenyan story that the bloggers ought to tell are still not being told effectively. Even though there are thousands of bloggers out there, there are very few who are generating the unique Kenyan content. Let us use tech and lifestyle as examples.
In tech, the major tech sites such as Kachwanya.com, TechWeez, TechMoran and few others try as much as possible to write about the tech industry in Kenya. Closer examination of the content in these sites however reveal a bias towards International tech. The gadgets reviewers Techweez for example have roughly 9 out of ten stories on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Xiaomi, Oppo, Samsung, and the other major International tech companies – and the one slot would go to a Kenyan tech story.
Heading over to TechMoran that specializes in local startup news, you’ll find a similar trend: 9 out of ten stories are featuring the multinationals – Instagram, Mastercard, LG, etc against local startup news. We on the other hand are supposed to give opinions, analysis, and reviews of local tech events, news, startups, etc – something that we have tried to do but we are not yet doing as much as we ought to. Let me let you be the judge of our accomplishments as far as the spirit of this article is concerned.
Over at Lifestyle, we would expect articles covering biographies, Interviews, news, detailed reviews, opinions, and trends on ShowBiz personalities, celebrities, new music, videos, local films, local fashion and designs, local cuisines, and generally any other local lifestyle content. We would also expect the Kenyan Bloggers to have detailed articles on histories, economies, politics and geographies of local places (Counties, Districts, Constituencies, Townships) etc. However, head over to Lifestyle blog sites such as Ghafla and Mpasho and the articles you will find are close to 100% gossip, rumours, and speculations.
That Kenyan Story (that is still missing) should be published in International platforms
The one reason BAKE wanted to have the Kenyan story told by Kenyan bloggers is so that the International community can get the insight about Kenya from Kenyans themselves. For long the African story has been told by the West, who have done nothing but to portray Africa as barbaric, poor, and a tasteless continent – a continent that only needs handouts in order to survive. A continent that lacks innovative thinkers. This Western narrative is what we as bloggers are supposed to change. But we cannot change it if we major in stories about Samsung innovations and yet offer close to zero coverage to innovations by local institutions.
We cannot tell the world how Africa and particularly Kenya is different if we do not publish that African story in International platforms such as Wikipedia. Yes, Wikipedia has tried as much as possible to write comprehensive articles on selected subjects about Kenya – the cultures, languages, a few personalities, etc, but by and large the stories about several aspects of Kenya are either missing or if present are no more than a stub. Take the Wikipedia article on Mandera county for example – other than two tables – one listing the local authorities in Mandera and the other listing the county’s administrative divisions – this is all Wikipedia has to say about Mandera county, “Mandera County is a county in the former North Eastern Province of Kenya. Its capital and largest town is Mandera. The county has a population of 1,025,756 (2009 census) and an area of 25,797.7 km².” – The End!
A similar but equally useless story on a Kenyan people is the story about the Yaaku people. It is a one paragraph stub article that says; “The Yaaku (often Mukogodo-Maasai) are a people living in the Mukogodo forest west of Mount Kenya, a division of the Laikipia County of The former Rift Valley Province, Kenya. Former hunter-gatherers and bee-keepers, the Yaaku assimilated to the pastoralist culture of the Maasai in the first half of the twentieth century, although some still keep bees. The reason for this transition is mostly one of social prestige. The Maasai look down upon hunter-gatherer peoples, calling them Dorobo (‘the ones without cattle’), and many Yaaku consider the Maasai culture superior to their own. As a result of this decision the Yaaku almost completely gave up their Cushitic language Yaaku for the Eastern NiloticMaasai language between 1925 and 1936.”
I could go on and on about stories on our local musicians, film directors, business and political leaders, other cultures and trends, and the conclusion would be the same – the Kenyan story is missing out in this most important Internationally acclaimed open source online encyclopedia.
When you head to Wikipedia and read over 10,000 words on Beyonce, it is not because Wikipedia is biased. If Kenyan Bloggers took their time and wrote 10,000 words in Wikipedia on our own Avril (her article on Wikipedia is hardly 600 words), Wikipedia will allow you to publish the story.
In this country there are scholars vast in the history of Kenyan people. There are others who know each and every town of Kenya – the geography, the climate, the agricultural activities, the economic opportunities, of these towns. There are those who know the names behind the history of Kenya beyond 10,000 words. There are those who are familiar, beyond 10,000 words, about the fashion industry, the music industry, the sports industry, and whatever other industry you would like to name.
But these people are either ignorant of Wikipedia, unaware of how to tell our story on Wikipedia, or just too lazy to write on Wikipedia. Some of these people are Kenyan Bloggers. Bloggers who pride themselves as generators of local content. Bloggers who should rise up to the occasion and tell the Kenyan story in depth and in style.
The question is, if Kenyan Bloggers cannot rise to the occasion and tell the Kenyan story in depth and in style, how do we expect the world to know about us? How do we expect to attract tourists? Foreign investments? Most importantly, who do we want to tell our story as it should be told?