Before I explain the idea behind Twende Tukiuke, let’s go back to October 2000 – the month and year Safaricom became a telecommunication company under the tagline, “The Better Option”. Right from its inception, Safaricom would become a telecommunication company that revolutionize communication in Kenya, and in just a few years, the company would become an entity that no Kenyan can live without.
Right from the beginning of its operations, Safaricom adopted two things that would help it cement itself in every Kenya’s life – three things actually. The first was the idea that phone calls ought to be charged by the second, and not by the minute. Even though talking for one minute meant a subscriber would spend more (shs 35 per minute), the billing per second meant the subscriber could pass on a message in 5 seconds and get billed a paltry three bob. At that time, the rival company Kencel used to bill subscribers at flat rate of shs 15 per minute, and the 15 minutes would be deducted whether the call lasted for 5 seconds or 57 seconds.
The billing regime is what made ordinary Kenyans, the Kenyans of kidogo economy, choose Safaricom – and thus Safaricom became the network of everyone else as Kencel remained the network of working executives – a scenario that propelled Safaricom to become the most profitable company in East and Central Africa – and still is.
Billing by the second wasn’t sufficient unless loading airtime was equally made possible. Right from inception, Safaricom launched a shs 1000 and a shs 500 credit cards, and it didn’t take long before they introduced the shs 250 credit cards. Through the Cutting Edge of Daily Nation, Safaricom responded to a lady subscriber who had complained that the shs 500 credit card was expensive for most Kenyans, and that it would be great if the teleco could introduce a shs 300 or a shs 200 credit card – and that’s why Safaricom introduced the shs 250 credit card as a response to her public request.
And that brings us to the third item that helped Safaricom grow to becoming the giant it is today – listening to subscribers. At its inception, it was unheard of for a company to operate toll free lines through which the company could listen to the needs of customers and at the same time resolve those needs from a call centre. But Safaricom introduced a toll free line where subscribers could call 100 and get help from a customer care representative – and I can tell you that line used to be busy – a nightmare to get through. But it worked – it worked to hook people in Safaricom to an extend that people’s lives became dependent on the network.
Then in 2007 MPESA happened, and a year later Post Election Violence ravaged Kenya. Post Election Violence meant millions of Kenyans were locked out of their livelihoods, but still needed immediate income to help them buy food – and MPESA was the service their loved ones could use to send them money. Today, even the many who still think Safaricom services are expensive, still keep Safaricom lines for MPESA purposes. As I have explained before, MPESA has grown to become largely responsible for Kenya’s stable economy despite turmoils such as the PEV and now COVID-19.
As more and more Kenyans became reliant on Safaricom, Safaricom itself took the opportunity to transform itself into becoming an enterprise that meets the needs of those Kenyans, no matter where those needs could be. From being a simple telecommunication company, Safaricom has become the go to shop for all kind of digital services ranging from financial (MPESA, MShwari, KCP-MPESA, Fuliza), Health and Insurance (Mtiba), Education (MPESA Foundation Academy), Agriculture (Digifarm) to community services through Safaricom Foundation and MPESA Foundation.
The presence of Safaricom in more sectors other than telecommunication meant Safaricom had become more than just a typical telecommunication company, and that’s why in 2017 Safaricom changed its tagline from “The Better Option” to “Twaweza”. Twaweza is a tagline meant to convey the message that when we come together, great things happen – and these great things could be anything.
In the spirit of Twaweza, Safaricom in October 2020 launched a promotion dubbed Tukiuke, a promotion slogan that was greatly misunderstood by the netizens. For example a friend posted this on his Facebook Page shortly after Safaricom launched the Kiuke promotion, “I don’t know when ‘kiuka’ changed meaning but Safaricom’s ‘Twende Tukiuke’ feels so negative. Unless they’re confirming their bad behavior of not keeping their word, they should find another word.”
Interestingly though, the meaning Safaricom intends to pass to the subscribers is that with Safaricom we can together pass over (kiuka) barriers. “The literal meaning of Twende Tukiuke is ‘lets break barriers’, ‘go beyond the norm’, ‘take a leap’. It comes from the word Kiuka ’ and the action / doing word in this context is tukiuke so lets do this together”, Safaricom explained in a statement to Kachwanya.com.
That is, as Safaricom becomes a purpose driven enterprise, the company intends to, and already is, support the diverse talents of Kenyans with the purpose of helping those Kenyans break barriers, achieve more, and become great at whatever they do.
For example there is the Be Your Own Boss programme by Safaricom where the company searches for and identifies young people with brilliant business and talent ideas, picks them up, and help them transform those ideas into viable and scalable enterprises. Going forward therefore, and through platforms such as Safaricom and MPESA Foundation, Safaricom intends to expand its presence to reach almost every single sector of the economy by providing digital data driven solutions to the many problems facing Africans and Kenyans in particular. The ultimate objective being that at the end of the day, a typical Kenyan can dare to dream and work towards achieving the said dream.