Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Uber is not the problem, Kenya is in adolescence


I tend to think the Kenyan 2012 presidential elections was won the day Jubilee party branded itself a digital government and rode to statehouse in a vehicle shouting of a new way of doing things, an e-way, a virtual way, a wired way, an online way, an easy way.

Kenya is an adolescent country. What else do you call a country whose 42.1 percent of the population is below the age of 14? Isn’t that a country going through adolescence and puberty? The social and psychological growth; struggling to break a voice, grow breasts, menstruate, ejaculate and transform into a functionally independent young adult is discombobulating.

You see, puberty creates two problems in one. First, self-consciousness – You realise your body is changing never to be the same again and you don’t know how to manage it and two, the aftermath– how do you now act manly or womanly enough. The vulnerability at this age is at prime you are either maturing too fast or two slow and you don’t know when you will stop.

The truth is you never stop, you never stop growing, it’s a continuous process and at one point you realise that growth is your life, change is your life. You have no choice, no one consults you, you just grow and it’s helpless.

Kenya is an adolescent that is growing at a breakneck speed, rapid, supersonic and promiscuous. The number of mobile subscriptions has already hit 37.8 million, a towering 88.1 percent growth in mobile penetration and a staggering (for lack of a better word) 31.9 million internet users which means, the portion of Kenyans accessing internet services stands at 74.2 per 100 inhabitants. That is huge and it’s growing.


You don’t call a population whose median age is 19 analogue, not in the 21st century. Why should you when you played with makeshift toys when they drove real toy cars with wheels and an engine? Jog your memory didn’t your science teacher use two cans and a string to explain how a telephone works, do you know that topic was scrapped off? Where the have you been?

Uber has played right into the hands of this generation. It has fallen where it will thrive and puberty has set in for taxi operators. Self-consciousness is hitting them hard. The ground is shifting, change is happening someone, an invisible competitor has infiltrated their kitchen and is eating a big chunk of the cake! They are angry and they want to fight, they want this thing to stop taking what is ‘rightfully’ theirs but they cannot catch it, they can’t see it. It’s a Ghost.  

Like all adolescents, they crave a temporary solution to their permanent problem. They call a press conference, they threaten, they talk, they are determined but this damn Ghost won’t just go away no, not today. How do you walk away from a country whose 45 percent population is middleclass? You don’t walk away when 55 percent of all Jumia Kenya online purchases are made via mobile applications! When thousands are using OLX, Kaymu to buy and sell stuff, Jovago to book a hotel, Lamudi to buy property and Hellofood to buy food online and have it delivered to their home or office in 60 minutes! All that through an app. A Ghost.

You cannot kill this ghost by issuing ultimatums to barricade roads and bring the city to a standstill. It’s an app for God’s sake! It’s in people’s pockets, in their smartphones and they chill with it like Netflix.

What you are doing is free marketing to an eager middleclass millennials ages 25-54 a whopping 32.8 percent of the population. You are doing probono work and the Ghost is smiling. If you haven’t noticed, you are now in the second problem of puberty – The aftermath, you have realised your body is changing and you don’t know how to act manly or womanly enough. You are vulnerable and you are acting it. You are desperate. 

Let me tell you how to kill this ghost, not really kill it per say but how to be a Ghost like it. A better Ghost. Grow up for heaven’s sake! Stop burning your colleagues’ cars, Uber doesn’t own a single cab, the Ghost is not there. The real Ghost is in your head. Think. Times have changed and we won’t go back in time. Adjust to the changes your body is going through. Regroup and develop an app, call it mataxis or cabkenya or nganyas whatever but call it something now, contribute some amount and set up some IT guys to run it, come up with set charges for x distance and boy, you will smile better than the Ghost. Time is rolling. 

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