Kenyan study on internet use reveals a need for more business presence online

A study on internet use in Kenya and elsewhere on the continent reveals growing technological savviness and the need for businesses to focus more on marketing themselves online.

Noor Khamis/Reuters
Chief Executive of Kenyan's telecom operator Safaricom, Robert Collymore, reacts during an interview with Reuters at the company's headquarters in Nairobi in November 2010. Telecom firm Safaricom was scheduled to post its first-half results on Nov.10, with most analysts expecting a boost from its data businesses, such as money transfers and mobile internet.

Late in 2010, TNS released a Kenya digital study as part of a three month study of the habits of online Africans. In Kenya it involved 800 interviews – 400 online, 400 face-to-face and tried to answer various questions like – who is online? What are people doing online? How can brands connect? What messaging/digital communication channels are best?

Some findings included:

  • Internet penetration: Kenya & Uganda is 10 percent, Tanzania is 1.6 percent, Nigeria is 29 percent, Egypt is 22 percent and South Africa is 11 percent. In local capitals: 49 percent of Nairobi residents have tried the internet, 53 percent of people in Kampala, 31 percent in Dar es Salaam (and 42 percent and 49 percent in Mombasa and Arusha) for an average of 45 percent of East Africa urban nationals
  • Cyber café are the primary mode (67 percent) of Internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa, but in Kenya it's the mobile phone (60 percent)
  • Many people started using Internet in last two years and are on a learning curve; Companies need to make sure they educate the users to use their sites more effectively. This is compared to countries like Japan which has high internet penetration but low interest (its a part of life, no longer exciting)
  • In terms of daily media access, digital is still lower than conventional media – so you have to continue with old media. Radio is very important, compared to the rest of the world, where radio trails TV
  • Top e-mail sites: Gmail Yahoo, Facebook, MSN
  • Top social networks: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Youtube
  • Top knowledge sites: Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Daily Nation
  • Top news sites: Google, BBC, Standard, Daily Nation
  • Top multimedia sites: Youtube, Google, Capital FM, Facebook
  • Very few people (7 percent) say they are shopping online
  • Kenyans (and Africans) want to do more activities online – like internet banking, paying utility bills, watching TV, making travel bookings, submitting taxes, and advertising. This will become an annual study by TNS to monitor trends in the online space.
  • One of their partners, VML (Kansas, US) also did a complementary study on digital monitoring by monitoring some Kenyan and African brands over several months this year using SEER ecosystem to find a link between bloggers and brands. They looked at mobile companies Orange, Safaricom, and Yu; countries as brands Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa and the banks Stanbic and Ecobank.

Some other findings:


  • Orange is way ahead of everybody else (92 percent positive) but it may have little to do with Kenya (and more the international brand)
  • Safaricom had 11,000 conversation online, with people talking about the business and Michael Joseph (outgoing CEO), not about products prices. Sixty-six percent was positive, and varied from month to month, with some negative on their customer service and competition/regulation
  • Most intriguing, the bulk of conversation about Safaricom does not happen in Africa. It's highest in US, UK and Germany. In Africa, there is some conversation in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa – and in Kenya its associated with four blogs (Kenyanjobs, siku-moja, bankelele, and kenyaprincessproject)


  • Ecobank has 5,000 mentions, and Stanbic 900 mentions – but Ecobank spiked as a result of an unrelated Ecobank twitter account in Japan (not Africa), while for Stanbic it was due to coverage of a cricket tournament in Zimbabwe
  • Highest conversation about Stanbic is in UK, while for Ecobank its in the US
  • There are very few conversations about banks or their business, and these are happening mainly outside Kenya and Africa (Ecobank is associated with this blog on the strength of a couple of blog posts about the bank’s 2010 AGM in Nairobi)
  • There is an Opportunity for banks, to engage, and not just about Internet banking products


  • Kenya tourism conversation is 81 percent positive, 16 percent negative – (jambo ad annoyed people on the net) – and again a lot of conversation in UK and US.
  • While Kenya gets good conversation given the budget they spend, Kenyan tourism only gets as much positive conversation as Nigeria – showing a need for more positive content creation and engagement online
  • Concern that despite the natural beauty of Kenya (wildlife, beaches, scenery), 0 percent is taking place on photo or image sites – a missed opportunity to create visual content.


  • Very little conversation about African brands is originating in Africa, and there are opportunities for links to be created either with influential blogs, social media, etc.
  • Complaints cause large spikes in conversation
  • Companies need to monitor online conversation, beyond press clippings
  • Companies need to incorporate digital plans in their branding exercise

– Limo Bankelele blogs on banking and business trends in Africa at Bankelele.

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