Category Archives: Nairobi internet

Zuku Slashes Kenya Internet Prices

Thanks K for the Breakfast invite

It’s been a big year for Zuku of the Wananchi Group; they got new funding and the fibre cable reached in Kenya – they are a shareholder in TEAMS which is operational (but not yet launched) and have also bought capacity on Seacom. Their CEO said the 50 gigabytes they have on TEAMS will serve the anticipated needs of their Kenyan customers for the next decade and they have the option to increase capacity on either cable.

Reduced internet prices: This morning (2/12/09), Zuku announced reduced internet prices of ~50% as follows for the wimax package:

• Prosurf (256Kbps) 3,000 Kshs 1,500 (~$20)
• Supersurf (512 Kbps) 6,000 Kshs 2,500 (~$33)
• Megasurf (1 Mbps) 10,000 Kshs 4,500 (~$60)

The one-time installation cost has also gone down from 5,800 to Kshs 3,000, lowering the entry barrier for homes.

For small corporates and SME’s they have new Zuku Biz which is an unlimited corporate broadband packages priced as follows:

• 10Mbps will cost Kshs 10,000 per month (~$133)
• 15 Mbps will cost Kshs 15,000 per month (~$200)
• 20 Mbps will cost Kshs 20,000 per month (~$266)

For these, installation costs are Kshs 3,000, and equipment and VAT are included in the pricing, with security services offered at an additional cost (firewall, e-mail security, spam management).

Reaching out to property developers Zuku is currently available in Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa and Nyeri, and in Nairobi 40 buildings are fully wired with another 100+ having cabling up to their doorstep. By reaching out to developers and property owners, Zuku hopes to convert planned, new, and existing buildings to be internet-ready properties that meet the modern demands of some of their prospective tenants for high-quality affordable internet. Zuku have a dedicated team to liaise with property owners on right-of-way, and installation, issues for buildings. (Here’s a list of Nairobi fibre-ready buildings)

New Nairobi Hotel: The Zuku breakfast took place at the new Ole Sereni Hotel on the edge of the Nairobi National Park, off Mombasa Road. The building previously housed the old US Embassy in Nairobi before its conversion to a 134-bed, 5-star hotel. Like the adjacent Panari, Ole Sereni also lies close to Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport, shielding their guests, and transiting airline passengers, from some of Nairobi’s (now) notorious traffic jams. Though not yet officially open, and with some facilities yet to be completed, management says the hotel rooms are already fully occupied. Wildlife in the park can sometimes be observed in the early morning and should become a regular occurrence once a waterhole is completed (inside the park fence) to be observed from the hotel’s dining room and bars which have a (relatively) pocket-friendly Tusker price of 195 ($2.6).

Skunkworks: Nairobi September 29

The latest Skunkworks was held on September 29 2009 at Teleposta Towers Nairobi. The focus of the tech group this week was on Tech & Entrepreneurship and four speakers were chosen to provide their insight on the new business models they are developing in Kenya. This comes at a time when the fibre cable initially considered the greatest thing since sliced bread has become a corporate product with targets to break-even before cheap internet costs can be passed on. The fibre is just one arm, so it was good to hear techpreneurs talk not just about revolutionary business but grappling and scaling numerous challenges of running such businesses in this part of Africa – i.e. business registration, financing, staffing, patenting, winning contracts, succeeding and making money

skunkworks panel

full disclosure – I correspond with Liko, drink with Kahenya and Joshua arranges some advertising at this site

1. Liko Agosta – Founder and CEO of Verviant a leading web developing firm and BPO provider talked about:
Startup financing: He started his company with savings, then family & friends, and finally banks
company strengths: include having a good team (20 staff in Kenya), good track record (measured by repeat business they get), interacting with customers, good customer service (including fixing up products for their customers that other companies had previously messed up)
customers: – have contracts with companies in the USA, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and South Africa
– show companies how they can save money e.g. Africa online, akamba, instead of having staffed offices all around t company waiting for people to bring them money, have a platform that does this cheaper
watch cash – many business fail because they are under-capitalized, entrepreneurs should save money and keep costs low because it can sometimes take many months for them to get paid
– advises tech companies to focus on mid size products and contracts; this is because cash flow kills many Kenyan companies and this is likely to happen when if serving large contracts whose payments are spaced out
new product: pesapal will allow Kenyans to pay online via mpesa or zap for products and services from vetted merchants. It will also store transaction details details for 7 years, and comes with a readily available API, and pre-built components. More details on pesapal availed at verviant site on October 2.

2. Caroline Juma is the managing director of KCR – which stands for Kenya computer resources. She talked about her company which does human resources for IT professionals exclusively.
education or experience don’t always matter: while some companies ask for job candidates with advanced degrees or who have several years experience to fill positions, she sometimes finds that the best person may be one who is still in school, or who does not have the work experience. She looks at what they have done; KCR can test/examine what their skills are and will vouch for them to companies to employ them as IT professionals. IT professionals should show initiative, and work on projects that will enhance their career prospects not just learn outdated VB in university
don’t wait for governments: Kenya is not known for IT and call centers will not save the day. People should stop waiting for the government to do things in outsourcing, fibre etc. But governments don’t do that they only crate policy.
KCR is free IT professionals can place their CV’s with KCR for free, there is no charge, unlike with other placement companies
IT conference upcoming KCR will be involved in an Aitech conference in November in Nairobi on business match-making

3. Kahenya Kamunyu – CEO, ViRN Instruments. Involved with Zuqka, previously worked for BT, Yahoo, Sanyo Business, and Sony Playstation. Currently developing smart ideas and providing Venture Capital to small enterprises. Kahenya has been coding since he was 13 years old and gave a talk on his entrepreneurship and employment history from South Africa, UK, Japan and finally in Kenya, and the lessons he has picked up along the way:

boot-strap: be frugal, pay bills, and put whatever cash is left aback in the business. Businesses that are under-capitalized and will fail
More education produces bad developers! college kids write better program than senior engineer with degrees; his is because kids write code without rules, while company programmers can only write within the parameters/box set by the company
business is fun
what?! if you’re single you’ll never make money – get a wife/husband.
have a wish list: these targets let you know where you are going and give you targets to work for
look after your health don’t over-work yourself or get tired. Work smarter
give back to community: tithe, get involved in non-profits, help others – this is because what goes around comes around, and you may be the one in need of a helping hand next time
debt is bad: do not start a business when in debt, you will go deeper into debt and have to sell off assets
on partnerships: set the rules before you go into partnerships
Kenya is not friendly to start-ups it is very hard to start a business and expensive. It would also be nice if there were incentives for local companies. E.g. Vodacom in South Africa has a super low tariff for start-up businesses that use their products, why not Safaricom? Also banks are not friendly in lending to star-ups.
banking secret you can use a patent to get a bank loan
small is better many entrepreneurs chase one big multi year contract, but it is better to serve several small contracts. The big contract may pay one, and replace you with someone cheaper, while the small ones, diversify the risk, provide for better cash flow, and the happy customers whose expectations are easier to meet, will grow and stay your loyal customers of many years big fish =small fry, small fish= big fry
high tech not the answer many young people go into high tech industry because its the in-thing, cool, sexy now, but internet has expiry date, while people will always eat food.its unfortunate some entrepreneurs are too proud to go into mundane (non-tech) industries that are more sustainable in the long run-
Kenyans should invest in R&D talk to customers, observe competitors. Many Kenyan companies don’t do this and fail owing to bad idea/false assumptions i.e. build it and they will come.

4. Joshua Wanyama: Founder and CEO of Pamoja Media, and a TED fellow, helps companies strategize their online presence to make money.
company strategies (i) interactive strategy (ii) creative development (iii) media buying & placements online
niche is getting companies aiming to advertise to Africans e.g western union
understand marketing: easy to get a meeting in Kenya, much harder in the US
keep learning: learn through reading, searching online & in libraries, networking, associating with smart people. He has learnt more about business from reading after his education
use web tools: he runs a web based company that has several components – all online including e-mail, ad server, sales leads, finance (payroll) and project management> can this also be retransferred to a farmer or fisherman?
opportunities Kenya
– include online services, e-commerce, procurement and local content
– It’s time to walk the talk in Africa; in a country like Kenya only 20% of the top 100 sites ranked by alexa for Kenya are Kenyan companies. We need to retain more people within our domain, and keep traffic generated within Kenya
– thanks to m-pesa’s success, it’s now easier for Kenyan mobile development companies to get funding from abroad
– Mentioned other companies doing exciting things online including: Preciss,
Ushahidi, Verviant, Nyeri Online, Jumuika and Mama Mikes
keys to success for Kenyans online
– tell our success stories better
Ease the way of doing business: it has taken him several months to register his business in Kenya as well as to open a bank account for the company in Kenya. There seem to be difficulties for companies that have overseas-based directors or partners, and he has only been able to open an account with the help of a lawyer
– Cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship. Financing entrepreneurs is risky business the world over with expectations that 40% of business will fail, 40% will break even and 20% will bring in rewards
– companies should do R&D and follow through on these because one year from now the company or its products may not be relevant

Kutwa Tuesday – Post Madaraka Day

a day late, most from the daily papers

Refund dilemma: What should banks do with Safaricom refunds of 80%? Wisest would be to take the money and accept refunds from disappointed shareholders to pre-pay their loans. It would not be wise to refuse to accept money and insist that borrowers serve their loan durations– as idle money has many employers. The middle ground would be to facilitate investors to buy more safcom or other shares, but that’s a new risk area in investment banking. Ideally there should be loans for secondary market purchases or margin trading.
Next I-bank Equity Bank to set up an investment banking subsidiary (from Ocean Newsletter)
New note Kenya needs a new bank note – denomination 3,000 or 5,000 shillings soon.

NSE talking points:
Fuel hedging?: Despite the reduced flights, its’ amazing that Kenya Airways actually reduced its fuel bill in 2008 (albeit just 1.6%) – this is at a time when other airlines are going bankrupt because of high fuel costs. Can they do it again in ’09 without having to resort to radical fuel saving measures?
– Total Oil interested in Caltex and will compete against the government for the stations
– Government and NSSF to opt out of Housing Finance rights issue
– Fresh off a profit warning, the Sameer Africa boss out; is this the reason the reason ?
– Undugu? Nation reporters in Tz still not comfortable
– The City of Nairobi is now Safaricom broadband hotspot who are selling postpaid hotspot bundles.
Equipment is a broadband modem for 6,000 ($98) and a broadband router for 35,000 ($570) shillings. Service options offered include – up to 700MB for 2,000 ($33), up to 2GB for 4,000, 5GB for 7,000, 8GB for 10,000, and up to 30GB for 30,000 ($491) , but weak customer care remains an Achilles heel for new Safaricom products

Refinery Coalition Libyan and India to share equaly/ (happily?) in the Kenya Oil Refinery in Mombasa
– The Agriculture Finance Corporation (AFC) asks farmers to continue paying their loans since most of them were not affected by post-election violence
– East African Portland cement to start paying all supplier invoices by electronic financial transactions (EFT)
– Kenya Railways selling land in makupa (7 acres), kibarani (9), embakasi (10) and a building in headquarters (D/L 27/6)
– Kenya Ports Authority to set up an inland container depot (dry port) at Eldoret (seeking bidder to lease operate by 20/6)
– Kenya Re say their will put up a transit hotel at JKIA (was in their 2006 prospectus)
– The City council of Nairobi seeks land to for a new cemetery
Education: Makerere University (Ug) to offer courses in renewable energy

Nairobi WiFi

I am an Internet addict and if you put up a WiFi zone/Hotspot, I’d like to check it out.

I checked into Tamasha (pub in Hurlingam, Nairobi) on Saturday afternoon during qualifying for the French Grand Prix where I hoped to do a live blog of the qualifying hour like ESPN’s Bill Simmons who has lived blogged dozens of events like the super bowl, boxing matches and most recently the NBA draft.

I arrived at Tamasha at 3 pm. Ordered a beer and a goulash soup, had them change the TV channel to Supersport 5 and also got the network key for the hotspot from the barman.

The connection was very good and I was able to check my mail, check google reader (which is a test of Internet speed, in itself) and even update my anti-virus (took 2 minutes). I did not stay online for the hour (watching the race, typing the happenings, fear of viruses) but was impressed by the connection.

I did a live post of the qualifying hour, but I was unable to edit it within the hour and decided not to finish the post. I also wonder how Ethan was able to live blog every session for four straight days.

Other Nairobi hotspots

After our few days at Ngurdoto Lodge (for TED), I can’t imagine checking into another hotel that does not offer Wifi. The days of hotels offering expensive unreliable internet access should come to an end and wifi should become a regular feature for guests. Already Country lodge and Fairview have made it a point to promote their wifi as an attraction. Other hotels may have it but they don’t advertise it as the main attraction – and of course they would be for guests only.

What other hotspots are there? JKIA wifi is a bust, there’s the elusive butterfly, Java (at Junction, ABC, Adams, Village Market – but only in early in the morning and late at night, except Adams which I am told is all day). I hope to check out Telkom hot spot at Nandos/ Pizza Inn and a Skunkworks session and welcome more businesses to set up hotspots.

Plane spotter

Emirates Cargo 747 at Eldoret airport


Defn: Attending a weeklong seminar at a hotel where the minimum charge for internet access is 175 shillings for 15 minutes (or 11.66 sh per minute) – meaning it’s not worth checking e-mail, browsing or blogging until the weekend.

Beautiful city
-Silent improvements are taking place in Nairobi.

– Road and lane names signs which had all but disappeared years ago, have re-appeared even in estates. I now know the names of roads in my local area, which I had never known before.

– The City has quietly fixed the traffic lights at University Way/Uhuru highway roundabout. These lights bore the brunt of stones whenever students rioted and have been off for many years. But it appears that since students are now more sober-minded and less riot-prone, the lights have been re-activated – but a bummer for me since that roundabout is now much slower to navigate. I have not seen any accidents there yet, but I can expect a few since matatus generally ignore traffic lights there and the City has not told motorists, who normally, zip through there at high speed, that they may have to now yield

– The Adopt-a-Light company has put up high floodlights (which they call slum lights) at the railway bus terminus, inside Uhuru park some parts of Mathare and Kibera which illuminate huge areas and improve security.