Last month, Kenya’s top bloggers (including yours truly) were invited by the US Embassy in Kenya for an official meeting dubbed “Luncheon with Bloggers” at the Residence of the US Ambassador in Nairobi. This Luncheon, organised through Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE), was an opportunity for the bloggers and social media influencers to discuss openly with the US Ambassador the state of blogging and social media in Kenya, with particular focus on BAKE’s recently launched report on blogging and social media in Kenya. A copy of the Report is available here.
According to BAKE, blogging in Kenya started in 2003. Since then, the blogging space has grown tremendously, in the number of bloggers as well as variety and quality of content created by bloggers about Kenya. Kenya has seen a steady rise in the number of bloggers and social media opinion makers who exercise their freedom of speech on the internet on politics and on social issues due to the tremendous growth in internet access and usage among the Kenyan youth.
Despite the growth of blogging and social media use in Kenya, BAKE’s report raises the alarm on what it terms: “a slow but steady decline in the state of internet freedoms and free speech”. According to BAKE, bloggers and social media users in Kenya have become “persons of interest” to both government entities and private corporate entities. In this regard, the report highlights the increasing cases of arrest, prosecution, intimidation and concerted efforts to discourage dissident Kenyan voices on social media. During the Luncheon, the US Ambassador pledged his country’s support to BAKE while stressing the importance of promoting freedom of expression and access to public information. BAKE informed the US Ambassador that its iFreedoms Programme as well as the Jukumu Letu initiative are aimed at creating awareness among bloggers and social media users on internet freedoms and human rights under the Constitution.
Another important line of discussion during the Luncheon was on the role of bloggers in digital advertising and the contribution of blogging and social media to the economy. In this regard, BAKE’s report notes that as digital advertising continues to grow in Kenya with more and more brands seeing the value of advertising online using Google Adwords, Adsense, blogs and Social Media due to the increase in smart phone penetration in Kenya, bloggers and social media users with large followings have become influencers on brands to consumers. Meanwhile, the report points out that the value of online Kenyan advertising industry by the end of 2013 stood at Ksh. 165 billion and it is forecast to rise to over Ksh. 301 Billion by 2018. During the Luncheon, the US Ambassador stated that blogging and social media use in Kenya is an important form of entrepreneurship for many young Kenyans who have gone digital in their various areas of interest. Therefore the US Ambassador urged bloggers and social media users to consider their online activity like any start-up business and tap into the 1.3 billion US dollars for start-ups and entrepreneurs announced during this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit.