Friday, February 6, 2004
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Tekka 4

The new issue of Tekka leads off with a fascinating look at cybercafe society in Nairobi. Playwright John Makeni takes us along on his morning rounds:

A small food counter offers coffee, tea, and mandazi. a Kenyan cake. The middle-aged man who is working next to me orders a cup of tea. I also have an urge to order a cup of tea, but I don't have enough money, so I forget about it. As more clients come in, more attendants also arrive. There are now seven: four women and three men, all clad in blue t-shirts that read LAZARDS CYBER CAFE. It's a fairly good job.

Makeni comes from a village in near Busia where

There is hardly a telephone booth. There are no city buses, and the occasional matatus are not as fancy as those in Nairobi. To get around, people walk or bicycle, or if they have no bicycle they take a bodaboda, a bicycle taxi, for about ksh 20. You could easily count all telephone booths in Busia Town, but today there are also several internet cafés.

In the 90's, it was easy to think that the net was Palo Alto, Soho, with a few outposts in Tokyo, London, and Stockholm office towers. It's a bigger, richer, and stranger world than we knew.