Breaking News

Kenyans use social media to mobilize support for drought victims

by Kingsley Ighobor
13 December 2011 | 1899 Views
Julie Gichuru is an award-winning Kenyan television journalist rated by Forbes business magazine in 2011 as one of "20 youngest powerful women in Africa." Ms. Gichuru has a reputation as an engaging TV host, stirring up her audience against corruption and sometimes poking fun at the vagaries of life.

In July, as thousands of starving people walked across the border from Somalia into the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya, there were also thousands of Kenyans dying of drought in that region, as well as in Turkana, Pokot and Baringo. Ms. Gichuru and other journalists covered that reality. "I went to the camp and saw children just screaming. It was deafening. Some had just died. Some were about to die, and I saw parents standing helplessly, just preparing to dig another infant grave," she told Africa Renewal.

The interventions of Ms. Gichuru and others have been acclaimed for both the sheer effort — more than $67 million donated so far by ordinary Kenyans and some companies — and the tools with which the mobilization has been carried out: Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones, television, radio and newspapers.

Reactions to the various media reports were swift and spontaneous. The Media Owners Association, Safaricom (one of the country's leading mobile phone companies) and the Kenya Red Cross continue to rally donations and other relief materials under the aegis of Kenyans for Kenya, an association officially launched in late July.

 "The response by Kenyans was overwhelming and humbling, hitting KSh19 million through M-Pesa [mobile banking] contributions on the second day," reports The Standard, a leading Kenyan newspaper. Ms. Gichuru says that they collected the equivalent of about $10 million within two weeks.

Ordinary Kenyans can make contributions of as little as KSh10 (about 10 US cents). "Through Facebook and Twitter we sensitized the urban affluent. Through mobile phones we reached people in the rural areas. And television, radio and print publications just reinforced the message to the general population," says Ms Gichuru.

M-Pesa (Swahili word for "mobile money") helps those in remote parts of the country make financial payments, such as for electricity, water and even normal day-to-day purchases. This is the first time the M-Pesa service, launched by Safaricom, has been used extensively in support of a major humanitarian cause.

How does it work? Safaricom assigned a dedicated account number that people with mobile phones can easily remember (111 111). Subscribers pay into their M-Pesa accounts, much as they do when adding to their phone calling credits. To make a donation they simply enter the amount and send it to the dedicated account number. Both the sender and the recipient promptly get SMS messages confirming the transaction. The ease of transactions has contributed to the project's success.

The credibility of the main implementing partner, the Kenya Red Cross, further encourages people to donate. "Once people knew who was going to spend the money, they felt more comfortable to contribute," says Ms. Gichuru.

Before Kenyans for Kenya there was Ushahidi, the platform set up — again by Kenyans — to map reports of post-elections violence in 2007. The model was so successful that it was replicated in Haiti and Japan to aid relief work after earthquakes (see Africa Renewal, April 2010).

The International Business Times reports that there are 20 tweets a minute on the crisis in the Horn of Africa, coming mainly from freelance fund seekers. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has launched the WeFeedBack initiative to rally support for hungry people in various parts of the world. The WFP and YouTube collaborated to record and promote the song "A Step for Mankind," expected to trigger online record sales to aid the Horn of Africa.

Daudi Were, a manager for Ushahidi, cites the increasing popularity of social media in Kenya. First is the demographic factor. There are 20 million people between the ages of 15 and 65 in Kenya, and about 22 million mobile phone SIM cards are in circulation. The second factor is the way various social media are interconnected. People use mobile phones to tweet, send SMS messages and access their Facebook pages.

Mr. Were insists that although social media platforms may be considered urban tools, "African cities have a huge influence on the rest of the country." He maintains that "people are able to send SMS messages to radio and TV stations from the rural areas, even if they are unlikely to listen to the messages when they are aired."

The Kenyans for Kenya initiative marks the first time in Africa that ordinary people have organized in this way to save lives. In the past, donations to causes came almost exclusively from wealthy organizations and individuals, Ms. Gichuru notes. But not anymore. "In our campaign, most donations are coming from ordinary people." That response has shamed companies into also donating.




The success of the effort shows that citizens can organize on their own. "People don't feel helpless, as they have in the past," says Ms. Gichuru. "The social media provide platforms where people discover that there are hundreds or thousands of others feeling as they do, and the platforms help them agree on a course of action."

This capacity is causing ripples in government circles. "Right now, there is concern in government," notes Ms. Gichuru. "It's as if government people are saying, ‘If the people can do this, it means we will become irrelevant at some point'." For Mr. Were, the fact that ordinary people are taking the initiative to organize is itself a response to poor political leadership. "African citizens are not waiting for leadership from government. Already they feel a sense of disconnect, and they want to take their destinies in their hands."

Kenyans Forbes business magazine

Source: www.un.org

Do you agree that foreskins of circumcised men could be used for witchcraft?

Yes
53.27%
No
14.95%
Hogwash
31.78%
214

Comments

News Updates

Email:

Latest News

Jonathan Moyo confirms he's been to the police over Baba Jukwa saga

by Lovemore Chikova | 25 July 2014 | 3375 Views

Makokoba Health Care Initiative appeals for help - The fire that rend...

by Staff Reporter | 25 July 2014 | 526 Views

MDC Renewal Team Statement on the state of the national economy - The ...

by Staff Reporter | 24 July 2014 | 1234 Views

Face to Face with Walk Against Litter man - Fungai Chiposi

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 1220 Views

Jonathan Moyo fails to report to police - Information minister Jonatha...

by Tichaona Sibanda | 24 July 2014 | 3732 Views

Parliament budget unit to be established before end of year - Before t...

by Staff Reporter | 24 July 2014 | 485 Views

Mugabe launches teachers' capacity development programme

by Staff Reporter | 24 July 2014 | 1862 Views

Accident waiting to happen, BCC do something - WhatsApp updatye

by Concerned Citizen | 24 July 2014 | 1773 Views

What's the farce about Tsvangirai UK trip - Quite puzzling is the exci...

by Gugugu Magorira | 24 July 2014 | 1465 Views

Use Right To Demonstrate Productively and Focus on the Dictatorship - ...

by Makusha Mugabe, Information and Publicity Secretary - MDC UK Midlands North | 24 July 2014 | 591 Views

'Zim banks have no capacity to fund mines,' says BAZ - THE banking sec...

by Oliver Kazunga | 24 July 2014 | 600 Views

Murderer gets a wholly suspended sentence for poisoning his son - A 25...

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 1780 Views

Mnangagwa backs harsh minimum mandatory sentence for rapists - Justice...

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 1380 Views

Finally, Chingoka quits Zimbabwe Cricket - In what most people would w...

by Staff Reporter | 24 July 2014 | 2525 Views

Chaos at Renkini bus terminus - WhatsApp update - 11:44am, 24 Jul - ...

by Concerned citizen | 24 July 2014 | 4853 Views

MDC-T Joburg District endorses Tsvangirai and Khupe - Press release 2...

by Lft Gen Simbarashe Mujeye | 24 July 2014 | 2028 Views

Why Zimbabwe has failed - The promise by ZANU (PF) to empower and deve...

by Vince Musewe | 24 July 2014 | 1630 Views

Newly appointed Zimpapers editor dies - Newly appointed Zimpapers and ...

by Staff Reporter | 24 July 2014 | 5838 Views

Scientists 'delete' HIV from human cells - Once HIV conquers a human c...

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 5415 Views

'Thieving goblin raping man and ruining his business' - Apparently a t...

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 3024 Views

'Robert Mugabe out of touch,' says Chamisa

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 2680 Views

Tendai Biti wants rand to replace US dollar

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 4470 Views

Zimbabwe diamonds stolen in Dubai - A parcel of Zimbabwe diamonds wort...

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 2364 Views

UK demo awaits Tsvangirai

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 2003 Views

Baba Jukwa saga, police summon Jonathan Moyo

by Staff reporter | 24 July 2014 | 4059 Views

Entertainment

Carl Joshua Ncube to tour with brand new material - The brand new stan...

by Staff Reporter | 24 July 2014 | 579 Views

Macheso gears up for UK tours - In an apparent joint preparation for t...

by Entertainment reporters | 23 July 2014 | 1341 Views

DJ Munya is back - After a two-year hiatus, DJ Munya - real name Munya...

by Entertainment Reporter | 23 July 2014 | 2214 Views

White guy plays chitekete - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kp16XF-Tcf...

by Staff Reporter | 23 July 2014 | 3302 Views

Beyonce and Jay Z to separate - claims - Jay Z and Beyonce are reporte...

by Staff reporter | 22 July 2014 | 3413 Views

No talent is meant for the grave, Dr Nkomo Commemoration - The prepara...

by Nokutula Ncube | 22 July 2014 | 1076 Views

Miss Curvy dinner flops

by Yeukai Karengezeka | 21 July 2014 | 5331 Views

'He's going to be in trouble once I die' says DJ Cleo's father - 64-ye...

by Staff reporter | 20 July 2014 | 5700 Views