(Xinhua) -- About a decade ago, internet cafes in
Kenya were written off following the entrance of smartphones
into the East African nation.
The phones became the main gadget
through which Kenyans accessed the internet, accounting for 99
percent of the market, according to the Communication Authority
However, despite the onslaught from
mobile phones, cybercafes have survived 10 years later.
While their numbers have reduced
significantly across the East African nation, a considerable
number has remained in operation, defying the smartphones.
And this is because the internet cafes
metamorphosed into government service points. The businesses are
now the main places where Kenyans access government services,
outside state offices.
Some of the government services the
East African nation’s citizens access through the cafes are
applying for tax certificate, filing of tax returns, conducting
land searches, buying electricity tokens and application and
renewal of driving licenses.
Citizens further apply for visa for
those in need of traveling at the cafes, but Kenyan government
services are the boon for the internet outlets.
Moses Mutie, who runs a cybercafe on
the east of Nairobi, said he no longer worries his business
“When smartphones came, I was deeply
concerned that my business would die because customers
disappeared. Then I took a loan and started a mobile money
outlet as a value addition to enable me to pay rent,” he told
Xinhua in a recent interview.
But as luck would have it for Mutie
and other cybercafe operators, several government agencies took
their services online.
“The annual filing of tax returns and
application for certificates was the biggest boost we got. This
stabilized my business,” said Mutie who charges less than 1 U.S.
cent per minute.
These services ensured the people
flock his shop, and being the only one surviving in the estate,
Mutie has a monopoly.
More boost came from sale of
electricity tokens and the establishment of e-citizen services.
“E-citizen brings all government
services at one point. Anyone who wants to apply for passport,
pay stamp duty and renew driving licenses, among others, has to
log into the portal. They therefore come to cyber,” he
June brought a boom to cybercafe
operators as it was the deadline when Kenyans were to file their
“This place was busy especially the
last two weeks of the month. I hired an extra hand and brought
in two more computers to handle traffic,” said John Njeru, a
cybercafe operator in Nairobi’s central business district.
Currently, he is assisting
businesspersons file their value added tax returns, as deadline
issued by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) looms.
“With KRA, as cybercafe owners, we
have an agreement with it that we handle things like tax
certificate applications. So when people go their offices, they
send them to us giving us business,” he noted.
The number of internet users in Kenya
now stands at 36 million, according to the latest report from
the Communications Authority, with majority of people using
Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell
IT Solutions in Nairobi, noted that besides government services,
other things that have made the cybercafes survive are low
broadband charges following increased competition and services
like agency banking and mobile money.
“Charges dropped cushioning the
internet cafes owners from things like rising rent since it is
hard to increase their charges per minute. The cost of computers
is also down,” he said.
He added that cybercafe operators have
become agents of banks and telecoms thus leveraging on their
premises and licenses as the services add value to their