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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: portal

ZuQka: Social Networking and News in Kenya

zuQka in the newspaper

My first day back in Nairobi after a couple months, and I see some new website being heavily promoted in my Daily Nation newspaper. In fact, it’s got a full 16-page mini newspaper all about it. It’s called zuQka, and it tells me that I’ll “be famous” if only I register. I pop over to the site, but I’ve got 1hr 15min 11sec before it goes live.

Wondering what this is all about, I start to dig around trying to find out who is behind it. Low and behold, after a quick Whois search, I find out it’s none other than Kahenya Kamunyu. A local tech VC and entrepreneur, head of Virn.net and who I interviewed at Barcamp Nairobi this summer. He’s an outspoken advocate for African-born and built technology developments, and it looks like he’s putting his money where his mouth is. Now I know what he’s been hinting at on Twitter for the past couple weeks…

So, what is zuQka?

From what I can tell, it’s a portal site for weekend entertainment around Nairobi, but with a social networking component as well (video, audio and blogs). It’s a cross-medium service too, marrying newspaper with the web. Honestly, I learned more in those 16 pages about stars like Angela Angwenyi, Amani and Daniel Ndambuki than I would have thought. Besides entertainment stars, it has coverage of auto, gadgets, pubs and the weekend calendar.

I kind of wonder what I’ll find once the site opens up. I also wonder what Kahenya has to say about it…

[Update: I was able to talk to Kahenya and they’ve had some server issues, making the launch a little sketchy. Like any new big website, this is understandable, check back in 2 weeks would be my suggestion.]

Site is live

(as you might be able to tell, I’m blogging this in a stream over a couple hours).

I haven’t been able to get in touch with Kahenya yet, likely because he’s busy trying to get this site live and all the kinks worked out. The site is live now though, with a couple minor errors. Like any newly hatched web service, things are a little slow and since it’s a user-generated content site, there’s not much content yet. This should change with time.

The zuQka dashboard

Overall I like the dashboard. The techie in me really likes that they used the Simile timeline for the calendar, makes a lot of sense. The profile page is extensive and there seems to be a lot of options to add content on the site. My plan is to come back later when it loads faster and I can see it with more users.

A Talk with Jamati’s Founder: Elias Mageto

I’ve been tracking a site called Jamati, an African entertainment portal, for a little while. Sitting out in Nairobi last week, I got an email wondering if I wanted to talk to the founder, a certain Elias Mageto, who happened to be in town from the US at the same time. Good timing!

“We want to be the go-to network for the diaspora.”

I thought Jamati was new. It isn’t. In fact, it was first launched in 2001, relaunched in 2005, and then relaunched again in 2007. The fact that I finally heard about it last year is proof that Elias finally has found the right mix to make it work.

Elias is Kenyan, with an American mother, and has no Kenyan accent at all (interestingly, a lot like a certain political candidate in the US). An unlikely background in Economics, time at the World Bank and Congressional Black Caucus wasn’t what I was expecting to hear as the background to his entrepreneurial drive into online entertainment. However, he saw a niche needing to be filled and, over 7 years, has continued to try to crack it open.

One of the things that Elias said struck me as very important for this type of pan-African portal play. That is, his seven-person team is made up of individuals from Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. Everyone in this space knows that it’s a lot easier to be regional than continental, but a team makeup like this means it’s easier to do. Those connections back into each major region are already there.

Competitively, two other new publishers,AfricanPath and African Loft, would seem to be the most logical comparison. However, knowing a little about both companies, I think they’re all doing different things (right now, but there will be greater overlap as they grow).

  • AfricanPath is about African news, business and politics.
  • African Loft is about African diaspora community and African news.
  • Jamati is about African lifestyle and entertainment.

All bridge two worlds, with heavy readership percentages from the diaspora. It will be interesting to see which can grow as time passes, and more importantly, which can attract enough eyeballs for advertisers to start funding more growth.

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