Lost Voice, New-Tube Videos & The Last Newsletter of 2017

Sannu - Hello in Hausa to you and yours.

I lost my voice. Both literally (in that as I write this, my voice is literally inaudible after a flu/laryngitis I picked up on my travels the last 2-3 days) and metaphorically (you've not had a newsletter for about a month).

I'm typing this from a rooftop with a great view in Kigali, Rwanda at the ImpactHub, where I'll be for the rest of the week. I arrived here at the crack of dawn today and will spend the rest of the week here. I was in Washington D.C. last week for a panel at the Center for Strategic and International Studies where I shared my thoughts in a conversation on fake news in Africa. The week was great as I'd lined up some meetings and will have some US press appearances, interviews and mentions to follow.

The month has been a rollercoaster of travel, new business, appearances and tying up loose ends before the year is up. We've pushed our end-year training, but have saved the first few rows for readers of the newsletter who'd informally RSVP'd after hearing we were mulling over the event.

This is the last newsletter of the year, so do save it and savour it. I've learnt a lot putting this together and have taken lessons from the workflow of my team and I and all the hands that touch and craft it —it takes a village!

Safaricom Joining the Four Horsemen of Global Tech?

Fellow newsletter subscriber and digital maverick Chris Ndung'u shared something that caught my eye on his LinkedIn weeks ago after Safaricom launched their e-commerce platform Masoko. I've edited his comments below only slightly:

"After Safaricom Limited's Masoko, an online marketplace, went live. The top 7 world's largest public corporations by market capitalisation have all or some of the following five components in their business models:

  • E-Payments
  • Advertising
  • Cloud Solutions
  • Video-on-Demand
  • E-commerce

Safaricom has four out of the five models in M-Pesa, Fantastic 4G, Safaricom Business (Cloud), Safaricom's "Big Box" and Masoko.com. So does this put the firm in the same league as Apple, Alphabet, Alibaba, Amazon?"

Chris thinks so and perhaps it should be called Afari. The only difference is that the name doesn't start with an 'A'.

Digital Africa's YouTube Hiatus is Over!

One place I have found my voice is on our YouTube channel. Digital Africa with Mark Kaigwa returns for its second mini-season. I'm excited to bring some great new episodes, including one with reflections and thoughts on #CSWeek2017 (Customer Service Week 2017). Now, with added takeaways and thoughts on what we learnt from monitoring 7,000+ tweets). I trust you'll have seen the infographics as well.

I'd recommend you subscribe if you're keen to be the first in line to get:

  1. Head, heart and hands - My three-step approach to evangelising digital into the business (as a trainer or as an executive looking to recruit allies to do digital transformation projects).
  2. The top 10 most-visited websites in Tanzania. (They are East Africa's most engaged Instagram community).
  3. The top 10 most-used smartphones in Kenya. (Plus a separate video with insights on this top 10 list. Spoiler alert, there's no iPhone there and I explain why).
  4. The right way to do influencer marketing in 2018 (a much-requested one).
  5. And some surprise videos too, so you'll want to subscribe.

If you've not watched the existing episodes, I've put up videos including using WhatsApp for Business, Major Social Media Stats in KenyaUsing Facebook for Increasing ConversionsDeath of the “Social Media as Usual”, and roundups of Top 10s: Kenya's Most-Visited Sites (vices drive the Kenyan Internet!) And Most-Downloaded Apps.

You can get familiar and get started with what's on there. If you want a community, you can always catch them on our Facebook page, you'll join hundreds of people who regularly interact with us in the comment section there.And yes, I'll be experimenting with shorter videos for this season. That said, here's your holiday tasting menu of links:

If you ever want to go back in time to see all the others, you can find the archive here and invite people to join here.

What to Sip (<30 sec Read)

"Time is the new currency of experience. And whether that’s spending time or saving time, the most important metric for a consumer is if they feel that their time was ‘well spent’.”

Andrew Crombie in this interesting piece summarising a get-together by Mediacom in Asia.With all the metrics that digital brings, what if we change the equation entirely and start looking at return on time invested? Could this be a future we head to?You may want to sip on this quote with our previous newsletter where I asked if Facebook should pay all of us a universal basic income (we spend time on Facebook, which they sell to advertisers. Are we entitled to a profit share?)

What to Nibble (<5 min Read)

I'm a big fan of researcher and strategist Niti Bhan (also newsletter subscriber). Her thinking and publishing have had a very positive effect on my work and outlook. Her seven-minute TED Talk is out and is absolutely worth a watch. Known for focusing on the pre-paid economy, I've taken a lot out of her work in the early days of connectivity, with her work around cyber cafes contributing to my chapter in Digital Africa edited by Tim Weiss and Dr. Bitange Ndemo.Niti's talk centres on the hidden opportunities in the informal economy in Africa.She picks one of Kenya's border towns and zooms us into the life and daily habits of an informal trader. A microcosm of an entire (in my opinion multi-billion dollar) ecosystem that's underserved or unserved, depending on what parts of the continent you go to. it is to be coupled with the article below.Whether its Uber and Taxify grabbing customers from traditional taxis, or the ease of an online purchase of airtime eating into Mama’s recharge card sales, the long-awaited and much-hyped transformation of African economies by ICT is arriving at a much higher cost than noted anywhere in media, or in research reports on mobiles for “social good”.As much as Africa continues to leapfrog and advance technologies, there will be casualties along the way. We pay far too little attention to the costs of innovation on the continent.

What to Bite (<20 min Read)

As the debate in the United States rages on Net Neutrality, I'd like to serve up some interesting reads on this. You may believe this has nothing to do with your clients, audiences or market but the ripple effects will. In the same way that after Facebook lost the decision in India to uphold Free Basics their no-cost/low-cost experience, we're watching the United States keenly.

The case against net neutrality came from an unexpected place, for me. Ben Thompson of Stratechery initially titled his piece called “Why (Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission) Ajit Pai is Right” and he seemed like a real gadfly. He had to change the title and despite the uproar it caused, I'm sharing it in the spirit of intellectual honesty, his thoughts captured the context and trade-offs in a neutrality and temperament that is valuable food for thought. Here's a good rebuttal to Ben from Klint Finley in Wired.

The case for the upholding of net neutrality has come from plenty of places, one of the underpinnings of the concept of why Chairman Pai is trying to roll it back comes from a set of myths, as identified by blogger and internet freedoms advocate Cory Doctorow. In his Twitter thread, he writes on the myth of the “bandwidth hog.”

Within this entire process, what blew my mind is how the well-meaning underlying layer of social media has been public participation. But as online media manipulators gain the smarts to rig the process, we can be duped into believing the “wisdom of the crowd.

”It has also been found out that the process of getting 'public participation' in the process of whether to repeal Net Neutrality was flooded with over a million faked comments as uncovered by Jeff Kao, a data scientist. Putting it another way, you could say “when bots outnumber humans, the public comment process is meaningless.

”Same goes for all marketers and the kinds of contests (tweet, like and get-as-many-people-to-engage-to-win mechanics). Facebook has been punishing pages (and the brands and agencies that rig the contests up) that explicitly ask for likes and shares since 2014.

On Twitter, I've had strong opinions on the cottage industry of online media manipulators gaming the algorithm and in 2018 one of my concerns is this artificial intelligence will be put to devastating use as seen above, not just in Kenya but other African and emerging markets. It is already happening and we can take lessons from the global process.


Nendo is growing and hiring. The first of several new positions that the newsletter gets to hear of first; we're looking for a digital strategist. If you'd want to discover more of what we're looking for and learn more about us, too, do take a look. I'd appreciate if you shared it with someone you believe should apply.

You'll find the details here. We'll also be seeking out a reputation analyst, too, so if you know some good people, send them our way. JD is a work in progress but experience in media monitoring and social listening are the main basis.

This is the final newsletter of the year. I'm taking stock of the newsletter and hoping if you've not already shared it, you'll give us your feedback in this quick survey form (there's room for a testimonial there, and you can always mail me directly if you wish.)

Until 2018, thanks for staying tuned to The Letter N.

Sincerely,Mark & Team Nendo

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