Interview with Kenya's Top Blogger: Bankelele - Afrinnovator
Bankelele is Kenya’s top blogger (according to Afrigator) we sought him out to ask him a couple of questions about blogging and how he managed to get his blog to be a top read blog in Kenya and in Africa. [although I just checked Afrigator and it seems Afromusing has recently taken the number one spot and Bankelele second in Kenya]
Afrinnovator.com: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Bankelele: In a sentence, “Banker, family man, love Nairobi life finance and tech community”
Afrinnovator.com: When did you start blogging?
Bankelele: I started back in 2004
Afrinnovator.com: Why did you start blogging?
Bankelele: I attended a Kenya Airways shareholders annual general meeting (AGM); there was so much drama there, but the story in the newspaper the next day was a truncated reproduction of the company PR handout. So I realized that business stories were not being comprehensively covered – and since a pal in Australia had just started a blog and e-mailed the links and sign-up details, I also decided to start one too revolving around business events
Afrinnovator.com: What kind of topics do you blog about. Is this personal interest stuff or related to your professional work?
Bankelele: At the end of the day it’s my diary of financial events that matter to me. I write quite a few workreports and have to be on top of business trends for my job;- the blog archives are my simple reference source with all their links. I like linking to other blogs because the links are there for (virtual) eternity, whereas many links to media house stories get lost when they revamp their archives which happens a lot – so you have dead links
Afrinnovator.com: Is blogging for you a pastime or something you do seriously – like do you earn from blogging?
Bankelele: I earn peanuts from the blog now, and it’s a shame I was kicked off google adsense a few years ago. The value of the blog is the network opportunities I get as a result of being up to date on business trends and links.
I’m saddened by the slow uptake of corporate blogging in Kenya or embrace of new media by banks here. It’s great to see Kenya Airways and other smaller companies on twitter now, but if you look at what South African and Nigerian banks are going on their blogs and twitter, we have a long way to go. [PS: Read Afrinnovator's coverage on how GTBank in Nigeria is using SM (here and here) as well as Standard Bank in South Africa]
Afrinnovator.com: You are ranked by Afrigator as one of the top Kenyan bloggers currently. Tell us in a nutshell a bit about your journey to this point from when you started blogging.
Bankelele: Afrigator is a great tool, which builds bridges and links to bloggers in other African countries. I’m surprised by my rank, but they key is consistency. I have many great blogging peers, but many more have ‘retired’ from blogging.
Afrinnovator.com: What is the most striking thing about blogging to you? What really get’s your adrenaline going when you think about blogging and the power of blogging?
Bankelele: You can blog about anything – your breakfast, your crusade, your illness. But you have to make edit this to make it simple and interesting for yourself and your readers.
Afrinnovator.com: What is the blogging scene in Kenya like?
Bankelele: For me it’s been very supportive and friendly. When my blog got enough recognition, Kenyan Pundit was in the country and sought me out for a meeting – I think she was the first real life blogger I had met. Mentalacrobatics and the Kenya blog web ring brought together and still continues to provide a template where new bloggers can share their recent posts.
And these days in Nairobi there’s a culture of bringing bloggers and techies together through events hosted by Google, Skunkworks, Ushahidi and even the Government that exposes bloggers to the wider world. If I’ve met one hundred bloggers, 98% of the experiences have been positive – this with people whos’ only prior interaction was virtual, but in real life also turn out to be genuine great people with interesting stories to tell. There have been some harmless blog battles in Kenya, but more serious is the infiltration around the 2007 election – where propaganda and dangerous political rhetoric, were regurgitated in the blog world and the wider world via the internet.
Afrinnovator.com: Blogging/Citizen media vs. traditional media – what’s your take on this?
Bankelele: Traditional media will continue to play a dominant role – newspapers, radio, TV. Kenyans still read a great deal of newspapers (unlike South Africa), and even the Nation Group have stats that show how each newspaper sold passes through about a dozen hands. The 7 PM TV news in Kenya is a nightly ritual observed in homes, shops, and bars (the DJ music is stopped) – while FM radio played in matatus (public buses), cars and on mobile phones (with radio) is going to be influential for a long time. That said, if you’re in the minority that participates in twitter and blogs in Kenya, you’re generally more aware and get news faster – and with internet enabled phones available for as low as $40, more young Kenyans are going to take this route.
Afrinnovator.com: Some tips for other bloggers or aspiring bloggers out there?
Bankelele: 1. Be focused 2. Learn new skills 3. Take care of your health 4. Have fun 5. Exercise restraint