The Nation Media Group’s SwahiliHub.com is a rare treat of local digital content in Kenya
Something is really wrong with the whole local content scene in Kenya even as everyone is scrambling to build the next African Instagram and iTunes, as well as a whole slew of different mobile and desktop innovations. You could say, quite honestly, that everyone is jumping on the local digital content bandwagon hoping to make that next big thing on the scale of Ushahidi and Safaricom’s M-Pesa. However, when it comes to the basics, I think that’s where everyone could possibly be missing the potentially really big opportunities.
One thing I like about the Nation Media Group (NMG) is that even as they struggle to succeed in a big way on the local digital content scene in East Africa, they just keep trying, again, and again, and again. I love their persistence. Its quite refreshing to say the least. On the other hand, even though I have “issues” with some of NMG’s digital content initiatives which I have written about here in the past, at least they are trying to fill the obvious and sometimes not so obvious opportunities in the East African marketplace.
Consider the Bantu language (and culture) of Kiswahili, or Swahili for short. It is predominantly spoken in East and Central Africa as well as in certain Indian Ocean Islands by probably close to 100 million people. In a good number of countries, Kiswahili is the first language for most people followed by English and/or French. Kiswahili is more than a language since its also a Culture that and a Peoples that live on the East African coast. You could say, in not so many words, that Kiswahili in all its myriad forms is actually a unique African Heritage. Personally, I grew up in Mombasa at the Kenya Coast where Kiswahili is the main language spoken and it is beautiful to listen to, as well as speak.
So, here is the thing, as everyone and every business is seeking local digital content mojo and millions in Kenya, its surprising how little content there is in Kiswahili. Yes, there is the rare web site or mobile app that has Kiswahili content but these are few and far in between. Which is why I love the brilliance of NMG’s SwahiliHub.com. They are tapping into an opportunity that could potentially position them as the clear media leader for local digital content in Kiswahili. The web site itself is not really a standalone initiative since it leverages on NMG’s existing online and offline content properties in East Africa such as Taifa Leo, Mwananchi, and QFM. In addition, by aggregating all these assets in one “portal” all you need to do is go to one destination for your multimedia and daily Kiswahili “news fix”.
SwahiliHub.com is indeed a rare and comprehensive treat of daily Kiswahili digital content. NMG is also clearly spending big bucks to get it to take off with big print ads in their newspapers as well as Google Ads already online promoting it online. Saying NMG intends to make SwahiliHub.com a success is an obvious point. I think they could actually succeed in a space that few have bothered to pursue in building local Kiswahili digital content properties thus far.
However, there are a few glaring problems in my view with SwahiliHub,com such as that the web site does NOT seem to be mobile web optimized (yet?). I am not sure why this is the case but it needs to be addressed since the majority of Internet users in the East African region go online via mobile, and entry-level mobile phones in this respect. In addition, the way that the site has QFM streaming immediately you open it is NOT cool as it assumes you want to hear it or even have the bandwidth to access it. Barring these two issues, its a good effort from NMG and I do expect SwahiliHub to do well going forward. Good effort NMG 🙂