Mark Kaigwa: Tracking digital trends in East Africa

The Nairobi-based social media strategist and blogger tells us where digital technology is heading in Kenya.

From the Series

If you want to know how the connected consumer behaves in East Africa, ask Mark Kaigwa. He founded Nendo, a Nairobi-based consultancy that tracks how everyday people are using digital technology in order to help brands engage with them.

Nendo is shortened from the Swahili word “mianendo”, which means “trend” or “insight.”

“It’s a powerful metaphor in this day and age because people are flooded with tweets and technology, some of them are inundated with it, but insight is so difficult to pick out,” Kaigwa says.

The Kenyan entrepreneur uses social media to pick out the “habits and quirks” of African consumers, to help businesses plan market engagement better. Nendo uses “strategy and storytelling for ambitious companies, brands, campaigns and non-profits who want to look at these Africans and engage with them like never before in history,” he explains.

Nendo’s recently released 2014-2015 Social Media Trend Report identified the explosion of Whatsapp in East Africa.

Whatsapp is a social network in itself, he says, adding that communities such as church groups and investment groups have taken to it.

“When you look at the way they relate and you […] apply that in its ubiquity to your business or to the way you engage people in a campaign, you will see more results than Facebook or Twitter,” he notes.

Kaigwa has a strong creative streak. In 2007 he co-wrote and consulted on Warner Bros. Interactive’s first African videogame, Pamoja Mtaani, has made animated movies and helps curate African Digital Art, an online network of artists from the continent working in digital media. Forbes included him in its “30 under 30 Best Young Entrepreneurs in Africa” in 2013.

A long-time blogger, he has witnessed the growth of technology in Kenya and was one of the early people to see the potential in using social media to tell stories.

"The biggest digital driver of tech now is the mobile phone," Kaigwa says. “With it comes access to services and a level of connectivity and functional literacy. There are some people who aren’t literate but know how to use their phones. I’m excited about what the phone brings in terms of a ripple effect. We are looking towards the PC, phones and cyberspace as a whole for Africa, by Africa.”