Mobile phones, social media and the Maasai: Time to refresh the image

At first, I did not know what these two young men were upto during an enforced halt on our way to Kisii at the end of February this year. The road had been blocked by the local community demonstrating about land rights just a few kilometres outside of Narok, in the heart of Maasailand and the driver pulled the car back and to the side to park out of reach of any rocks if they were going to be thrown. Soon enough the traffic was backed up and a little community sprung up during the few hours we were there, waiting for the road to open up. While waiting I noticed these two in action.

First, one took the stage, expounding at length on what was going on and emphatically giving his opinion on what needed to be done by the government and the leaders of the community, while the other captured this on video (a smartphone obviously). Then they would review the video snippet,


carefully, while laughing and making jokes – I did hear the word Facebook being mentioned a few times – before the other took his place and shared his views loudly.

But the most amusing part was when they convinced a little girl to give her opinion, which she did, to the laughter of the crowd that had gathered,

“This road belongs to all of us, it is not their grandfather’s road, so why are they blocking us from using it to continue our journey”.

These few minutes, gratefully captured on camera, exemplify to me what is the current day situation in rural Kenya when it comes to everything we write and talk about the way smartphones and social media are enabling an information revolution in Sub Saharan Africa. Their response to being confronted with an unexpected political demonstration was no different from anywhere in the world today – whip out your smartphone and capture it on video.

Their intent however was one step ahead of simply uploading the action on YouTube – by adding their own commentary on the situation and capturing the ‘common man’s’ opinion, they quickly turned this opportunity into an exemplar of citizen journalism, to be shared freely on social networks like Facebook.


Perhaps its time we refresh these images to capture the impact of the mobile phone on the young moran from Maasailand than continue using the tired and stale imagery that we all recognize.

This entry was posted in African Consumer Market, Assumption filter, Base of the Pyramid, Consumer Behaviour, Culture, Indigenous & Traditional, Informal & Flexible, Kenya, Mobile platform, Perspective, Platforms, rural, Sub Saharan Africa, Technology, User research and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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