Katie works on our brand team here at Ding. Last Christmas she took a trip to Kenya with her family and witnessed the power of top-up in action in the developing world. She was deeply touched and humbled by the strength of the people she met who are facing difficult situations on a daily basis in Africa. We wanted to share Katie’s experience to give an insight to the real difference that top-up can make in these people’s lives.
It’s Christmas Eve and we are miles from Canada. Typically on Christmas Eve, we would be putting the final touches on the Christmas tree, drinking eggnog beside the fire while watching snow fall, forming large mounds that lets us know we will not be going anywhere for the time being.
But this year we are in Kenya, it’s hot. The sun beats down on us as we stand in a muddy ring that is normally home to cattle. We are in a rural Maasai Village in Southern Kenya, visiting a community who are showing us how they live and for them; this day is no different than any other.
The Maasai are a group of semi-nomadic people inhabiting near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes. They speak Maa, Swahili and English and their dress and customs are quite distinctive. All of the women and children are draped in colourful clothing with pounds of beaded jewellery hanging from their heads and necks.
They have welcomed us warmly by performing a traditional Maasai song and dance. It is clear that their customs are brimming with pride. The lyrics are meaningful and are repeated verbatim over time. Their necks move in and out accompanying the singing and the result is enchanting.
My father is recording this on his tablet- a toy of the western world that the Maasai have rarely seen, but are highly entertained by. My father shows them the photos he took and they absolutely intrigued to see themselves. It’s a unique experience for the group of women but something tells me it won’t be unusual for much longer.
The Maasai community have more phones than people and are constantly calling each other to arrange cattle trades, hunting excursions and find market prices in the major cities. Phones have changed their lives and made the communities more organized and productive as a whole. The power of a topped-up phone for the Massi Community cannot be underestimated.
The Western World has fully embraced smart devices and it is only a matter of time before the Maasai do too. If you didn’t already know Africa is called the ‘Mobile Continent’ and in the next five years Africa’s rate of mobile development will be two times more than the rest of the world. That is just the tip of the iceberg because internet usage on mobile phones is said to increase 20 fold by 2019.*
Africa has a booming telecoms industry due to the declining prices of handsets and data, along with faster transmission speeds. Additionally, smart phones are getting more affordable for the masses. Ding is working with nearly 100 network providers across Africa and we are expanding daily. The Maasai community are just one example where the power of top-up is making a real difference in the developing world and as this expands, Ding will be ready to top-up these phones.
It was an amazing experience to meet these people and to witness such a strong cultural shift in action. I predict this will only go from strength to strength and I look forward to see how our work at Ding will someday become part of the daily lives of the Maasai tribe.
* Source: The Guardian, ‘Internet use on mobile phones in Africa predicted to increase 20-fold’ – June 5th 2014