Kenya - ’Skype’ offers local cybercafes operators a new lifeline

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The young woman sitting before a computer at a cybercafé in Nairobi, Kenya laughed heartily and gestured with her right hand, seemingly talking to herself.

She then produced a photo from her bag and started to display it before the computer screen.

Looking at the woman identified as Rosette, one wondered what she was doing, but it was evident she was deeply in a conversation with someone, through the internet.

The cybercafé and tens of others in Kenya’s capital is among those offering Skype services, which enable people to converse with their loved ones, especially those out of the country at cheaper rates.

Cybercafe operators in the East African nation are turning to Skype services to change fortunes of their businesses, which have dwindled because of wide-spread adoption of internet-enabled mobile phones and modems.

 “You must now offer Skype services if you want your business to flourish,” John Muashia, a cybercafé operator in the capital said on Sunday.

 “This is the only service where you can make good money since charges for normal browsing have plummeted to 0.006 U.S dollars per minute,” he added.

Muashia noted that competition in offering Skype services is still minimal in Kenya. Therefore, if one has reliable internet connection, where customers get best voice clarity, they will troop to his premises.

Kenya got connected to the rest of the world through fibre-optic cable for the first time about three years ago.

The number of undersea fibre-optic cable service providers has now grown to four, with the latest having been launched last month.

These are East African Sub Marine System (EASSy) which runs from Sudan to South Africa, East Africa Marine System (TEAMS) from Kenya to United Arab Emirates, and SEACOM, from Kenya to South Africa. The newest, Lower Indian Ocean Network (LION2) connects Kenya to Asia and Europe.

These undersea cables have hastened connectivity speeds and reliability, which had been major hurdles in Kenya. Initially, businesses relied on satellite connectivity, which was slow, expensive and broke down regularly.

Cybercafé operators in the East African nation are now cashing in on the faster internet connectivity to add value to their businesses through Skype.