What’s Transport in Nairobi Kenya: the Matatus

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | June 29, 2016
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A key part of my work on the field involves meetings with a variety of people from consumers and influencers to press professionals and entrepreneurs. There are times when these meetings painfully come to life as, at the agreed date and time, I am reduced to wait the other person, call them to find out whether they are on their way, wait, call, wait, call. One lesson among many others is that time is conceived, named, interpreted differently across cultures and environments in Africa. One time I happened to witness a curious scene in Congo, in a plane ready to take off for a 45-minute trip. As the aircraft was slowly taxiing-out, prompting the flight attendant to repeat the no-use-of-electronics-during-take-off instruction, the passenger next to me makes a phone call: “Hi…yes…I am coming…I am right there…in a few minutes…actually I am just right there, so wait for me“!

Another lesson learnt from crisscrossing the Continent is that lengthy waits or standbies are a common feature of travels. So I learnt how to make the best use of them. They are no longer dead time, but rather opportunities for doing many things.

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The most recent wait-call experience sees me in Westlands, the shopping epicentre of Nairobi. As if endlessly waiting would become more bearable, I positioned myself at the precise place where matatu’s finish their journey, spotting them as they enter the street, following them as they approach, then examining each traveller getting off, hoping for good news. The matatus are private-held minibuses that are the most used public transportation in Kenya.

At that big bus stop, waiting turned into a true spectacle: the matatu’s are flamboyantly decorated, they feature portraits of Jesus, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Khadafi, etc. They have powerful sound systems that play loud ragga/dancehall, Congolese rumba, hip hop/R&B. They bear popular slogans and sayings and extracts of the Bible and the Koran. They have grandiose or evocative names such as Amazing Grace, God’s Favour, Alvin, Young Rich And Reckless. In addition to the driver, a matatu is staffed by a conductor. I had the chance to come across various types of conductors, from extravagant showmen to resourceful gentlemen.

This spectacle led me to use matatu’s for a couple of trips around Nairobi: it is quite an adventure!


Matatus are flamboyantly decorated, featuring portraits of Jesus, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Khadafi, Rihanna, Ronaldo, etc.
Matatus are flamboyantly decorated, featuring portraits of Jesus, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Khadafi, Rihanna, Ronaldo, etc.


Here’s the beginning of a guide to navigate the matatu network:

  • Matatu’s are the most budget-friendly way to get around. For instance, a 20-minute trip from Westlands to the Central Business District (CBD) costs 20-30 Kenyan Shillings (KES). They go from one hub to another where dozens of matatus line up to shuttle off people to all parts of the city and beyond.They operate on routes – which are known by their numbers – and stop wherever people are on the road or wherever they want to get off.
  • Knowing which matatu goes where, what route it is likely to take and how much it will charge may not be easy task for the inexperienced. You have to rely on reliable sources, ask questions again and again, and compare.
  • Matatu drivers are rough riders. They know no rules but theirs. So be prepared for a wild journey spiced up with big noise coming from both the sound system and the conductor, contrasting with the stoicism, sympathy and helpfulness of commuters.
  • Matatu’s offer a true Nairobi experience – one very few outsiders see, but which opens the doors to some of the intricacies of the real urban life in Kenya.
Matatus are staffed by conductors belonging to various types of characters, from extravagant show-men to resourceful gentlemen.
Matatus are staffed by conductors belonging to various types of characters. The ones I had the chance to meet were extravagant showmen and resourceful gentlemen.



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What’s the Coffee Culture in Johannesburg South Africa

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | June 25, 2016
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What’s the Coffee Culture in Casablanca, Morocco Mall

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | June 22, 2016
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What’s Happening in Casablanca Morocco

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | June 19, 2016
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What African Millennials Want: in Casablanca Morocco

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | June 16, 2016
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Saoussane Hmidouch is a Casablanca based beauty and lifestyle youtuber, the winner of the 2015 Miss Webelline contest, an ambassador of various local brands such as Morocco Mall, one of the three largest shopping malls in Africa. Her following across social media channels sees an unstoppable growth, making her a new member of the much coveted elite of Africa-born influencers with an international audience. Hers spans across North Africa.

SM: As a teenager, I was very passionate about recycling. I used to create a lot of things with used stuffs. I created a cellphone case, a t-shirt, a bermuda, etc. People were impressed and would encourage me to show my creations on the internet. This is how my facebook page started. At the beginning it was just an audience of around 300 people. Then I noticed that people don’t read on facebook, they don’t go beyond a few lines, so I opted to offer them more options for accessing my content. I progressively moved from facebooking and blogging to youtubing.

PG: How has youtube impacted your relationship with the audience?

SM: Video is a much more active channel, people feel more engaged. I regard viewers as friends and neighbours. I came to build that relationship through various ways such as the language I use – the darija (Moroccan Arabic) – and the setting. I sometimes shoot in my bedroom, other times I shoot at 6AM. People like that I am spontaneous, true to myself, telling it like it is. I also literally reply to all queries.

PG: How often do you post videos?

SM: It used to be whenever I felt like posting. Any time I had an idea. But then people don’t necessarily come back when you disappear for a while. Now I post minimum twice a week, on a weekday. Never on weekends. People are mostly connected via cellphone on those days, they don’t watch videos and tutorials on their cellphone. They may bookmark it for a later viewing.

The bottom line is that I want as many viewers as possible as it also helps with how youtube finds you in search requests for instance. Now I have much more content and ideas. They come with the trends. In order to be in sync with the trends, I have to post more videos, to have the appropriate frequency. Now I do tutorials about make-up, lifestyle, discoveries, purchases…

PG: Can you walk us through the process?

SM: I do my own videos from filming to editing. My equipment is pretty basic but that’s all good because I have always liked learning different things, touching on diverse areas in the process, perfecting my own way up. I like the craftsmanship aspect of the whole thing.

PG: Do you know your numbers with precision across social media?

SM: I do actually. But I see value more in the two-way relationship I have with the audience, in how they react to my postings. I feel like my community is a real community. But as it is growing, I get concerned about losing the strong relationship with my followers because this is what differentiates me from other bloggers, youtubers and influencers.

PG: How do you cash in on your achievements so far?

SM: Through advertising but it is not worth mentioning as it is very low compared to other markets. In Africa, in Morocco, revenues from blogging are close to zero because you hardly reach the threshold defined by youtube for revenue generation.

Another source may be sponsored videos. Things are starting to move forward in Morocco as bloggers, particularly in cosmetics, bring in more results when it comes to attracting specific audience targets. Compared to traditional advertising, people prefer to trust someone who has really tested the products. It is not a sponsored video per se, but I did like the work I did with L’Oréal for Elseve. I wrote the script, there were three bloggers involved… From there I have participated in other initiatives from L’Oréal.

PG:  How do you position yourself in the local youtuber landscape,?

SM: I have come to consider my blog as a mini communication agency because I am also contacted by companies who are looking at penetrating Morocco. A recent collaboration was just that and I got to submit concepts that resulted in two great videos. I had total freedom in the creative process, I was allowed to say whatever I wanted – liked the product or not.

It is not all rosy though: recently a partnership with a global brand did not materialize, even though both parties were satisfied with the creative, the legal and the financial. So far I have no clue as to why nothing happened. That left me frustrated because I don’t know whether they moved on hiring someone else and implementing my concept, or they just buried the whole thing.

PG: Big corporate brands tend to be the dream partner for youtubers. Do you consider independents and starters?

SM: Yes! I believe blogs are mostly done for them! Because if you don’t talk about new things, don’t offer things for people to discover, what’s the point? Talking about stuffs that have been there for ages? Talking about new products, new brands in particular, is extremely exciting for viewers and consumers.

But then, it’s up to the new kids on the block to deliver, notably in terms of distribution, customer service, availability everywhere…this has been a serious issue in Morocco where you see labels, products, brands one day in the shelves and gone the next day. Followers complain so much about products I have talked about but that are no longer available in stores.

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Starbucks Enters South Africa: What’s In It For Consumers

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | June 13, 2016
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End February, Starbucks announced that it will open its first-ever store in Italy early 2017. In the birthplace of espresso and cappuccino, where coffee is at the intersection of culture, heritage and community; the news that an American retail chain would come and sell coffee had the potential to cause derision and criticisms. So Mr Schultz, the Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, travelled to Milan to bolster the announcement with some compelling context: “we are going to come here with great humility” he said.

Similarly, when mid 2015 Starbucks announced the 2016 opening of its first store in South Africa (and first-ever in sub-Saharan Africa), the news was put against the ongoing narrative about the shape of the South African economy – the shrinking growth, the weak rand,  the high unemployment. So Taste Holdings, Starbucks chosen partner in South Africa, not only repeatedly offered reassuring arguments report after report but also opened the first store in the trendy suburb of Rosebank, Johannesburg, with grand fanfare end April 2016.

Early press reviews have been relatively positive, with commentators stressing the long queues of coffee aficionados in front of the store despite chilly temperatures, the wide online circulation of customers’ enthusiastic impressions, the pride collectively shared among South Africans that yet another international brand entered the country, seeing a sign that it is still relevant on the global stage.

But at the same time a fair number of reviewers were perplex, bringing back the struggling SA economy argument and pointing out that consumers lining up en masse on day one doesn’t necessarily mean that success is guaranteed for Starbucks, particularly in a market considered well packed with coffee shops.

So what are the key success factors for Starbucks in South Africa?

  • The competition in the trendy neighbourhood of Rosebank, Johannesburg: here, a menu display at the coffee shop Vida e Caffé.


Price: various reviewers have noted that Starbucks prices are the highest in the Johannesburg market. 27 rand for a latte is still cheaper than prices elsewhere in the world, but it could prove problematic compared to what South Africans usually pay. At this price point, the obvious target is the upper-middle and affluent classes. But even with these targets, attracting them will not suffice. Starbucks will need to earn see their strong, sustained loyalty in the form of both a critical number of visits and critical level of spending.

Product: At most coffee shops across Johannesburg, there are latte’s, cappuccino’s, espresso’s, herbal tea’s, and a few other things. The menus are relatively conservative in terms of ingredients, flavours and recipes. Noticeably, specific consumer groups – students, young professionals  – have showed a great receptiveness to change in their preferences and attitudes towards coffee. There is subsequently a huge opportunity for Starbucks to win a sizeable market share if it can bring in the elements forming the pillars of its valued reputation: the variety of its product offering and the innovation in the flavours, recipes and labels.

Customer Experience: “Our brand equity is built on our customers’ experience and that depends on the quality of our people” Mr Schultz said to the New York Times in March. In South Africa, where poor customer service is notoriously rife, Starbucks has a serious chance to make a difference as it is expected that Taste be the recipient of a skills transfer and invest heavily in employee development programmes.

I enjoyed a latte at two different stores in Casablanca, the Morocco Mall on one hand, the Franklin Roosevelt Villa on the other: the latter – thanks to its emblematic location, its modernist design combining Moroccan identity and European influences, its luscious landscaping – seriously edged up my experience. Iconic store locations, generous rewards schemes, innovative payment solutions have proved to be game changers or competitive advantages for Starbucks in competitive markets. While it is too soon to say whether Taste will develop these initiatives in South Africa, for the company to carry out its ambitious rollout – opening twelve to fifteen Starbucks outlets in two years, it would need to leverage the diverse range of Starbucks customer experience management tactics.


In the trendy district of Rosebank, where Starbucks has opened one its Johannesburg stores, Motherland Coffee Company, a local coffee shop chain, is a well established rendez-vous for grab-and-go, business meetings and co-working sessions.
In the trendy district of Rosebank, where Starbucks has opened one of its two Johannesburg stores, Motherland Coffee Company, a local coffee shop chain, has established itself as a rendez-vous for business meetings and co-working sessions.

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What’s the Luxury Lifestyle in Kinshasa DR Congo

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | June 10, 2016
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