It’s no fun being poor and desperate here, you can bet your bottom shilling on that

Thursday May 16 2019

A man betting on European football games with a mobile phone at sports betting shop. Kenyan youth bet as much as they can get their hands on, anything and everything including rent money. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP


Kenya is a great country to live in if you are rich. There are certain protections that the rich get.

It may happen in some sense all over the world, but here it is different because the poor do not have access to even the most basic of needs, food, clothing, or shelter.

That is why it is no surprise to see how quickly gambling has caught on, especially among young people.

Attending the launch of a media hub, Mark Kaigwa, who runs a company called Nendo, a digital growth consultancy made a very interesting remark. He mentioned how the most searched for information in Kenya was gambling sites.

There is a whole niche, the majority of them youth, who bet as much as they can get their hands on, anything and everything including rent money.

Also when it comes to the Fuliza by Safaricom and other loan apps, the majority of transactions were on paying gambling sites, not really paying bills that are for important transactions as emphasised in the flamboyant commercial.


Well aren’t we glad that now the commercials have been banned in a sense? Commercials were everywhere you looked, from television, to massive billboards, to taxis, T-shirts, name it.

They have become part of our everyday conversations in a matter of a few years, they caught on like a wild fire, but why is that?

Mark mentioned something interesting, talking about, “Why would people want to work several years to build something? When their lives tell them different?” Their age mates work hard and are still not finding regular employment.

They have heard their parents preach about doing well in school so that they can have better lives, but it is just not adding up. Their parents live in poverty, even after staying on the same job for over 30 years.

When a young person is barely making from day to day, he will only worry about that day. How will they get to eat on that day? That is why gambling is such a great opportunity to them.

It can solve my challenges now, as Mark put it as, so it’s an “investment.” They may not win every time, heck probably lose most times, but at least they have a better chance than sticking it out in the real world.

We do not respect people as individuals, but give them respect on what they can give us.
That is why it is no surprise most people would find it difficult to vote for a person who does not dish out some money during a campaign.

If they are incapable of doing that now, they will not be able to fit the position. That is why in our churches, the rich or politicians are given the first row, even when they stroll in so late that it should embarrass them at how they have appeared.

That is why it is no surprise that we treat people based on how much we think they make. People have walked into areas that would be considered sensitive without a single identity card, because they dressed to kill and were dropped off in a brand new Prado.

No questions asked by security, a simple assumption that they are important. Who would not want that, because important people get to make awful mistakes and no one is crucified for it.

That is why it is easy to find Chinese businesses thriving in our country much more than our local businessmen and women.

It has nothing to do with the Chinese, but everything to do with how we treat ourselves. Foreigners can get away with so much, including opening a children’s home while being a registered paedophile in his own country. All because money speaks loudly and loosely.

When money becomes the controller of all things, then only those with access to it will have lives worth living.

Nerima Wako-Ojiwa is executive director of Siasa Place. Twitter: @NerimaW