Harun Momanyi. Photo / COURTESY
Rags-To-Riches. The Story Of A Typical Kenyan Blogger.
With a growing number of Kenyans becoming successful bloggers, it remains an untold story of how many grew up in an era when there were no computers, limited access to internet and no smartphones. Safaricom has been pivotal in helping change the blogging scene through technological advancements.
Harun Momanyi, an up-and-coming lifestyle and entertainment writer, has interviewed big names from Sauti Sol to Yemi Alade, and today his words just flow through cyberspace into journals and his blog.
But he had a difficult start as an aspiring novelist in a Karagita, a lakeside village in Naivasha. His dad and mum worked on horticulture farms. They lived in one-room that became a furnace under the Rift Valley sun. Sometimes his mother Fridah brought home carnations and put them in a jar, but since there was no fan, they quickly wilted.
Of course, there was no computer at home, no internet, definitely no smartphone. There was pen and paper.
Back in 2011 Harun’s passion was science fiction and fantasy, genres not wildly popular in Africa. In notebook after notebook he jotting down his imaginings and stories of high-concept worlds, Artificial Intelligence, mind uploading and dream creation with nano drugs.
He wrote of aliens from a distant galaxy invading Nairobi in 2013, abducting the smartest teens and turning them against humans.
But how to share his ideas and stories about other worlds and other possibilities?
On some mornings, Harun would ask his mother for a little money for internet access. She also gave him Sh50 matatu fare from her savings so he could visit a small cyber café 15 kilometres away. He walked both ways, skipped lunch and saved the money.
It was a small room by a busy road, with a handful of computers and data cables snaking on the floor, so people had to be careful not to trip and knock out the connection. The owner was a young man and music producer on the side.
In the evenings, it was packed with kids who paid five shillings to play games. High school students thronged the place to access Facebook. Sometimes Harun waited a couple of hours before he could check emails and blog for 20 minutes.
The slow connection cost Sh60 per hour, and he had to make the most out of the few days each month he could get online. That internet connection via Safaricom changed Harun’s life.
“I did not have a definite career path I but I had the drive and kept pushing. The modem at our miniature cyber was my savior,” he says. “It had the power to connect me in Naivasha to the rest of the world. ”
Harun uploaded short stories, Naivasha travel pieces, motivational articles, such as how to land an internship or become a music producer. He posted them on his WordPress blog and shared them on Facebook. Back then, he had only a few subscribers; now he has more than 20,000.
There was more. Harun was also busy on his first book, a sci-fi space odyssey in which the dreams of two lovers are shattered as they are separated for infinity.
This was made possible by a neighbour, his dad’s workmate, who had a desktop computer at home, with a Safaricom modem. His dad dropped him there in the morning.
“I spent the whole day working on the book. My mum, my greatest supporter, bought Safaricom airtime so I could research ancient Egypt, time travel and 21st century space travel technology,” Harun recalls.
Fast forward, Harun is building a career from possibilities of the web. Naivasha’s rundown internet cafe and slow connectios seem like ancient history. Now he uses Safaricom’s affordable data bundles. His Instagram account is now filled with celebrities that he has interviewed.
“I have not lost my passion for science fiction writing and intend to revisit it soon. For now, everything lifestyle and entertainment is what my craft is all about,” he says.
Harun won awards and has interviewed personalities such as Susan Bennett, the voice of Apple’s Siri, Hollywood director Hannah Lux Davis andBET award-winning singer Eddy Kenzo, among others.
The scribe has come a long way from that internet hole-in-the-wall and established himself as someone to watch in the Kenyan entertainment scene and beyond.