The Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) is a community organization that represents a group of Kenyan online content creators. It spearheads several projects such as digital training, the Kenya Blog Awards and citizen journalism website Kenya Monitor.
The group is also organizing Bloggers Camp 2015, a conference to foster community relations for bloggers in Kenya, which will take place in September 2015.
Last month, BAKE released a comprehensive report on the state of blogging and social media in Kenya. The report shows that Kenyan blogging started in 2003 with Mental Acrobatics, the blog owned by the godfather of Kenyan blogging, Daudi Were. The first Twitter account in Kenya was registered in March 2007 by @kamuiri. Currently, there are 4.3 million Kenyans on Facebook, 1.2 million Twitter users and 15,000 registered blogs.
The report notes that there is increasing pressure from the authorities to regulate bloggers. There are about five Kenyans who have been prosecuted because of what they have published online.
Corrie Kisilu caught up with James Wamathai, one of the founders of BAKE, to discuss various issues about the organisation.
Corrie Kisilu (CK): When did BAKE start?
James Wamathai (JW): BAKE was ‘born’ in 2010 after Kennedy Kachwanya floated an idea of a bloggers association to select group of Kenyan bloggers. They then came together and formed what we know now as the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE).
CK: Who are the founders of BAKE and how did you all come together?
JW: BAKE was founded by 42 people and the notable ones being Kennedy Kachwanya, Robert Kunga, Martin Gicheru, Rayhab Gachango, Njeri Wangari, Rebecca Wanjiku, Kahenya Kamunyu, Conrad Akunga and myself. Kennedy Kachwanya started the conversation.
CK: Why BAKE? Why not any other award platform?
JW: In 2012 BAKE came up with the idea of the Kenyan Blog Awards which would act as a reward and recognition mechanism for exceptional Kenyan bloggers blogging on different topics.
Four years down the line it has grown into a competition that has attracted solid sponsorship from organizations such as Airtel, Hivos Foundation, Intel, Samsung, Microsoft among others. The submissions into the competition are now at 1,800+ with over 150,000 people voting.
The awards have also been a catalyst for blogging growth and because of them we've seen many blogs come up that have been inspired by the some of the winners of the blog awards.
CK: How many members are there at BAKE?
JW: We have 500 full members and about 2,000 quasi members. The full members have paid a membership fee and the rest have just registered their blogs with us.
CK: As a founder of BAKE what do you think are the challenges that the association faces?
JW: Not having enough funds to fund our activities especially our digital training. We started taking our trainings to towns outside of Nairobi last year and we've covered about 15 but more work still remains to be done.
CK: What about the bloggers themselves?
JW: Bloggers lack access to funds to expand especially if they decide to make blogging a business.
Some bloggers have also found themselves on the wrong side of the law after rubbing some powerful people the wrong way. Examples here are Allan Wadi and Abraham Mutai.
CK: Is there a recommendation which writers need to have so that they can join BAKE?
JW: They just need to be online content creators who share factual and original content
CK: What can you consider as the greatest achievement as a founder and as a member of BAKE?
JW: We have trained over 1,500 people on blogging, social media and online community management.
In five years we have managed to increase the number of online content creators around Kenya to over 5,000.
We have successfully organized the BAKE Kenyan Blog Awards for 4 years. The awards represent BAKE’s efforts in the promotion of quality content creation.
CK: There is a saying that ‘if you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book,’. What is BAKE doing to encourage a reading culture in Kenya?
JW: I disagree that Kenyans do not read. This stereotype is perpetuated unfairly by people who don't really have any facts to back this claim. Blogs in Kenya are widely read and the growth of street bookstores point to the fact that Kenyans do read. The quality of what they read is another story. But they read.
CK: Other than getting awards, do bloggers benefit from BAKE as a conglomerate for online content creators?
JW: We train bloggers on how to be better online content creators.
We empower bloggers by linking them with advertising from brands through our commercial arm Bloggers Media Limited (BML).
CK: What are the future plans for BAKE in Kenya and Africa?
JW: We plan to take our digital training workshops to all the 47 counties in Kenya.
We plan to set up a digital academy to impart digital skills to young Kenyans who are looking to be employed or start businesses in the digital sphere,
We plan to set up a University Blog Awards in order to encourage and reward content creators who are in university students.
We plan to set up more University Chapters so that we can support young online content creators directly. Currently we have two, Daystar University and Kimathi University.
In Africa, we would like to help set up blogging associations in all the African countries and then create linkages that will help unite Africans and tell the African story.