Life Sucks in Africa

Wiza Jalakasi
5 min readOct 20, 2016

… my typical day in tech on the dark continent.

Home Sweet Home

Most days I wake up pretty late. 8am on a good day. The first thing I do is reach out for my phone. I check the time, and scroll through a series of notifications to find out whether or not a server just exploded, or more realistically, if a Russian bot finally discovered the SSH port of my production server and client emails have been down for 6 hours.

I passively run a web hosting business in my spare time for extra income. It’s not fun and it means I can rarely ever be offline, but it helps to pay the bills. UptimeRobot says all the monitors are up, so it’s safe to start my day.

Sysadmin for breakfast?

I head across to my bedside work desk, and hit play on the keyboard. Spotify continues the third song from my “Feel Good” playlist and interrupts with an ad after. I’m annoyed. Spotify doesn’t officially work in Kenya, but I have Unlocator (a nifty little service that makes me appear to be connecting from the United States — sort of like a VPN but with what appears to be a DNS implementation? I don’t know, but it works like a charm).

It’s great, because then I can unblock all these fancy US services but it annoys me that Spotify still needs a US-issued card for subscribing to premium.

<rant>If you’re reading this, Spotify, I am a lead that you can’t convert into a customer even though I love your services and have the capacity to pay for them. Fix it? I know there’s probably a legal/business issue about this that I don’t know about, but still.</rant>

It’s terrible. If I were elsewhere in the world, I’d have been able to pay for this incredible music service that I already access for free anyway.

Not much of a breakfast guy either, so most mornings I catch up on the latest news or stream last night’s episode of the Daily Show. My man Trevor made it so you know we gotta show support.

The stream buffers for half a second before it presents a crisp full HD (1080p) image. I’m infuriated by the speed.

“This would never happen in South Korea.”

It’s absolutely incredible that Zuku charges the equivalent of $57/month for a reliable, unlimited 30Mbps fibre-optic connection. Ridiculous really. And to think their technical staff respond within hours of a reported issue! Incredibly inefficient.

Trevor’s having a go at Trump. It’s brilliant. This year American politics has been just as entertaining as African politics. The experts say there’s no chance Trump will win, and I trust them. After all, they were spot on about Brexit.

I get a notification from Uber. My scheduled ride is 3 minutes away. There are always Ubers <5 mins away from where I live. I wish they were closer. I’d settle for 45 seconds.

I call Ian and Calvin and they confirm we’re splitting the ride and will be ready to go in 5 minutes. They live right down the road and we all work in the same place. The Uber arrives promptly and we get on board. The commute to work is a 45-minute air-conditioned nightmare through some of the worst traffic on the continent and the dusty village road that is Thika Road. The government calls it a superhighway but, camaan, really?

Thika Road — Photo credit: Dilemaxx

We discuss the day’s events in the Uber ride. I sense I’m going to be hungry soon so I open up the Jumia Food app and place an order for a single rack of ribs from Big Square. Jumia Food guarantees delivery within 1 hour for most restaurants or your next meal free. It’s ridiculous, so much for fast food!

My order processes smoothly and one MPESA transaction later, my meal is on my way to me. It’ll probably arrive a few minutes after I get to the office.

I spend most of the day fighting to get a decent WiFi connection to finish up my tasks for the day. Our office collaborates on Google Docs so it’s a pain to work without Internet. So backwards. If only there were less active WiFi access points around the office, getting a stable connection wouldn’t be a problem.

The workday proceeds smoothly and I manage to finish up by 6pm. Ian, Calvin and I discuss the plan for the evening. Brew Bistro? Probably. It’s a rooftop bar and lounge in the middle of a village called Westlands.

Photo credit:

We relax and discuss the proposals we should write to USAid to fund our technology ideas. After all, they’re here to help and we should utilise that altruistic American spirit to develop our continent. We have such a long way to go.

The night proceeds and quickly devolves into drum-beating and ululation as a crowd of imbibers join the fray.

It’s after midnight and I’m exhausted. A quick stop at the KFC nearby for some Zinger Wings before bed. I know it’s unhealthy, but life is short. I take the last Uber ride home and settle down on the couch.

I find a Netflix documentary on corruption and poverty in Africa and listen to it as I fall asleep, somewhat bemused.



Wiza Jalakasi

🇲🇼 Africa fintech, travel, love, culture, life / 🎮 Gamer / Merchant Payments Executive / 📩 social@wiza.gq