Kenya and the Ubiquitous Cell Phone

Written by Paul Steinbrueck

Samuel receives a wheelchair in rural KenyaOne of the first technological things I noticed about Kenya is the wide-spread use of cell phones.  Just about everyone has a cell phone.

Monday we went to deliver a wheelchair to an 8 year old boy named Samuel who has spina bifida.  He lives with his mother, Mimi, and his 4 year old sister Evalyn in an 8” x 8” one room house made of wood, cardboard, and newspaper.  We could see the sunlight coming through gaps between the walls and the metal roof.  The father of these two precious children is no longer around, and I imagine it must be very difficult for this young mother to support herself and her children.  They don’t even have electricity.  Yet, she had a cell phone.  She even called us today to thank us again for the wheelchair and let us know how well Samuel was adjusting to it.

They don’t use monthly plans like we do in the US.  Instead they buy credits for as little as 20 shillings (about 70 cents US) which gives them a small number of calls and text messages.  Just because someone has a cell phone doesn’t mean they have any credits.

Our friends Joe and Molly Bail use their cell phone all the time.  They are constantly talking with Daniel and Victor who work with them to coordinate visits to the various places they do ministry – the hospital, the landfill, churches, and the homes of the people they are helping.  They also get lots of calls from people in need, asking for food, for help with health issues, and so forth.

Victor and his cell phoneI chatted last night with Victor, who is a Kenyan and serves in ministry with Joe and Molly, about his cell phone.  He talked about how cell phones have made a huge impact on society in Kenya.  Very few people have landlines in Kenya, especially in rural areas.  Cell phones enable people to coordinate business and apply for jobs.  Victor is able to keep in touch with 7 brothers and sisters and his mother who lives in a village about 350 km away.

Cell phones are also used to transfer money in Kenya, sort of an electronic Western Union.  A person can go into their local cell phone office and put money on their phone.  Then they can transfer that money to another cell phone customer.  That person can then go into their local cell phone office and get the money.  This is huge because so many people are in such need, and one person who has a job is able to help others (particularly family) who don’t regardless of how far away they live.

In ministry, cell phones are absolutely critical because serving others is all about coordinating – coordinating those in need with the people and resources that can help them.  It’s possible to do that without cell phones, but so many more people are able to be served and shown the love of God with them.

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.


  • I always wondered what happened to all the cell phones stolen in the UK. Now I know.
    I wonder how many other people are bored stiff hearing about deserving Africans. The whole country is a basket case with the chief blacks exploiting their fellows and the stupid aid givers.

  • viv, that’s great. I’m glad to see you’re so compassionate towards people created in the image of God who are facing hunger and disease. Yes, there are problems with exploitation and corruption in Africa. Shouldn’t we be sympathetic towards those being exploited?

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