The Thing About

The thing about focuses on different topics and issues from an African perspective


Credit can make or break you. In the US it’s that pesky little thing that can determine whether you get a loan, buy a car, a house etc. I don’t know if we have a similar system in Kenya... I’m not at that level of adult yet. In Kenya, credit is literally the thing standing between you, life, and death.

Credit or airtime is money that you put into your phone that allows you to call, text or browse the internet. If you’re monied, you can probably afford and should have the post-paid option that allows you to pay at the end of the month.

When you move to a different country it’s usually the small things that you miss. Like how you can buy the credit from the store, the cute little cards the credit sometimes comes in, how you scratch the card to reveal the numbers, putting in the credit, the cute little cards they come in… you know small things like that.

It’s all fun and games until you come back and you actually have to purchase the credit. Yes, credit now comes in different amounts. You could probably get it for 10 Kshs, but really what are you going to do with 10 bob… other than calling someone and hurriedly saying “call me back” three times before they finally understand what you're saying. On top of that, most of the apps on our phones require internet. How are you going to snap or post on IG without credit?

 Don’t even get me started on the sham that is bundles. With the amount of browsing, low-key stalking I do on social media, the measly bundles that I can afford are not enough.

I was most concerned with credit when I was in high school. I had to be able to call my friends, Whatsapp them, text them, snap them. I needed to do it all. These days I need credit so I can call my family members and the four friends I have in Nairobi. There is barely any need for me to have credit. In fact, most of my credit goes towards bundles so I can look at tweets and what not.

I have never needed credit as much as I did the past few nights that I’ve been trying to call my bank. My bank is conveniently located in the US, and as we all know it is not cheap to call abroad. Both times my bank was conveniently quite busy with a longer wait time than the credit I had. I'll admit that I played myself the first time I called and my credit finished, I was broke. So I put it off till the next day.

 I buy some more credit and try to figure out a way to make the credit kind of last. I’m not sure I actually figured it out but it’s going well enough even though the wait time is ridiculous.

I keep checking the amount of time that has elapsed because I calculated that I had 38 minutes worth of talk time before it actually started eating into my credit. Mind you, I am a journalist in training, I don’t math. My calculations were probably hella incorrect. Before the 38 minute mark, a representative picks up the call. We do the whole routine, then she tells me my problem is a tech problem, she’s going to have to redirect my call.

I don’t sweat it, I still have some time on my erroneous calculations. The wait for the tech guy was even longer than the wait to talk to the rep. I spent an extra 20 or so minutes waiting to be attended to, while constantly checking whether or not I still have credit.

 Why is it that bad things always happen after you stop checking?

 Finally! A dude from tech picks up my call. I’m praising God, thinking how I can go to bed because this call is obviously taking place at 1 AM. I’m telling him what the problem is…

‘I’m locked out of my account blah blah blah’

That’s when I hear the dreaded tee-tee-tee sound that lets you know your credit is almost done. The beep that gives you just enough time to tell the person you’re talking to “my credit is finished let me call you back.”

I begin panicking, if the credit finishes, the phone hangs up. If the phone hangs up, the customer care guy is not going to call me back. If the dude doesn’t call me back, I have to do the whole process again. If I have to do the whole process again, I have to buy even more credit. THE CYCLE NEVER ENDS!

I’m on my phone trying to buy credit as I try to talk to the guy. I’m giving him my account number


 I finish giving him the number. I’m putting in the amount of credit I want, I’m almost on the home stretch. He’s asking me for my name, I’m giving him my name and inputting my pin on the phone. He’s asking for my recent transactions. He’s waiting for me to respond. He’s not waiting for me to respond because my credit is finished.

The line is dead.

I have never been so frustrated in my life. I probably have but I  can’t think of another time right now. I was so close. So close to greatness. If I had gotten that credit before my other one finished, I'd have been a hero, a champion for those whose credit had finished at inopportune times. I would have been a survivor. Instead of this shell of a human who is mad.

Who am I mad at? 
'm glad you asked!

I should be mad at the bank, I got locked out of my account because I changed the password after someone tried to purchase a phone using my card. Where were they when this person was making unauthorized authorizations on my account? But I’m only slightly irritated with them. 

I’m actually quite mad at Safaricom. It’s been so many years, so many years of having the credit stolen right under my nose but no time has ever stung as much as it did that night. Someone tried to steal my money - which is quite negligible - to buy a phone. I’m just trying to make sure I still got my money but y’all can’t let me be great.

Why can’t we have very low rates at these ungodly hours that I am trying to call the bank? Why?

Bob, tell me why we can’t have unlimited calls between certain hours. I know Kenyans will take advantage but even then there will be a point they have to say “ata mimi wacha niende ni lale.”

There’s a limit to our madness.

I used my Bonga points, which are also quite negligible, to buy 6 minutes worth of talk time. A measly 6 minutes. It expired before I could even use it. How can you rob the poor when they are already down?

Someone tried to rob me and you're going to add insult to injury. I think to remedy this situation you should just send me 5000 Kshs credit and we call it a day. Otherwise, I’m going to see and finally understand what the hell Telkom has been advertising.