Torosei sub-location on the southern side of Kajiado County does not show up on Google Maps. At least not by the end of 2016.
Etched on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, it is a backwater rural area where much of life remains like it has been for years: men still drive out herds of cattle to graze in pastoralist fashion, women are still guardians of the manyattas, and communal living is the norm rather than the exception.
The community still retains much of their culture and has not been swayed by foreign influences. In the market, traders mainly sell shukas, sandals, pangas, and foodstuff.
Torosei also happens to be far-flung from urban centers, trading centers, highways and other forms of infrastructure that attract modernity. This explains why this little village in the middle of nowhere does not exist in the algorithms of Google Maps.
So it was that Torosei just never fell in line with mobile phone network spread… until late last year, when Safaricom constructed a base station to connect the dusty hamlet to the rest of the world.
Millions of Kenyans may not have known what difference that single tower rising to the skies would make here, but the local assistant chief, Paul Keikoi, knows it only too well.
For the last 16 years – since the first Safaricom mast went up in Nairobi – residents of Torosei have only heard about mobile phone connectivity, or traveled for miles northwards to Il Bisil town on the Nairobi-Namanga highway, to access it.
“We have never enjoyed (a mobile telephony) network,” said Mr Keikoi when the Torosei mast went live in December 2016. “This will always be remembered in our history.”
Wilson Makamba, a resident, says the network will transform education since parents can pay fees more easily through the M-PESA platform, as well as transform business and security.
“We had no way of reaching the authorities in Kajiado. Now it’s going to be easy to reach anyone, including the county commissioner, in case we have incidents,” says Makamba.
Keikoi says a strong and reliable cell phone network will make his work as a provincial administrator and security official easier because he can communicate with his bosses with ease, which he says is very important because his is a border sub-location.
Another resident, Winster Leng’en, could not agree more. In fact, the arrival of connectivity struck the right chord for him, for he is a musician.
“We’ve been troubled for a while,” he says. “It has been difficult for us to grow because it hasn’t been easy to reach us and invite us to big events. Today, this has changed. It’s now easy for us.”
Safaricom’s Head of Department, Regional Sales and Operations for Nairobi East, George Mbyuki witnessed the commissioning of the mast, and said his team was “happy to bring network” to the long-forgotten area.
“Our objective is to be as close to the customer as possible,” said Mbyuki. “It’s more of pushing the transformation of lives agenda as an organisation.”
That agenda was aptly captured by Bob Collymore, CEO Safaricom, as he celebrated the difference each base station makes in the lives of those who use it for communication.
“One base station can transform lives,” said Collymore, “(and) several base stations can transform economies. We now have over 4,000 towers connecting Kenyans, from Turbo to Turkana.”
For assistant chief Keikoi, there is a whole world of difference now in Torosei: “To send money to my children who are in school, I don’t have to travel to Il Bisil or Kajiado town. Now I can send it from the comfort of my bed to Eldoret, Nairobi or anywhere in the world!”