Category Archives: Blog

Zebras at Sanctuary Farm.

How to Earn from Tourism in East Africa: Invest in these Digital Opportunities

Tourism contributes immensely to the economy of East African countries. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Report, travel and tourism activities in Kenya accounted for 399,000 employment opportunities in 2016. Indirectly, this industry contributed to over 1m jobs in Kenya. In Tanzania, the report about Tanzania notes, in 2016, travel and tourism contributed to 1,389,000 jobs whether directly or indirectly.

The digital age has increased investment opportunities in the travel and tourism industry. You don’t have to quit your 8 to 5 to make some money from the lucrative tourism industry. Remember, market forces affecting traditional businesses also affect online investments. Therefore, set up your investment and watch it endure all the forces in the market.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Become a host

The world is opening up to personalised accommodation outside hotels and other traditional accommodation facilities. Have you heard about home stay? Well, this buzzword refers to an alternative accommodation service for tourists, in a local’s home. Both the host and the guest benefit from such a set-up. The host earns financially while the guest saves on accommodation and stays in a homely setting.  Popular websites where you can list your room are Homestay and Airbnb.  In some, such as Airbnb, the guest pays the company, a percentage is deducted as commission and you get the rest.

There are of course concerns about the safety of guests and the lack of stringent scrutiny of guests to protect hosts. Other issues raised around the world are by landlords opposed to this business-centred room sharing in residential houses.  Despite these arguments against home stays, this type of accommodation service is flourishing. You will be amazed by the number of rooms for rent listed by East Africans on websites like Airbnb.

You can become a host in any part of East Africa, as long as you have a comfortable room for guests to stay. The room should have sufficient amenities for a goodnight’s sleep. It should be in a secure neighbourhood.

If you live in a one bedroom house, a bedsitter or other small property that cannot host a guest, you can rent another house or apartment and furnish it for your guests.

Creating a profile and listing your room is not a guarantee you will receive guests, but here are some ways to improve your listing.

  • Get reviews. When you host, request every guest to review your property online because positive reviews boost authenticity.
  • Fill out your listing profile to its entirety from pictures to your contact details.
  • Have a cook on call or available to your guests. Some hosts charge room rates inclusive of meals.
  • Undertake all the verification requirements by the website you are listing your room. They might ask for personal details like your email address, ID number and credit card number.
  • Indicate the precise location of your room for rent. For example, if you are offering space in Ngara, Nairobi, the actual coordinates of your room are not Nairobi but Ngara.
  • Indicate whether you are offering a one-time space or it is available anytime.
  • Get quality, current images of your room. Include a photo of the room, the living area, the kitchen, the bathroom and any other facility available to guests.
  • List all the amenities clearly. For example, there is a difference between a room for rent with an en-suite bathroom and one with a shared bathroom.
  • Price your room depending on the amenities provided.

House sitting

Most East Africans living in the city have another house in the rural areas. In Kenya’s slang, we call it ushago or ocha. So, when you leave the city for your rural home, rent out your house to a house sitter. Easter and Christmas are great seasons to make some money from house sitting. There will be someone to watch your house and maintain it while you enjoy your holiday in ocha. When listing your house, on websites like Trusted House Sitters, indicate the duration you will be gone. For example, a house sitter wanted from 12th December – 3rd January.

Become a local guide

Local guides are in demand in major towns as well as in the countryside. For example, a person with training in tourism or with vast experience in tour guiding can join Tours by Locals and offer regular guided tours.

On Tours by Locals, you design packages and itineraries and the company takes care of marketing and revenue collection.  You can offer guided tours of local attractions or offer advice to visitors looking for restaurants to eat while in the city. The former requires extensive professional training in tour guiding.

Sell pictures

Sell your collection of pictures to media and advertising agencies, travel websites and individuals. You can do so online through websites like Shutterstock and Getty Images. You must own the images you want to sell, they should be new (not used elsewhere), and they must be high resolution images. Images of wildlife, buildings and nature are in high demand. Pictures that show actual faces require proof of consent from people in the pictures to avoid lawsuits later.

We cannot all work directly in the travel and tourism industry, but we can make some money from opportunities arising in this sector.


Please note that the examples used on this article are just to give you an idea about investment opportunities in the travel and hospitality industry. I am not endorsing those companies in any way, and you must do your research before taking up their offers.

Share this post
flags of eastern africa

32 Historic Hotels in Eastern Africa

The oldest hotels in Eastern Africa were built by white settlers, merchants or by the government. When comparing over 30 of these old hotels, in addition to iconic structures, the location also stands out. Certainly, one of the reasons for the choice of location was the view. For example, Mount Kenya Safari Club is within Mount Kenya, and Grogan’s Castle has a spectacular view of attractions in and around Tsavo Park.

Another lot of the oldest hotels in Eastern Africa are in the main cities. Sarova Stanley is one of them; a historic building basking in Nairobi’s modern skyline. However, it seems that in the 50s, it was also possible to put up a hotel when royals visited. The only problem with hotels that served such purposes is that they aged as soon as the guest left, governments changed and modernism happened. No one budgeted for regular maintenance of such hotels. Hence, the important spot in history of such hotels is not enough to protect them from demolition. For example, Ripon Falls Hotel, a 1950s property built to house Queen Elizabeth when she visited Uganda to inaugurate Owens Falls Dam, is an abandoned, dilapidated hotel about to be brought down.

But, as more famous brands fly in to invest in East Africa’s hospitality industry, countries can at least salvage what is left of historic hotels. Hence, more historic hotels in Kenya and Tanzania are now under the management of brands like Hyatt. For example, Hyatt took over the management of the famous Kili in Tanzania in 2011, from Kempinski Hotels.

Another alternative when there’s no money in coffers to maintain these old hotels is to convert them to this or other office. On the same note, some hotels have been flattened for the construction of sleek skyscrapers.  For example, Meru’s Pig & Whistle was flattened to pave way for a modern complex.  Often times, such changes have met opposition from the public and activists, sometimes leading to tedious court battles to save historical monuments. For instance, activists went to court to demand the protection of the structure of Forodhani Hotel, which was one of the oldest hotels in Tanzania.

There are few to no old hotels within most of the countries’ national parks probably because it was still untamed Africa with thousands of wild species and no gazetted conservancies. That is certainly incomparable to the camps and lodges sprouting in parks and forests now.

But, it’s not doom and gloom yet, so let’s look at the oldest hotels in Eastern Africa. These are hotels that have celebrated a silver jubilee and then some.

  1. Keekorok Lodge – 1962


Keekorok is the oldest lodge in Maasai Mara’s plains.

  1. Lake Naivasha Country Club – 1937


Even in the 1930s, people knew how to splurge. The owners built it lavishly on a 55 acre property, on Lake Naivasha’s shores. In the 1930s, it was often called the Lake Hotel.

  1. Keren Hotel – 1899


It is also known as Albergo Italia.

  1. Hamasien Hotel – 1920


British officers stayed at this hotel during British rule in Eritrea.

  1. Mount Kenya Safari Club – 1938


It was Mawingu House in 1938 before it became Mawingu Hotel in 1939 and Mount Kenya Safari Club in 1959 when it was bought by William Holden.

It was also one of the first properties in Nanyuki.

  1. Grogan Castle Hotel – 1930


This castle’s view of Tsavo, Lake Jipe and other attractions must have been the reason for its location.

  1. Nyali International Beach Hotel – 1946


It is one of the largest hotels in Mombasa, with 173 rooms built on a large beach-front property.

  1. Treetops Lodge – 1932


The Queen stayed at this hotel before her ascent to the throne in the 1950s. This lodge is an old-fashioned tree-house on the outside but a splendid 32 rooms and 3 suites lodge.

  1. Aberdare Country Club – 1937


This country club occupies The Steep, which was the home of an English couple.

  1. The Giraffe Manor – 1932


The Giraffe Manor, where dining with a giraffe happens literary, started as a hunting lodge. Several owners later, a couple bought it to turn it into the lodge it is today.

  1. White Rhino Hotel – 1910


Built for the European settlers, Africans gained entry when it changed ownership in 1970. Change in ownership also grew the number of rooms from 27 rooms to 102 rooms.

  1. Sportsman Arms Hotel – 1950


I doubt whether there is someone who grew up in Nanyuki and doesn’t know Sportsman Arms Hotel. At least most young people born in the 80s may not have walked into this hotel but they must have danced the Sunday evening away at the Buccaneer Club next door.

  1. The Outspan Hotel Nyeri – 1926


Interestingly, the couple that built this hotel bet a bottle of champagne for suggestions of the best name. So, a lady suggested Outspan and the couple liked it.

  1. The Arusha Hotel – 1894


This hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Tanzania. From the years of horse drawn carriages to date… Guests through the years have included Baron Von Blixen, Miriam Makeba, and Hollywood’s Will & Jada Smith.

  1. Masindi Hotel – 1923


Masindi Hotel is situated in Masindi, and it was built by the East African Railways & Harbours Company.

  1. Fairmont the Norfolk Hotel – 1904


Just minutes away from Nairobi’s city centre are the 170 rooms & suites, a modern health club, heated pool and several restaurants & bars of Fairmont the Norfolk Hotel.

  1. Sarova Stanley – 1902


Sarova is one of the oldest hotels in Kenya. On its list of affluent guests are Queen Victoria, Picasso and R.A Fessenden. How about that?

  1. Hotel Ambassadeur Nairobi – 1962


This hotel is one of the landmarks in Nairobi. It has 83 rooms & suites all sound-proofed to withstand the noise of the chaotic bus terminals beside it.

  1. Sarova Panafric Hotel – 1965


Panafric Hotel sits on a hill facing Nairobi’s city centre. Did you know it was founded to celebrate pan-African movement? Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo, inaugurated it.

  1. Kampala Speke Hotel – 1925


This hotel has undergone several renovations since the 1920s but its signature structure is still intact. It is named after John Hanning Speke who was the first European to see Lake Victoria.

  1. Grand Imperial Hotel Kampala – 1920


All governors during the colonial period visited the Grand Imperial Hotel.

  1. Ripon Falls Hotel – 1954 (now derelict)


To inaugurate Owens Falls Dam in Uganda, Queen Elizabeth needed accommodation worth her stature, and Jinja didn’t have any, so they put up Ripon Falls Hotel.

  1. Kampala Sheraton Hotel – 1967


Almost every change of government in Uganda has seen a change in name of this hotel.  It began as Apolo Hotel after Apollo Milton Obote who was the country’s Prime Minister, then became Kampala International Hotel during the reign of Idi Amin, and back to Apolo Hotel when the Uganda National Liberation Army. Now leased, it is a Sheraton Hotels and Resorts franchise.

  1. New Africa Hotel – 1906


As one of the oldest hotels in East Africa built over the site of another hotel, New Africa Hotel sits on the site of Hotel Kaiserhof that was one of the oldest hotels in Tanzania.

  1. Hyatt Regency the Kilimanjaro – 1965


It was built in 1965 by the government; most locals call it Kili. Several baptisms later, The Kilimanjaro is now Hyatt Regency The Kilimanjaro, under Hyatt’s management.

  1. Zanzibar Hotel – 1896


It housed the German troops towards the end of 1800s. The earliest record of the name Zanzibar Hotel was in 1902. Zanzibar Hotel has had a change of ownership, and names, through the years.

  1. Ghion Hotel – 1951


The palace of Emperor Haile Selassie I is just next door.

  1. Itegue Taitu Hotel – 1906


The wife of Emperor Menelik II, Taitu Betul, built this hotel.  However, much of the historic hotel burnt down in 2015.

  1. Hotel Muhabura – Between 1954 and 1956


It was known as Hotel Mimosa before its second owner named it Hotel Muhabura in 1968.

  1. Grand Holiday Villa – Late 1800


From businessmen to rulers and royals, this hotel has hosted them all. Previously, it was called the Grand Hotel.

  1. Acropole Hotel Khartoum – 1952


It rose from a 10 room hotel to become one of the top hotels in Sudan. However, the first building was destroyed in a bomb attack in 1988. A new building was set up opposite the previous site.

  1. Selam Hotel – 1937


Declaration of Eritrea’s independence was done at this hotel, in 1991.

Some countries such as Djibouti and Burundi don’t seem to have hotels celebrating a silver jubilee by now (at least that’s what Google databases suggest).

Did I leave out any old hotel in Eastern Africa?


References for this article include the websites of all the properties listed as well as these sources–Dar-s-historic-buildings-get-a-new-lease-/-/1840374/2235648/-/kcsl6dz/-/index.html

Share this post
Three chapatis on a plate.

The Ultimate Guide to Breakfast in East Africa

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Sadly, it doesn’t get as much attention in most homes in East Africa. There’s school to run to before the sun’s rays pierce the sky, there’s a shamba to tend to, there are cows to milk, a bus to catch to work, etc.

Additionally, some homesteads can only afford one meal in a day, while others distribute meager financial resources across three meals. When all of these issues come into play, a hearty breakfast in East Africa might just be a cup of tea and a slice of bread.  Hence, it would be deceitful to parade three course meal set-ups as the breakfast in an average East African home.

Instead, here is a factual display of the most popular foods for breakfast in East Africa.



Most homesteads serve chai and bread or chai and traditional foods like arrowroots and sweet potatoes. However, there are homesteads that can afford a cup of tea and nothing more. Spices added to tea in most homes and hotels are cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. Masala chai spice mix has pepper and cloves while to make Ethiopian tea you can add nutmeg too. The tea industry has also revolutionised. Homesteads don’t need sieves anymore if they can afford tea bags.

A glass of tea and a kettle.



The beauty of East Africa is its range of fresh, organic produce. I envy homesteads that rear milk producing livestock because they enjoy the best milk while city dwellers have to wait for it to be delivered or processed and sold in supermarkets.  There’s cow milk, goat milk and camel milk. You can then choose how you wish to start your day.

A glass of milk on a kitchen table.

Maziwa mala

Butter milk

Maziwa mala is quite popular among livestock rearing communities.  Some call it maziwa lala while others say maziwa mala. It is easy to prepare it at home with even less than a litre of milk. Mala is not a conventional meal served for breakfast in East Africa because more people prefer to have it for lunch, supper or in between.

Mursik is perhaps the most popular variation to the traditional sour milk recipe of East Africa, and it is the signature drink of the Kalenjin community in Kenya.  The Kalenjin community prepares mursik in a guard lined with the fine charcoal of a tree known as itet. In about five days, the pre-boiled milk ferments into delicious cultured buttermilk with an authentic smoke aroma. This drink is served to all athletes of the Kalenjin community as soon as they arrive at the airport after an international athletics meet.

Mala’s best accompaniment is ugali.

An almost full glass of buttermilk in-front of a calabash with pieces of ugali.

Strungi (black tea)

With just water, a few tablespoons of sugar and tea leaves, you can make something to have for breakfast.  Strungi was often perceived as a poor man’s to alternative chai, but it is now a fashionable drink with herbal and flavoured tea options.

An almost full glass of black tea.


Samosas are available in most restaurants and from street food vendors in major towns and cities. Options are samosas with pepper or without, samosas with meat or with vegetables and potatoes. What’s your pick?

Three meat samosas on a platter.



You can have it fresh or fermented.  Uji is for everyone from toddlers to invalids. The combination of great foods in uji makes it highly nutritious, and one of the top beverages served for breakfast in East Africa. Some communities have it made of maize flour only while others add sorghum, millet, omena, beans, cassava, flax seeds and dried green bananas. A bowl or mug of uji in the morning, with all those ingredients in there, will have you going until the next meal.

A calabash of millet porridge.


Bone soup

What do you do when you receive a generous share of meat after a family goat-eating ceremony? You make bone soup. Throw everything in there, boil it in a pressure cooker or in a cooking pot for some hours and you have delicious soup and a few pieces of meat and bones on the side. Bone soup is one of the foods served to new mums as they recuperate.  The mineral content is unquestionable.

A glass of bone soup and a bowl of meat.

Toast Mayai

French toast

Years ago toast mayai was the chef’s choice in all neighbourhood kiosks masquerading as hotels. It would either be chai na mandazi, chai na chapati, chai and toast or chai na toast mayai. If you needed something better than that, you would have to prepare it in your house.  Toast mayai wasn’t something made out of 1 cm bread slices we have today. I guess by then Eliotts and Kenblest had not bought a knife to slice their loaves that’s why we had to do so with our knives, and quarrel over the two crusted edge slices.

Three slices of toast mayai


Chapati is mainly served as an accompaniment to stew but it can also be eaten for breakfast.  This flat bread is another of the Indian influences in East African cuisine, and it is also available as street food in most urban estates.

Three chapatis on a plate.


In Ethiopia, you can turn flat bread known as kita (chapati in the rest of East Africa) into a spicy breakfast meal. Pieces of the flat bread are mixed with butter and berbere (a blend of spices like coriander, nutmeg, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, chili and cardamom).

Chechebsa(kita bread) in a bowl.


Mandazi is authentic East African confectionery. Prices range from KSh 5 to KSh25 on the streets but it may be more expensive in a city restaurant.

Two mandazi in a glass bowl.

Boiled eggs

This might be the simplest food to prepare for breakfast. As you get ready in the morning, boil an egg for about 15 minutes and have it with kachumbari. If that sounds like too much work, buy it on your way to work. Boiled eggs are among the most popular street foods in Nairobi.

A boiled egg on a plate with salad.

Maji ya matunda

Fruit juice

Since fresh fruits are available at the doorstep in most parts of East Africa, a glass of fruit juice can help you start your day. However, fruit juice requires a blender and electricity so you may not find this breakfast food in rural areas or in low-income homesteads. Instead, a bowl of fruits or just one type of fruit may be served.

Honey pouring into a glass container with mango pieces.



East Africa grows a large percentage of the world’s coffee, though most locally grown coffee is for export. Ethiopia takes the trophy for local coffee consumption with its world famous brews. Coffee is also a popular beverage served in offices in major cities in East Africa. You can have instant coffee, or buy beans and brew them the way you like your coffee.

A mug of coffee with milk.

Fried eggs

With about KSh 12, you can buy an egg in most cities. The price is considerably lower in smaller towns and in rural areas. There are also homesteads that keep a few chickens either for income or for subsistence.  Hence, some homesteads serve fried eggs with tea in the morning.

Fried eggs on a plate.


Spice up a basic fried egg with some fresh tomatoes, to make a larger breakfast meal.

Omelette on a frying pan.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a healthier alternative to bread in most cities but in rural Kenya where sweet potatoes are grown in plenty, it is the only alternative to bread.

An unpeeled sweet potato and some diced pieces.

Arrow roots

Nduma, as it is called in Kenya, is one of the staple foods for breakfast in central Kenya.  It is mostly served with sweet potatoes and tea/milk.

Diced, and unpeeled arrow roots on a plate.


With just flour, sugar, a tablespoon of cooking oil and an egg, you have ingredients to make something for breakfast.

Honey dripping on a folded pancake.


When you have leftover injera in Eritrea or Ethiopia, you can spice it up for an East African breakfast with berbere.

A bowl of firfir.


Ugali is great for breakfast as well as for lunch and supper with some stew. Most homesteads serve leftover ugali with tea in the morning.

Pieces of ugali on a platter.


Kaimati is a variation of the mandazi recipe.

Kaimati on a platter.


Bread is the alternative to ugali, sweet potatoes, cassava and arrow roots. Most people living in urbans areas wake up to tea and bread, which makes it one of the top foods for breakfast in East Africa. Margarine, honey, jam and other spreads are not available in all homes across the region.

Slices of bread with margarine, jam and honey.


Ethiopia is one of the largest wheat producers in Africa, and that may be one of the reasons for its high consumption of it. Genfo is not uji like we know it in Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania. It is thick and mainly made from wheat or barley unlike in the counties I mentioned above where the main ingredients are maize flour, sorghum and millet. Genfo is served with yoghurt on the side or a mixture of butter and spices poured into the middle of the mound of uji.

A plate of genfo with berbere sauce.


In Uganda, you can always start your day with a heavy meal containing matoke (green bananas), a variety of vegetables and meat.  Katogo’s main ingredient is matoke; everything else added into your plate depends with what’s available.

These are among the top foods to expect for breakfast in East Africa.


Share this post