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Friday, September 28, 2012


Safaricom, Airtel, Orange and yuMobile will starting Sunday 30, 2012 will begin exchanging blacklists of bogus handsets to be switched off in batches of 20,000.

Safaricom is targeting 680,000 users initially while Airtel has earmarked 130,000 at the outset. Figures for the other two are yet unavailable.

The figures are supposed to be much higher. Airtel for example is reckoned to have about 800,000 counterfeit phone users while Safaricom could go as high as 2million plus.

The game according to Safaricom insiders, has been complicated however, by handset-maker and vendor Nokia, still the dominant handheld device in Kenya.

Safaricom sources say Nokia a couple of years back made a mistake by releasing huge batches of handsets with idential IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers.

As such, many users on the operators network share IMEI numbers.

Airtel boss Shivan Bhargave is said to have protested to the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) who allowed operators to hold off on switching off such phones.

However, those handsets showing a bunch of zeros (0000000) will be cut off without further debate.

To check your IMEI number dial *#06#. You can then send the IMEI number to 115, the common mobile operators database.

The process of switching off is expected to be rolling for about 10-15 hours with 20,000 users being switched off at a time.

It is not clear how the issue of the duplicate IMEIs will be handled.

"It is only Nokia with that problem," Safaricom sources said.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Coca-Cola to launch Coke Zero in Kenya next week

So Coca-Cola, after taking what it deemed a misinformed beating in the press about certain ingredients in its soft-drinks, convened bloggers in Nairobi to hammer in a few home truths.

Bloggers, a yet-untamed quantity capable of terrorizing a brand online, heard terms like caramelization, enzymatic browning, emulsification, food-grade carbohydrates, subject-matter experts and a bunch of other terms that brand managers use.

The whole session boiled down to this:

1. Coke is healthy.

2. Coke will launch a brand this week that carries absolutely no calories so if you are settling down to a long session with Bacardi Black or Myers, this would be the best choice for your Rum and Coke, thus spake Peter Njonjo, the GM Coca-Cola EA.
Peter Njonjo (middle)

The Beef

In July, a consumer body in the US released a report claiming that Coke sold in places like Kenya contained much higher levels of a cancer-causing substance called 4-MethylImidazole (4MI).

Whereas in California, only 4micrograms of the 4MI are allowed in a normal 12-ounce drink, and to carry a cancer warning for any drink containing above that level, in places like Brazil, Coke was found to have 267mcgs.

Here's how different countries stack up:

The Riposte

Njonjo of Coke reckons that when we talk about additives, preservatives and so on, it will be important to understand the role of each.

For instance, while emulsifiers and stabilizers help the manufacturing process of soda, other additives are simply colours - imagine for example, drinking a clear beverage that has the taste of Fanta Orange. The colour is part of branding.

The much publicised 4MI, is but an every day by-product of heating food-grade carbohydrates much in the same way sugar heated in a pan turns brown.

This process is called caramelization and produces dark yellowish-brown colours.

"As we continue heating, there is a possibility that we get a different product like 4-MI," Philip Ndemwa, a researcher at Kemri told the bloggers.

According to Ndemwa, 4-MI is always produced in processes like cooking meat (that is why it turns brown), making Tusker Lager batches achieve an even colour and so on.

Looking Ahead

So going forward, Coca Cola will launch Coke Zero in the market next week.

It will carry out an education campaign to sensitize people on healthy living and disabuse them of the notion that Coke has too much sugar.

It is all a matter of Energy Balance, Peter Njonjo says. The number of calories that a Coke product contains will be highlighted and will possibly be accompanied by healthy tips on a number of calories burning activities.

Further stakeholder engagement with media, academia and so on will continue.

It's bottling companies have now adopted state of the art bottling processes that put bottles through two Elecronic Bottle Inspections in the filling cycle to determine if any impurity might have gotten into the product.