What Did Ugandans And Other Netizens Care About In 2018?


07th March, 2019

By Julius Masaba

Tap into business opportunities availed by the 2018 Google’sGoogle Trends

Google, the globe’s biggest search engine on a yearly basis gives an analysis of worldwide trends concerning what inhabitants on planet earth type in its search bar and then click ‘Go’ or ‘Enter’. It presents this report every year plus the latest: ‘Google Trends 2018’.

Now, let’ dig in.

On the global stage, Netizens were searching for People (like Meghan Markle, Avicii, Mark Miller, Stan Lee), Events (like the World Cup 2018, Hurricanes, Politics, Meghan Markle’s Wedding, Avicii’s Death), Movies (like Black Panther, Sylvester Stallone (Creed 3), Story of Yanxi Palace) as well as YouTube Videos (like Despacito – Luis Fonsi, Shape of You – Ed Sheeran, See you Again – Wiz Khalifa ft Charlie Puth, Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars).

So, what about Ugandans? What did they search for in 2018?

Ugandans are increasingly using the internet on a daily basis including Google. This has been due to the influx of affordable internet (despite the social media tax and social bundles ‘MBs’). According to a report from the industry regulator – Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), it indicated that, internet users increased to 17 million in 2017. According to International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the number of internet users for Uganda hit 19 million, as of January 2019.

Internet penetration in Uganda jumped from an estimated 16 million to an estimated 17 million users in the second quarter of 2017 representing a 3.7% increase. Almost 24 million or 55% of Ugandans are mobile internet users (they access internet via their mobile devices, mostly smartphones, according to ITU, January 2019.

On top of that, the ever increasing importance of the internet is catalysed by the fact that about 80% of Uganda’s population is below the age of 35 – this generation has grown up using computers and the internet  in the past decades or if not, they are keen not to be left behind the rest of the world. They are dynamic, always looking for trends to fit in.

For the businesses, companies, startups or entrepreneur, it is of vital importance to understand these search trends.  Reason being, I believe any serious business, company, startup or entrepreneur should definitely have an internet/online strategy. These days it’s not sufficient to leave it to the IT geeks!

For example, of recent we have had an influx in the number of social media influencers. Influencers are prominent individuals in marketing or in their respective industry, field; renowned figures in the country or active social media users. Locally, this could be Pius Enywaru, Sheebah Karungi, Patrick Bitature, Bobi Wine, Zari, Ann Kansiime, etc.

These are individuals with their personal social media accounts. They have not left the use of internet or an online strategy to the computer and internet wizards. They have taken it personal, to promote their brand. You need one too, the internet is here!

Now, relying on Google searches, can we analyse what mattered most to Ugandans?

  1. Football: Just like other years preceding 2018, football related information is and still among the key searched terms (and images). The other related searches (words about football) included 2018 World Cup, World Cup, Juventus F.C.

Ugandans love sports betting. Some of the most searched websites for Ugandans included betin.com, betpawa.com. On top of that, Ugandans couldn’t get enough of Betting Strategy, BetWay, Betin Uganda and BetPawa. Note that Kenyans also searched for World Cup 2018. Football must be a universal language indeed.

How can you turn this into a money minting opportunity?

While working for my former boss – a principal of a young research and advisory firm, in 2012 and 2013, he thought the biggest opportunity (then) was in form of innovative gambling suited to Uganda (e.g. by accepting mobile money) or even a mobile phone app that works on simple phones; and indeed it came to pass. A few years down the road, betting companies came up with mobile betting and payment options (mobile apps). One of them was BetWay.

For my case, I do and still believe this was a big opportunity, particularly when mobile phone apps were being developed. Technology is driving almost everything these days, no matter how remote you are. Granted, gambling is a socially addictive evil (just like drinking/boozing and smoking/puffing), but it can be controlled.

Even after government setting the ‘dog’ (Uganda Revenue Authority-URA) on them (gamblers/betting houses) by slapping a tax on every win, gamblers still continue to bet – it’s addictive. Don’t forget that one of the key things Ugandans now ask Google is ‘Betting Strategy’. I remember in the 2012 Google Zeitgeist (before it became ‘Google Trends’), the search was ‘How to bet’.

Similar opportunities under that could be investing in specialty sports outlets that not only sell the traditional football T-shirts but perhaps other related items like sports books (e.g. autobiographies of footballers, etc.), mugs, car stickers, sports stars’ face masks (for parties) and similar sports items and memorabilia. And trust me, you will harvest money if you set up one next to/near betting halls.

  1. Virtual Private Network (VPN): Ugandans love the internet, social media and cheap internet access – to basically ‘do lugambo (gossip)’ as the president says. There was a plan hatched by government to impose tax on mainly social media. And boom, social media tax (in form of OTT – over the top) came into force starting 1st July 2018!

Of course there were outbursts, cursing the government and all the agencies that were involved especially Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). Ugandans being bigheaded (still as the president says), looked for an option – VPN. It became the word on the street, on people’s lips and on any other form of communication.

VPN was first used by a few (IT savvy) people during the 2016 presidential elections when the internet was shut down unceremoniously to avoid incidences related to the Arab Spring. So when OTT (of UGX200 daily) was imposed, VPN usage shot up. It hit #2 as the top search on Google. Ugandans love cheap and free solutions!

How do you turn this into a money minting opportunity?

Ugandans are technology resistant – its application in solving daily problems. Even if a solution is cheap but as long as it’s complicated, they will abandon it.  Now if you want to make money out of such an opportunity, probably you need to;

1). Create/develop a very affordable and efficient VPN tailored to the Ugandan folk or smartphone user and sell it to them. Most smartphone users who installed VPN actually started complaining that some VPNs consumed a lot of their data (MBs). That’s a problem to be solved, and probably make money out of it. Remember to patent or copyright your innovation.

Note that if you are not a tech geek, please leave that for the super tech savvy like programmers, coders and software developers. But if you want to learn and become a software developer so that you can be able to do such things, visit www.ablestate.org.

2). Develop a solution that helps track social media users who bypass OTT when they use VPN. Am certain UCC or URA have failed to establish the number of smartphone users who are on social media 24/7 yet they have not paid OTT. Remember, tax evasion is illegal.

But it would also be costly to enforce IT-based tax compliance. If you sell the solution or let it be adopted and integrated into the regulator’s or state tax agencies’ systems or infrastructure, you will hold the rights and you will need to get paid. But be warned, it will be a daunting task.

3. Entertainment: Again like some past years, Ugandans are still huge on entertainment, but the kind of entertainment is shifting towards online/digital and mostly social media based. ‘Music download’ was one of the top most searched terms.

With the smartphone era, people rarely buy music CDs or DVDs. All they do is go online, search for the trending hits and download via audio sites or via YouTube (for most videos). No wonder they listen to music on-the-go with their big branded headsets like Sony, JBL, Beats-By-Dre (BD), etc.

Meanwhile on YouTube (which is the 2nd largest search engine after Google), the top searches were again entertainment related and included searches like for Radio who made up half of the dissolved Goodlyfe – a local music duo. He died under unclear circumstances in the early months of 2018.

Other searches were Bobi Wine a youthful musician turned politician; King Saha a local crooner whose voice has been likened to that of the late Mozey Radio; Goodlyfe, Diamond Platnumz – Tanzanian singer taking the country and almost the whole of East Africa by storm.

Sheebah Karungi – a local female afro-dancehall artist who was also under fire at one time for her indecent and seductive dressing, Wine aka Bobi Wine and Chameleone – another top musician who was in the news for family and marriage related issues. Ugandans love their musicians and they (musicians) too have a loyal following.

Related to music searches were most searched artistes globally. In 2018, the most searched for person in the US was Demi Lovato followed by Eminem. Other top global musician searches on YouTube included Ozuna, Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, etc. Looks like the Latinos/Spaniards were taking the world by storm last year.

Ugandans also continue to use online entertainment tools. Facebook (a messaging service) was a top search term as was YouTube a portal that provides free information such as songs, movies, tutorials, and Instagram, a mobile video and photo/image social site.

How do you turn this into a money minting opportunity?

Digital Marketing! Become digital marketing strategist/an online marketer. This is not only for the tech savvy but even the ordinary person in his/her respective field, who can play around with his digital skills. Invest in a fancy website/or a blog and social media with targeted advertising specifically for Ugandans or East Africans (even the globe).

You will need to invest in Google AdWords, Facebook Advertising for Facebook and YouTube Advertising, Twitter Advertising for Twitter, etc.; because these offer targeted advertising. What this means is that you can specifically choose your own target audience and tailor the adverts to it (audience) basing on age, location, interests, etc. Trust me, clients will pay you for this!

For instance you can make your own e-commerce adverts to appear in posts or videos of the above sites or a Ugandan music, video games and movies download website to display ads to only Ugandans that go online. Sites that can pay you when you advertise for them include Jumia, Amazon, Google, etc. Jumia was also among the top searches in Uganda in 2018.

Also, for you to undertake active e-commerce, you need to consider having online modes of payment or receiving cash such as use of credit or debit cards (e.g. VISA card). PayPal provides a simple option for this process. Others are Pesapal, Skrill, etc.  Our own MTN MoMo Card does wonders these days. You need to try it.

I have a belief that this (e-commerce) will be increasingly advantageous since there is a forgotten section of Ugandan internet users – The Diaspora (or “Nkuba Kyeyo, BaSummer” as some call them locally). This group is so interested in Ugandan products and services (Buy Ugandan Build Uganda-BUBU) and consume the internet to a very big scale. They have loads of disposable income.

According to a recent UN report, their contribution to the Ugandan economy is now higher than cash crop (coffee, cotton, tea) export revenue. And don’t forget that Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter! That aside, in 2017 Uganda raked in a whooping UGX4Tn in Diaspora Remittances, according to Bank of Uganda data (estimates).

4. Knowledge: Again like in some other years, Ugandans are increasingly becoming very inquisitive – they want to know a lot! They’re looking for online answers to their questions or problems. Like people in other countries, Ugandans rarely ask friends, family or turn to books (most loathed). They run straight to mighty Google to ask questions.

The search results showed the following to be, per category:

  • Top Level Domain – (relate it to websites, technology, digitalisation)
  • Student – (relate it to education, learning, teaching, apprenticeship, internship, graduates)

How do you turn this into a money minting opportunity?

IT consultancy! Every Ugandan business needs an online marketing strategy, and this goes down to owning a business website. The least and last option could be owning social media accounts. Invest in building websites for a payment.

Not everyone knows how to build very attractive, dynamic and responsive websites (and don’t be lied into accepting a blog). Ugandans are asking these questions, so all you need to do is set up a business to help them answer or even enable them acquire affordable website domains like .com, .biz, .ug, etc. You can even make money being a top level domain re-seller.

Now, for ‘student’ as a search result, am still figuring out what the hell these Ugandans were searching for!

What about our neighbours, what did they care about?

Unfortunately I didn’t look through Google Trends data for all Uganda’s neighbours Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Burundi); it would have been too much. I looked at the biggest economy in the region and that would make it possible for me to make a proper analysis. So the only information I got was Kenya’s.

So what did Kenyans care about in 2018?

  1. Local politics: Just like in other years, the top search results were related to politics, political events and the political figures; like – Raila Odinga’s swearing in, Migori by-elections and Zimbabwe elections. Kenyans even take it to the regional level when it comes to current political affairs. Actually, most of the top Kenyan personality searches fell in politics. There was also a one Miguna Miguna, a lawyer. Okoth Obado whose murdered girlfriend Sharon Otieno was 7 months pregnant, was also top search. Obado is a Governor of Migori. 
  1. Entertainment. Kenyans are really big on entertainment, so big that one of the top searched persons was Jacque Maribe (suspected of businesswoman’s murder), Rose Muhando, even our own Bobi Wine. Kenyans also searched for Avicii – a Swedish musician and DJ, Ali Kiba (mostly about his wedding) and many others in the category.
  1. Sports. In 2018, Kenyans were searching for very key football personalities like Alexis Sanchez of Chile, Pierre Aubameyang of Gabon (professionally playing for the European Teams). 
  1. Business: Just know Kenyans are into business big time. Some of the top searches in the ‘How To’ category were; ‘How to file nil returns’ then others like ‘How to file KRA returns’, ‘How to start a business’, ‘How to make money online’. It looks like Kenyans are also tired of paying exorbitant taxes in business, so just like some Ugandan businesses, they want to file nil returns.

Nil returns are always filed when a business has not made profits and or whose net profits is not in the lowest threshold to necessitate a tax payment. What most businesses do (for example in Uganda), they under declare sales and profits and over declare the costs and expenses. I don’t know how Kenyan businesses do it.

Kenyans also love starting businesses. Infact it could be the reason they are economic giant in East Africa. Infact they go as far as loving to start online businesses to make money. There is this perception that money made online is not subject to taxes – true for some types of businesses like online advertising using Google AdWords, blogging, etc.

How do you turn this into a money minting opportunity?

Business consultancy, advisory; and business coaching, motivation speaking! Become a tax consultant in Kenya. However, you will need the Certified Public Accountant of Kenya (CPA-K) or an ACCA paper to exude your prowess. Tax computations are every business’s nightmare. Become a tax consultant and answer questions like ‘How to file nil returns’.

Kenyans are entrepreneurial just like Ugandans, and am certain every year new businesses are set up in Kenya. But one of the greatest challenges today is ‘how to start’. People have very good ideas but they don’t know how to go about them, how to take that leap of faith, how to take risk.

A person that can take risk is ready to take on the challenge of starting a business. It’ a personal thing. Coach and motivate prospective entrepreneurs. But first become a motivational speaker or business coach. You can borrow some tips from Phyllis Mwangi or Karuiki Kamau.

5. Sex dolls: In the ’Arts of Passion’, Kenyans were searching for a sex doll dubbed ‘Samantha’. Infact they went ahead to find out how it looks like and how it works. Sex dolls are not a good thing to talk about in some sections of society (especially in Uganda), but they are there and being used ‘on the low’.

Infact a shop or business found selling them (in Uganda) risks closure. Such businesses are operated ‘away from the public eye’. I don’t know how the case is in Kenya, but it looks like sex dolls will soon be trending big time in Uhuru Kenyatta’s land, or are they?

How do you turn this into a money minting opportunity?

It’s believe that people who use sex dolls either have low self-esteem, are sexually dissatisfied or have an obsession. So, why not become a professional marriage counselor? Alternatively, you can also be a private sex therapist/counselor by experience. In Uganda, they’re called ‘Ssengas’ or traditional aunties; and trust me, they make money!

Oddly enough…..

Kenyans are also practical and their other searches included:

How to:

  • Get pregnant
  • Make pancakes
  • Lose weight faster
  • Write an application letter
  • Write a report

And just like Ugandans, they also want to know (what is). Their other searches on knowledge were on:

What is:

  • Sex
  • Bitcoin
  • Blue economy
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Halloween
  • Lunar eclipse
  • Liparian land

Google trends can be viewed in detail here http://www.google.com/trends/

Good luck!

NB: This article first appeared on Medium, by the same author. Click here

About the Writer

Julius Masaba is a private investment researcher and business consultant. He also works with Ablestate, https://www.theablestate.com/ and a WordPress writer/blogger on startups, entrepreneurship, business and finance. He loves tech. Visit https://consultmasaba.com/.