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Inside Kenya’s Online Brothels

by Sam Wakoba

It’s a few past one in the morning. A man leaves a bar in Nairobi’s CBD to his car, parked safely a yard away. He gives the security guards a tip then enters his car. He is so drunk the security guards wonder if he would start the car.

“Boss, uko poa?” Asks the security guard, but he gets no answer as the man slowly gets the car out of the lot, ready to join the main road from Nairobi’s Koinange Street and all hell breaks loose.

Skimpily clad women ambush the way and block his car, as if it was police check point. They knock his windows and try to unlock his doors and call him to their attention. They call him ‘customer’ ‘customer’ but like the dead, the man ignores. Another shouts to him the price for the night, and another calls him sweetheart, drunk to his full capacity, the man doesn’t waste a minute to stare. He resists the temptation, accelerates his car and turns his music to the maximum. We think the man loves his wife and kids.

On the other side of town, another man walks out of a bar to receive a call but he is suddenly swarmed by a troop of twilight girls. He barks at them and tries to go back inside the bar, but he seems interested, just drunk and undecided. He finally picks out of one the twilight girls and off they go. That sounds like 1960’s Nairobi.

Prostitution is fast getting online in Kenya with websites and social  network pages awash with ‘shops’ of sex workers ready to offer home, hotel and escort service and just about everything. Kenya has 19.1 million internet users according to the CCK Quarterly Sector Statistics Report fand 31 million mobile phone subscribers, 40 percent of which are smartphones or data enabled phones. Internet savvy sex workers are targeting that population, avoiding corners of streets due to risks involved.

All you have to do is call in, ask either for an hour, get an escort to an event or get any number of girls you want for the night or the day and at a fee.

We tried it. We took to a corner in our office, just in case a client walks in abruptly. Logged on to,, and and randomly picked out numbers to see if the graphical sites really work. I was brave enough to make the call expecting to hear the number was out of service, but what I heard was creepy.

“Hi, do you want hotel or home service?”



For a few minutes, I hesitated, unaware what to say. Then I gathered all my bravery and asked her if I could go to her ‘office.’ Not realizing that I had put her call on loudspeaker for the team to hear, she replied saying that would cost me ($24) Ksh 2000 per hour with one girl or more depending on what I wanted. Then my colleagues burst into laughter and tears and it forced me to cut before she could tell me where her ‘office’ was located.

These has unfortunately come to stay.

A recent report from Juniper Research has found that by 2017, a quarter of a billion people will use their mobile or tablet device to access adult content, such as videos, images and live cams, up by more than 30% the current usage. The report – Mobile Adult Content: Monetisation, Technologies & Legislation 2013 – 2018 – smartphones and tablets have become key distribution channels for adult service providers, with those at the forefront of the industry ensuring that content is differentiated for and tailored to the increasingly mobile audience.

Furthermore, the report argues that usage on tablets would be fueled by the increasing trend towards tablets becoming personal, as opposed to shared household devices, thereby alleviating user concerns that other family members might view inappropriate content.

Report author Siân Rowlands observed that ‘Whilst Juniper expects the total number of users of both desktop and mobile adult content to remain broadly consistent, we expect to see continued migration to smartphones and tablets, as more enhanced, tailored content makes its way onto these personal devices.’

Locally, this new phenomenon is expected to tremendously double up depending on how Kenya treats this sex workers. In 2012, the then Nairobi Mayor George Aladwa Nairobi, pushed for a crackdown on commercial sex workers and their clients saying, “we will not arrest twilight girls alone, we are going to arrest even their clients from now.” The move is what is pushing more and more commercial sex workers online as a safe haven and as a new means to nab the mobile.

Online will help them evade city council officers, remain anonymous and thrive even if the law bans ownership and operation of  brothels according to Articles 151 to 156 of the Kenya’s Penal Code. So as Kenyans speak cloud, mobile, Big data, the Internet of Things and stuff like wearable technology, adult content is also leaping in rapidly. Global adult content is growing by the day, and Kenya has jumped on the bandwagon.

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