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Cyber cafes struggle to survive mobile internet

By Vision Reporter

Added 22nd September 2011 08:00 PM

JAMES Senkumba has been making a living out of his Mengo-based Internet café for over eight years.

JAMES Senkumba has been making a living out of his Mengo-based Internet café for over eight years.

By Michael Kanaabi and Samuel Sanya

JAMES Senkumba has been making a living out of his Mengo-based Internet café for over eight years.

But his days in the café business seem to be coming to a fast close as both client and revenue diminish.

“Gone are the days when I charged clients up to sh6,000 an hour and still had a full house all day with my 10 computers fully occupied” he says.

Business has been dwindling since 2009 when mobile Internet modems became cheap.

“Many of the customers who needed my services have moved on to the modems which are more convenient,” Senkumba says.

Senkumba points out that the arrival of the mobile Internet modems pushed most Internet cafés to operate at minimum profits with the really expensive café’s charging sh30 per minute and the other cafés charging as low as sh15 to sh20 per minute.

Bring on the low cost smart phones such as the Google Android and HTC mobile phones now going for as low as sh150,000 on the black market and sh200,000 in the shops and business is bound to get harder for the cafés.

Joseph Mutuza a café owner in Nankulabye says many people now access the Internet on their phones with the charges going as low as sh4 per minute for basic usage as opposed to going to the more expensive Internet cafés.

At the moment, cafés are charging much less than sh15 a minute, a cost which is still way too high considering the options.
Frank Birondwa, a systems analyst says the average smart mobile phone comes with extra abilities such as preloaded games, translation services and a host of several applications on top of Internet surfing that make the phones more useful than the café’s where one is restricted to surfing the Internet.
With the cost of rent and other utility bills skyrocketing day and night, it doesn’t seem to make business sense to continue running an Internet café alone.

That is why James Senkumba and other café owners have either diversified or are looking elsewhere.

Senkumba says he has decided to focus on what used to be extra services at his café in order to cope with the dwindling revenues from the Internet section.

“My printing and photocopying machines together with the limited stationary and simple computer accessories and hardware like CDs have become the new focus of my business as they bring in much more revenue,” he says.

Senkumba adds that with time, he might sell off some of the computers and focus on things like book binding, lamination and large format printing.

These bring in bigger business considering the growing number of higher institutions around Mengo and Rubaga.

On the other side though, Joseph Mutuza whose internet café is in Nankulabye, a city suburb, has discovered a new money minting venture.

He now provides play station and computer games on his computers which are a favourite among pre-teens in the area.

“For sh500 per game, I find that I am making more money since a game lasts about 10 minutes on average with a long line of kids waiting to have their turn unlike the Internet that only attracts a handful of clients a day,” Mutuza says.

He adds that he has taken on computer repair and duplicating of CDS plus DVDS to salvage his business and so far he seems to be making head way in that direction.

Mutuza says the future of Internet cafés is bleak as there are over four Internet cafés around his premises that have since closed.

One of them was turned into a photo studio, another was replaced by a restaurant while the other two were converted into retail shops a couple of years back.

Cyber cafes struggle to survive mobile internet

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