He terms himself a lone ranger and a traveller on a road less taken. First, he trained as a lawyer, but chose a different professional path. Secondly, he could probably be employed as a writer, but he is not.
Instead, Williams Magunga runs a blog, magunga.com, which was last weekend crowned the best in Kenya, beating four others to pick the top prize during the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) awards. His blog, magunga.com, garnered 1,359 beating the closest rival, kaluhiskitchen.com, which got 1,274, by 85 votes.
Others who were eyeing the top crown were http://www.kenyanstory.com, http://www.stillamum.com/blog and http://healthkenya.co.ke. In total, there were 23 categories.
Magunga has been a blogger for the last six years and started writing when he was a student at the University of Nairobi.
“I enrolled to study law, but I started having doubts that I would practice when I was in my second year. In my third year, I was certain I would do nothing else, but write,” he says.
The blogger, who has also bagged other awards previously including Best Overall Blog and Conversationalist, Connect Vodka Border Competition and Samsung Blogger challenge, says his greatest advice to writers is: “grow”. He also runs an online bookstore mainly selling books from African writers.
Splitting her time between teaching and blogging, Wandia Njoya, picked the award for Best Social Issues and Active Citizenship. In her blog, wandianjoya.com, she consistently written on the education system in Kenya especially the new curriculum that is being piloted in selected schools at the lower primary level through a hashtag #EducationReformsKE.
Wandia, who is a senior lecturer and Head of the Department of Language and Performing Arts at Daystar University, has faulted the proposed 8-4-4 curriculum review to 2-3-3-6 for lack of substance.
“I think the greatest mistake we have made as Kenyans is to believe that everything in education can be addressed by tinkering with the system and nothing else,” she writes in her blog.
She says blogging is the ‘Fifth Estate’, since it has given citizens a voice.
“We have now formed a group of citizens and we are organising to raise public awareness and maybe pursue legal action. Among the members of the group are young people who know that they did not get proper education and are determined that Kenya gets it right this time around,” she says.
The Best Creative Writing Blog award went to Mark Maina who runs markmaish.com. One of the youngest bloggers, he captures the struggles of a blogger in his ‘Chronicles of a Kenyan Creative.’
“Starting out as a creative in Kenya is tough. No one is willing to give you a chance to prove yourself. The few who do don’t pay you a dime. They throw in the infamous line, ‘We are giving you a platform that will give you the exposure needed to grow your brand’,” he writes.
Journalist Abel Muhatia who runs www.biznews.co.ke, which he started in 2015, picked the gong for the best business blog this year.
“Two things inspired me to get into blogging. One, the freedom of expression and the space in blogging is better than in the newsroom,” he says.
Initially known for his political cartoons and illustrations, Patrick Gathara also runs gathara.blogspot.co.ke, which was picked as the Best Governance Blog. Gathara, who is outspoken online and offline on governance, has written hard hitting pieces.
For its no holds barred articles as writers dissect every day issues facing Christians especially men, penstrokes.co.ke won in the Best Religious or Spirituality Blog category. One of those running the blog is motivational speaker, Ernest Wamboye, who has also written a book, Lust and the City — A Guide on Sexual Purity.
Safari254 was voted the Best Travel Blog for its documentation of sights and sounds of Kenya ad other East African countries.
Often writing on historical nuggets, owaahh.com, was voted the best topical blog. Veteran bloggers techweez.com, niaje.com and mutuamatheka.co.ke bagged technology, entertainment and photography blogs awards respectively.
The other winners were: Best Lifestyle Blog, potentash.com, Best New Blog, itsmugambi.com/blog, Best Entertainment Blog, niaje.com, Best Education Blog, teachersnoticeboard.co.ke, Best Public Health Blog, healthkenya.co.ke, Best County Blog, lifeinmombasa.com, a category the blog won last year as well, Best Human Rights Blog, mzalendo.com/blog, Best Photography Blog, mutuamatheka.co.ke, Best Food Blog kaluhiskitchen.com, and Best Environmental/Agricultural Blog, graduatefarmer.co.ke, among others.
According to organisers, female bloggers picked more awards this year than previously. They won in eight categories. This year, over 10,000 blog entries were submitted. Blogging has become the mainstream for brands, some of them using online influencers to advertise their products and services.
According to www.internetlivestats.com, Kenya has over 20 million Internet users. By last year, the country had an Internet penetration of 45 per cent.
“Social media has also become an effective tool through which Kenyans can write on topics of interest to them as well as exercise their freedom to free speech,” says the ‘State of Blogging & Social Media in Kenya 2015 Report,’ published by BAKE.