Tribal attributes

In a comment to an earlier post, Christian referred to how strongly Kenyans feel about tribal attributes. I think he has better insights about this than me but let me tell you about what I’ve heard, and maybe he and others will add some comments.

Kenya’s ethnic diversity is high. The various tribes can be traced back to three main groups:

  • Bantus of Niger-Congo origin,
  • Nilotes from the Nilo-Saharan area, and
  • Cushites who are Afro-Asiatic.

The tribes that I hear about the most are Kikuyu (a Bantu tribe), Luo and Maasai (both Nilote tribes). Kikuyus are business-oriented, concerned with acquiring land and saving for the future. In contrast, Luos are said to be more intellectual (I understand many university professors come from this tribe), and concerned with the external image they project. Apparently, a young woman would rather date a Luo man than a Kikuyu man: Luos are more fun than Kikuyus, they say, and they’ll be happy to spend their money on her. You can recognize Kikuyus when they speak English because they pronounce the “L” and the “R” the same way (as Japanese do).

Maasais have kept their traditions most faithfully, including their tribal attire. For instance, a friend explained that on one occasion she had a problem with her car on a road with not much traffic. Fortunately, a motorbike stopped to help: and there he is, a Massai man dressed in his traditional garb but with a leather jacket and a helmet.


This ad could be targeted to the Kikuyus
This ad could be targeted to the Kikuyus

These attributes have business implications. One is that you need to take them into account in advertising campaigns, as different arguments resonate with different ethnic groups. What other implications would you think of?

I’m back to Nairobi now. After my short visit to Accra, I went to Copenhagen to attend a number of activities related to the Strategic Management Society (SMS). We had the planning meeting for the annual conference, which will be held in Madrid, September 20-23, with the theme “Strategies in a world of networks.” And there’s a one-day conference extension on “Strategic management in Africa” (Toledo, September 24). Registration is open to non-SMS members. Christian is one of the organizers: thanks for putting it together, Christian! See you there if not earlier.