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Are Kenyans polygamous by nature?

James Momanyi @jamomanyi

Kenyans are today exposed as a largely unfaithful people with at least 24 per cent of adults listed as having relationships with more than one partner. In a survey released yesterday by Consumer Insight, that dug deep into social habits and behaviour of Kenyans, 24 percent of those in relationships admitted to having more than one lover.

The report does not specify the gender most inclined to multiple relationships, but given that 10.8 million Kenyans form the 24 per cent bracket of a population of about 45 million, in which 5.4 million are estimated to be adults, then at least 1.2 million adult individuals are in multiple affairs.

This will come as a shocker to those who have been vehemently fighting the weekend suggestion by Kiambu Women’s Representative Gathoni wa Muchomba, who called on Kenyans to embrace polygamy as a solution to reducing the number of children growing without fathers.

Wamuchomba also argued that polygamy could be the cure to infidelity. However, the Consumer Insight findings may vindicate her, seeing as covert polygamy in relationships thrives silently without prompting.

“Twenty-four per cent admit to having more than one sexual partner, a patent increase from previous trends, while 55 per cent had their sexual debut before the age of 20,” Ruth Ruigu, Associate Research Director at Consumer Insights said.

“A whopping 77 per cent are sexually active, and it is noteworthy that the youth and the upper classes are the most sexually risqué category of Kenyans; strange bedfellows indeed,” she added.

The report has also exposed how the digital revolution has utterly overrun the country, especially on matters love, as Kenyans literally search for soulmates online, mostly from raunchy dating sites. Incredibly, digital courting has now become efficient for lovers, with nine per cent of the respondents saying they met online.

Out of this, 81 per cent found a friend and 57 per cent are in a romantic relationship. However, there is good news too. The marriage institution is still held in high regard and gets a strong thumbs up, with 87 per cent believing in the importance of the institution.

When seeking advice, Kenyans will, by default, resort first to family members, then religious leaders and marriage counsellors. Friends, media and the internet complete this support system.

The bad news is that Kenyans are not marrying early because they can’t afford their dream weddings. Only 21 per cent of married folks think the ideal situation is to be married by the time they attain 21 years.

The ideal ceremony is envisaged as having a religious wedding (75 per cent), customary (49 per cent), civil (24 per cent) and come-we-stay (15 per cent).

The facts on the ground, however, fly in the face of this ideal because 39 per cent married in a customary wedding, 30 per cent had a religious ceremony, while 27 per cent are in come-we-stay arrangements and only five per cent had a civil marriage.

Outside intimacy, the study that sought to find out about the peculiarities, lifestyles, attitudes and mindsets of Kenyan consumers also reveals that some 19 per cent adults (above 18 years) are actively engaged in sport gambling. But wait a minute!

This is to say that around 690,000 (three percent) of the projected adult Kenyans could have actively taken gambling as their sole source of income.

The sport gambling craze that hit the Kenyan market in 2014 has now become a pastime for many Kenyans. Sport gaming is the most popular of platforms for them where the majority use phones (95 per cent) as compared to other modes.

The people lured to this “easy” money are mostly youthful males, mostly from high social economic backgrounds. “Some Kenyans have now taken gambling as a source of income whereby they just spend their entire day placing bets as they chase the elusive dream of winning the jackpot.

But this is an elusive dream because millions of Kenyans are betting everyday but only a few win the jackpot. Yet they still keep on trying,” said Ruigu. But this is not the only emerging and trending oddity that has captured Kenyan consumers hook, line and sinker.

A cellphone is no longer just a communication gadget. As shown earlier, it’s now a money-maker through gambling. What’s more, proliferation of the smartphone (39 per cent of 85 per cent total penetration) has ensured it is now a Kenyan’s most preferred companion with 57 per cent saying they wouldn’t go anywhere without their phones. However, 69 per cent regret that their phones can’t do more than they currently do.

They want manufacturers to add more applications, she added. “The mobile phone has also turned into a veritable entertainment centre with notable upsurges in web surfing and instant messaging.

Phone usage in general is also enjoying a similar uptake with a marked increase in utility from calling, text messaging, mobile money transfer, photography (selfies) to music.

As with previous years, Kenyans still have absolutely no qualms about killing two birds with one phone as the percentage of those with more than two SIM cards has risen to 38 per cent,” read the report in parts.

The increasing usage of mobiles has also upset the financial sector, beckoning a death knell to the traditional banking model.

“Mobile loans are steadily upsetting soft credit and are now the second most preferred avenue at 38 per cent, in sharp contrast to 10 per cent for soft bank loans. At a formidable 49 per cent, friends are still the first port of call, and Kenyans are seemingly wary of shylocks,” said Ruigu.

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