I am writing this after being deeply disappointed at the Boyz II Men concert held in Nairobi on Saturday, June 10. Deeply disappointed is the closest descriptor I can think of to express my feelings that does not rely on the use of expletives. In case you missed it, the verdict is that this was one of the most anticipated concerts for the over 30 urban Nairobi demographic this year and was a flop. The performers all did a great job, but the event itself was a poor showing.
For a little context, the Boyz II Men concert was marketed as a premium event for the over 30 RnB fans, with tickets going for KSh 30,000 for VVIP, KSh 15,000 for VIP and KSh 8,000 for regular. The average concert tickets usually go for about half that price, so this was on the pricier end. But no matter, premium was the entire idea. To sweeten the pot, Kenya’s favourite boyband, Sauti Sol would be the opening act. Considering they had just announced their planned breakup for the end of this year, this was to be their second last show in Kenya and so a must catch.
I, like many others, had planned to get VIP tickets but VVIP and VIP tickets sold out in record time. So we settled for regular tickets, but given the great job the organizers of the Stanbic Yetu Festival had done at last year’s concert headlined by Anthony Hamilton, we were sure it was going to be a great night. I can’t go into details about all I did to prepare for the concert because I will get upset all over again, but I will say that it included mulling over an outfit for weeks, coordinating with multiple friends including my sister on logistics of attending, and playing Boyz II Men and Sauti Sol music every chance I got.
The disappointment awaiting us was hinted at when we arrived at Uhuru Gardens and there was confusion at the entrance. I brushed it off, but quickly realized it was a symptom of a much larger problem once we got in. Disorganisation is an understatement. The dome wasn’t big enough to accomodate everyone and the layout was terrible, with the regular section completely cut off from accessing the stage. You couldn’t even see the stage from the regular section and they had one small screen for stage visibility that kept going off. The sound was atrocious and we could barely hear a thing. We missed most of Sauti Sol’s performance because the screen was off and the sound muffled, and spent most of it chanting with the crowd, ” Fix the screen. Fix the sound.”
By the time Boyz II Men got on stage, people were standing on chairs and tables to try and get a glimpse of them. It was pandemonium. I had to squeeze through tens of people to get to a decent vantage point. By this point, I was drenched since I had been caught in the rain while going to the bathroom which was a hike away and featured long queues as there were only five stalls for over 5000 people. My friends and I, along with many other attendees, tried to enjoy ourselves despite the poor showing by the organizers.
The complaints have been loud since the event and the organizers, Homeboyz and Radio Africa, put out statements. They read like the typical PR statements we have gotten used to from Kenyan event organizers who keep dropping the ball. This time though, people are angrier than usual and even The Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) has thrown their hat in the ring to pursue a possible civil suit. Whether Cofek is serious or not is neither here nor there, as pursuing legal action is perhaps the direction we need to start going.
This is not the first botched concert Kenyans have had to suffer through. The complaints have been ongoing for years, with people citing everything from poor sound, poor security and terrible performances as the main issues. The fact that nothing has been done and promoters continue to defraud Kenyans with substandard events shows that there are no consequences for this and that the Kenyan consumer is unprotected.
Kenya has several government agencies that work to protect consumers including the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Communications Authority (CA), Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA), Kenya Consumer Protection Advisory Committee (KECOPAC), Department of Weights and Measures, Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), and Medical Practitioners & Dentists Board.
In addition, there are a number of consumer organizations that look out for consumers in Kenya such as Consumer Unit Trust Society (CUTS), Consumer Federation of Kenya (COFEK), Consumer International Network (CIN), Kenya Consumer Organization (KCO), Healthcare Consumers Federation of Kenya (HCFK), Insurance Consumers Federation of Kenya (ICFK) and Association of Insurance Consumers of Kenya (AICK).
Article 46 of the Constitution of Kenya provides for consumer protection by both public and private entities and the Competition Act No. 12 of 2010 (Revised in 2016) was enacted to protect consumers from unfair and misleading market conduct. Consumer protection is firmly in Kenyan law, but enforcement is the issue. From issues with event organizers to terrible service from internet service providers and taxi hailing apps, Kenyans are being defrauded, mistreated and even suffering physical and psychological harm. With all these complaints, there doesn’t seem to be much goodwill to act.
We need to demand action from the government entities meant to protect us. We also need to practice active citizenship and do all we can within the law to get our complaints acted upon, including participating in petitions and publicly supporting the relevant civil suits. If companies and organizations aren’t going to do the right thing willingly, we should go the legal route and make them.
And for those who think we deserve less because we are in Africa, let this be your wake-up call. We will not be mistreated or disrespected in our own country. And for those saying we should catch flights to experience value for money, do a little self reflection that will hopefully lead you to self-love and self-respect. Why should you go to enjoy and brag about your nice neighbour’s house while yours is in disarray? We are deserving of good things and protections in our own country.