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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 January 2006, 01:18 GMT
Kenyans find pots of love online
By Wairimu Gitahi
BBC, Nairobi

Lonely Kenyan singletons are breaking with tradition and logging onto one of East Africa's newest websites to find love.

Screen grab from Lovepot.com
Changing lifestyle make it harder to find a partner
"Meet Kenyan chicks and guys," reads the opening page at www.lovepot.com as Claire, a 32-year-old career woman in the capital, Nairobi, plucks up the courage to register.

She has been trying to find the man of her dreams through many other ways, but without success.

"To be honest, funerals and weddings have been the only way to meet people. Clubbing doesn't work," she says.

"I know plenty of people who are now trying this out and I thought: 'This year I'm going to try it. Internet dating, here I come.'"

Too busy

Many young urban Kenyans are finding it hard to meet a partner because of changing lifestyles.

A woman's finger pointing at the Lovepot.com website on screen
Internet dating is definitely the modern way of meeting people
Kenyan man

Erastus Wachira, the co-founder of Lovepot.com, which claims to have enabled "thousands of mates to tie the knot", says urbanisation is the key.

"We looked at the lives of many young people, and they have very busy job schedules and don't really have much time to socialise," he says.

"With current technology we thought the internet was an easier way of people getting together."

The website is just one sign of how things are changing in Kenya - and for some young adults it is not surprising.

"Internet dating is definitely the modern way of meeting people. In Africa we're following more towards the West with our busy lives and going online to find solace and a significant other," says one man in a Nairobi bar.

Caution

Not everyone is convinced - or at least they will not publicly admit that they have logged on for love.

It is more difficult to build a relationship with someone you meet out of the blue - in a traditional setting, you already knew who you were talking to
Prof Ken Ouko

"Dating online is pretty awesome, but you can't rely on it as you don't know the person," a woman in her twenties says.

"Some of the Western people you meet on these websites are very weird, so you have to be very careful lest you meet someone who's really weird sexually and intellectually."

But just like other signs of modernity, internet dating may soon be widely accepted.

Ken Ouko, a sociology professor at the University of Nairobi, says this is likely to make life more complicated for young adults in the long run.

"It is more difficult to build a relationship and develop trust with someone you meet out of the blue," he says.

"In a traditional setting, you already knew who you were talking to, their parentage. You knew the family well, so even your parent could easily tell you: 'That's a good family.'"

Resolution

For Naomi, a mother of four young adults, urban dating is a concern that may lead to loose living.

Search screen grab from Lovepot.com
This 39-year-old looked promising... Description: 'Hot'
Claire
"What I've observed from society makes me feel afraid. As I see it there's too much freedom - the wrong kind of freedom," she says.

"We never used to approach men, we waited at home. They were able to identify a good girl and then finally in that situation you waited to be asked to be married."

And for Claire, the modern way of meeting her man has so far failed. After scanning through a list of 114 men on Lovepot.com, she has not been tempted to click on that "contact" button.

"This 39-year-old looked a promising option... Description: 'Hot'. But he was seeking a female between 20 and 30... and he lived in the UK."

But she is determined to stick to her New Year's resolution and not give up the internet.


SEE ALSO:
Surfing in Swahili
10 Aug 00 |  Africa
Country profile: Kenya
09 Mar 04 |  Country profiles


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