Kenyans’ love for football can only be dwarfed by their tribal politics and when Shabana kicked back into the league you could feel the tremor that probably rouses politicians, and understand their obsession.
Our money knows this too, innumerable football bets on our mobile wallets show Kenyans following the game to nondescript leagues across the world looking for fancy odds but learning the basics of football nonetheless.
So when Safaricom brought back Chapa Dimba after a two-year hiatus, it almost felt like they were reconnecting with crowds bringing the game back to the centre of our focus, cultivating grassroots champions to national acclaim and, international successes.
Chapa Dimba stars
Launched in 2017 to give young people aged 16-20 a platform to showcase, nurture and earn from their talent, the tournament sifts through 40,000 players from over 1,600 teams playing over 6,000 games for the very best in the game.
The top performers from Chapa Dimba have gone on to play for the junior and senior national teams while some have launched their professional careers from the tournament. Benson Omala, straight from the slums of Nyamasaria in Kisumu signed for local professional football at Kenya Premier League club, Western Stima.
Safaricom has demonstrated that corporate social responsibility (CSR) in sports is not just about sponsoring a team to have a corporate band-aid over their t-shirts, but that the investment can be cultivated into something bigger.
Kenya’s football has always been vibrant at school levels, community clubs and corporate team buildings. But save for a few gems who have made it to the top of the game like Denis Oliech, Macdonald Mariga and Victor Wanyama the pipeline to global football has not been robust.
At the capital in Nairobi, Mathare Youth Sports Association led in the exposure of local talent to international football and helped establish the system that has lifted scores of Kenyans from the poor Eastland’s background to foreign clubs in Europe and the Middle East.
Read also: What’s different as Chapa Dimba returns?
Football academies in Kenya
Now some of those football successes are returning to lift Kenyan football. Former players like Mc Donald Mariga and Sammy Owino Kempes are only waking up to the need for strategic infrastructure and football academies needed to succeed in the global sport. They are starting to put together a suitable infrastructure that will hopefully propel Kenyan local talent.
Safaricom has seen how these infrastructure gaps can be bridged by technology, publicity and a football advertisement that will usher in the telecoms company new era of Artificial Intelligence.
Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa said this tournament will hopefully see Kenyan get scouted to play in top international teams, creating an opportunity for local players from even the remotest villages in Kenya to play at the highest level.
“We hope to build a pipeline of talented players who will play within Kenya just like we have been doing in the past but also start to be scouted for going abroad so the top two will actually go to teams in Spain and eventually the US,” Mr Ndegwa said.
Rural raw football talent rarely stands much of a chance at getting spotted for the big leagues. But with Safaricom, they get a chance to play at the gallery of the world where it is easy to get spotted.
What’s’ more, Safaricom is promising to incorporate AI in the game, a vest to measure power, sprints and player intensity in real time that will allow scouts from the world to find Kenya’s amazing talent.
Chapa Dimba AI-based commercial
It shows the decision makers at the telcos realize football scouting has moved from the traditional reliance on the good eye of an agent who can spot good talent, watching a player through a couple of games. Today, the need for more information to increase the probability of success has become important to the game. Teams invest a lot in tracking movements, comparing statistics and using big data to improve player performance and this technology is key in sourcing for the right fit for building a balanced team.
And for Safaricom, this is not just a way of giving back to society, but the telco is also tapping the raw nerve of the country’s most popular pastime for its marketing. This year’s Chapa Dimba will feature Safaricom’s first AI-generated advertisement and it promises to be a big thing. Nothing less will be expected from the company that brought us some of our most memorable and breathtaking advertisements in recent times.
Safaricom’s AI-generated advertisement promises to immerse us into the world of Chapa Dimba. It sets the pace with an opening from the trendy Trio Mio tune Cheza kama wewe, lifted from Sheng’s lingo for unuttered intimate understanding which resonates with Kenyan youth.
Real local players will be sucked into the computers, their moves, their game situations tracked and mapped onto green screens to create rousing vistas that its producers claim will almost create magic and fantasy that is culturally relatable to the Kenyan dinner table. And for 45 seconds we will all be transported to that Chapa Dimba world.
The advertisement is almost meant to tease the integration of Artificial Intelligence into our world with the way it gels out of the real players and transforms them into awe inspiring visuals that will make us fall in love with local football again.
It tells more of the transformation of its creator, and their thinking on how AI and data are powering technology in this century. Safaricom is probably one of the biggest data repository besides the government. With AI the company has a chance of understanding their customers, make more sense of transactions and get feedback from product use.
AI also presented the capacity to handle its massive network optimally with use of advancements such as the Zuri chatbot and is helping Safaricom tackle one of its biggest headache on the financial services front which is fraud.
While this demonstrates the leadership of Safaricom in Kenya, regionally and the continent in the advancement to AI, it comes a time with larger skepticism of the technology given the data mining by World Coin that bordered on the unethical preying on poverty.
Telco largest processor of data
Safaricom realize that for its AI age to get more buy in, it is best served on friendly relatable terms and the language that we understand like football. It shows they understand the implication of the huge responsibility of holding our data and the need for this data to be used for good and for the benefit of the customer.
“We are the largest processors of data, as you can imagine. And the responsibility that we have, which almost is a calling, is that this data needs to be used ethically, and it needs to be used to benefit the customer, or the people that we serve at Safaricom. On top of it, it calls for us to protect it. You can imagine, we know how much money you have on M-PESA, we know how you are transacting. So the biggest responsibility for us is that even as we process in this data, we do it so, we do it responsibly, but we do it also to benefit the customer. Our purpose, as we all know by now, we want to be a purpose-led technology company,” said Charlotte Kepadisa, Safaricom Head of Big Data & Analytics.