Kenyans willing to pay top dollar to find love

A swipe away and you find love. In an era when most people are keener on casual relationships, others looking for serious engagements have been left in limbo.

But we are living in the digital age, and technology comes to the rescue.

Online dating has turned out to be the new infatuation in town.

Cupid-struck young and the old are signing up for online dating, allowing technology to find them their matches.

Jesse Jones, 28, a computer scientist in Uganda, joined the online dating scene in 2019 after failing to find love in the traditional way.

“I am a very busy man. I was introduced by my friend to Tinder, since I was single for a long time and he got concerned. I signed up and I have been on different dates with different people and what I can say is it is good and convenient. It has not been going so well but I am still hopeful,” Mr Jones says.

But it was not for free.

“I paid Sh4,000 ($36) for Tinder Gold for six months to get the premium services. I’m at the age where I am more focused on finding someone to settle down with. I need a wife and I have no time to start looking in my neighbourhood,” he continues.

Dating sites and apps

He also noted that he spends an hour on Tinder just swiping left and right through profiles.

Inasmuch as many dating sites and apps are free, some platforms use a premium pricing model that offers online purchases.

On Tinder, when a user upgrades to a premium account, they get various exclusive features like notifications on profile views, and the platform boosts their profile panorama.

They say the third time’s a charm and this applies to Mebble Wafula, 25, who is married with two children.

She met her better half on a Facebook dating site, which is available in the US, where she worked as an intern.

Ms Wafula was introduced by her friend to the dating site but was unsuccessful in the first and second attempts.

But in the third try, she found her Mr Right – Kevin John Schares.

“It takes patience to get what you want. The first time and second time did not go well. I decided to seek advice from friends. They say the third time’s always a charm and I found him in 2020. We got engaged and now we are married,” she says as she giggles.

Online dating

She goes on: “Online dating works. I would have tried it earlier but they say God’s timing is the best. The difficult bit is people sign up with different intentions, so you have to know what you want. I wanted a husband and I got a husband.”

But while technology does the selection for you, it takes old-school courage and ambition to move the relationship to the next level, as Ms Wafula discovered.

“I made the first move and invited him for dinner and he came, thanks to my roommates, who kept me sane and got me a husband, and the best part of all is I did not pay any money. All I needed was Wi-Fi,” she says.

Online dating has become popular in Kenya due to its convenience, as well as the ability to find what you want. Unlike traditional dating where one is only restricted to people within their city or town, online dating transcends boundaries, language and race.

Beatrice Nzioka, 26, an entrepreneur who met her current boyfriend on a dating site, says that gone are the days when women would wait for the guy they like to pursue them.

“I met my boyfriend, who is in the United Kingdom, on Afro Introduction and we have been dating for three months now. I waited for men to approach me the normal way but there was no luck. That’s why I opted to try the online dating apps,” Ms Nzioka says.

She now raves about social media relationships.

“It is easy, fast and convenient and I can talk to him at any time. He is a good guy, we are planning to meet very soon and hopefully, things will go well for both of us,” Ms Nzioka giggles.

Premium services

But as in Jones’ case, hers wasn’t free.

She paid Sh5,000 for premium services where she got to see people who had viewed her profile. And that is how she found her boyfriend.

“Cheap is expensive. I paid Sh5,000 to get better services, and I am satisfied,” Ms Nzioka continues.

According to the website Business of Apps, online dating revenues in the US hit $602 million in 2020, and they are expected to reach $755 billion by 2024.

The number of users is also expected to rise, with 53.3 million Americans expected to use internet dating services in 2024, up from 44.2 million in 2020.

A Kenyan subscribing to Tinder for premium services must pay Sh1,600 a month and Sh5,065 for six months. Premium services on the app will set you back Sh6,754 a year.

To get premium services on Afro Introduction, one pays Sh2,500 a month, Sh5,000 for three months and Sh10,000 for a year.

Gold services cost Sh2,000 per month, Sh4,000 for three months and Sh8,000 for 12 months.

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