The All-Kenya Scam

As a tourist, you are the obvious "victim" of the All-Kenyan Scam. Whenever you stop at a souvenir shop, landmark or just about any viewpoint, an amazing number of Kenyans will come up to you. The scam goes as follows:

Hello, my name is xxx. What is your name?

You tell him/her.

Where do you come from?

You tell him/her.

(This is where the variations set in, and shows to what degree the tourist is going to get conned. The following is the full version.)

I collect foreign coins, from other countries. Do you have any coins from your country that I can have?

You might actually have some coins on you, and perhaps give him/her one.

Do you have a pen for me?

In Kenya, a ball pen is very hard to get your hands on, and this is especially tough for school kids, who have trouble getting writing tools. Therefore, it very early became the habit of school children to approach tourists and ask for a pen. This has unfortunately spread to the con artists, who collect all the pens they can get, and then sell them.

Whatever, you might give him/her a pen.

Please come and visit my/this shop right over here - I have special price for you.

And from there on, it's all obvious.

Quite a few tourists are of course aware that their spendings in Kenya are essential for the economy as a whole, and come to Kenya intending to live the good life as enormously wealthy people, and buy more souvenirs and giving bigger tips than they would normally consider. But when you are regularly hunted down by dozens of the locals whenever you just stop at a gas station or at the entrance to a game reserve, or to buy a coke, then it simply get to be too much. Not only would you like to be able to move about without a group of people constantly demanding your attention, you are also aware that these people accosting you probably do it for a living, which can be seen on their new, clean clothes and general wealthy appearance, compared to what you generally see. And finally, just how stupid do they think you are? When a tourist is approached on numerous occations every day and presented with the almost exact same lines, don't they even begin to suspect that it might become less effective? They even got angry if you didn't want to listen to their scam, but tried to ignore them, on occations. They still have a lot to learn about selling.

In finishing, it should be stressed that bringing ball pens and perhaps used clothes and giving them away to the locals is a good idea. But make sure that you give them to someone who really need them, and that can best be assured by throwing the items out through the minibus windows when traveling from reservation to reservation to kids at the roadside. And please make sure that the items are thrown BEFORE you pass the kids, so they are able to see where they land. Also, make sure that they land at the SIDE of the road - too many kids get run over and killed scrambling for goods thrown from the minibuses.

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Hans-Henrik T. Ohlsen (

Write to HT.