Kenya’s coastal town of Mtwapa may look like a tropical paradise, but is also host to a deeply entrenched cross-generational sex trade.
eDaily’s Brian Okoth went to Copacabana Beach in Mtwapa to investigate this underground world that has lured numerous teens from schools with the promise of quick cash. He met a 45-year-old “beach boy” – a term locally used to refer to men who sleep with female tourists for money.
James Ngala* was laxing on a beach bed, chewing khat and leisurely sipping beer through a straw as his eyes swept the white sandy beach.
Ngala, who has been in the sex trade for 29 years, was on the lookout for his next target – a white woman who would pay for a tryst. After the deed is done, the married father of two will take the proceeds to his family in Mtwapa town.
Ngala narrates his chronicles to this writer.
“I became a beach boy when I was 16. I studied at Khamis High School. After attending classes during the day, I would go to the beach in the evening to look for white old women to sleep with,” he began.
“I was born in Bombolulu, and life was very difficult. I would walk to school, and many times I would have no lunch.”
“When I got to Form Three, I dropped out and committed fully to being a beach boy. I had tried my hand at mjengo work but realised it required a lot of energy – energy that I did not have. I thereafter became a fisherman at Nyali Beach. The income was little, and I vowed not to continue with the laborious work,” recounts Ngala.
“When fishing, I would see coastal men caress and sleep with old white men for money.”
Ngala was inveigled by his peers to try out his luck. His first attempt yielded fruit: they had sex. This was the second sexual encounter that young Ngala had had.
“I was tempted into the “business” as it appeared very lucrative. I was lucky to find a white woman who showed me love right away. One day when we were swimming in the ocean, she kissed me on the lips and I kissed back. That was my first day to have sex with a white woman.”
Ngala did not use a condom.
“The white woman was a German national and she was around 42 years old; I was 16. I did not use protection with her as I was very naïve and that was just my second sexual encounter. My first sexual experience was with an African woman who was significantly older than me.”
“The act with the African woman took place one day when I was working as mtu wa mkono (handyman) and I was helping her to move houses. When we got to the new house, I had sex with her.”
Affinity for sex with older women
“I enjoyed the experience, and I vowed to continue having sex with older women.”
“The German woman taught me her native language; we could communicate easily. She had come to Kenya for a holiday with her husband – a German national,” recalls Ngala.
“So when the husband would sleep during the day, in his hotel room; the woman would come to the shores of the beach at around noon. We would walk along the shores of the ocean from Voyager to Nyali Beach. The first time I slept with her, she gave me Ksh5, 000. I had never held such an amount of money in my life. I was so happy and encouraged to continue with the “business”.”
Ngala says he prefers elderly German women because they are “sufficiently philanthropic” with their money.
“Thereafter, I made the beach shores my permanent work place. I would play beach soccer with male friends and when I spotted white women I’d hit on them – just to sleep with them in exchange of money and material benefits. I was given many pairs of shoes and money. Life proved very good.”
Sex trade money bought gifts
“My parents knew I was a beach boy. My mother would get delighted when I took shopping to her. Poverty makes humans desperate. My parents had no choice but to let me do the job. I was still staying with them at Bombolulu at the time.”
“I have been a beach boy for 29 years now. I have received a lot of material goods and benefited in many ways. I have gone to Europe multiple times – well over 39 trips. I have visited Germany, Switzerland, England, Belgium, Italy and many other European nations. Even if I got a well-paying job in Kenya, I doubt if I could have toured the many places I went to as a beach boy. I have enjoyed the experience; I got many rich people,” said Ngala.
With close to three decades in sex work, Ngala says he is contented with the rare opportunities that came his way.
“I discovered a lot of things. I wore all types of clothes. I have watched almost every Formula One race and top flight Bundesliga and Barclays Premier League match. Personally, I wouldn’t have afforded to pay for such experiences.”
So how did his European sugar mummies explain his presence in their home countries?
“When I visited the old women abroad, they would tell their husbands that I am a son to their African friend. So, when the man goes to work during the day, I would have sex with his wife. The women would tell me their husbands hardly made love to them. For example, there’s a woman who confessed she had gone for ten years without having sex with her husband!”
Even with the explanation given, were the men ever suspicious?
“The men hardly suspected I was having sex with their wives as they perceived me to be a kid. Furthermore, in most white families I came across, the wives had more wealth than their husbands. I don’t know why this was, but most of the women had inherited fortunes from their parents. So, you would find the women wore the pants in the house. They paid for my air tickets, upkeep and “salary” for the sexual services,” Ngala told eDaily.
“The oldest woman I have slept with in my over 29 years’ experience as a beach boy is 72 years and the youngest was 21 years.”
Since 1987, Ngala says he has transacted “business” with over 100 clients.
“In 29 years I have slept with approximately 110 different women. I have lost majority of their contacts. But there is one woman I have kept tabs with to date. She takes care of me as she would her child.”
With over 110 notches on his belt, does Ngala worry about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – especially Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)?
“I have never acquired HIV. God has been faithful. But now, I am vigilant. Back then gonorrhea and syphilis was a common thing. HIV was a new phenomenon to people. I suffered several STIs but not HIV.”
“I wasn’t using condoms in the early phases of my job as a beach boy – but later, I saw it wise to embrace protection. The criterion I use to decide which woman I am using protection with, and which one I wouldn’t, is time. The longer I have known a woman, the less likely I would use protection with her.”
“However, if a woman I have known for a short stint offers a huge amount of money for sex without condom, I would shut my eyes and say: kufa gari, kufa dereva.
“Let me be honest with you, in this “business” you have to risk. Condom use on a white woman will never fly you abroad – because she won’t have enjoyed anything.”
Wife aware of infidelity
“I have a wife and kids. They know this is what I do for a living. Sometimes I even go have sex with the white women in my house. My wife enjoys the benefits of me sleeping with old white women – she eats, bathes, wears gold jewelry; and she has never lacked. And I usually introduce her as my sister to the white women.”
“My eldest child is 25 years old. He is in France. I sired him with a French woman. My eldest child with a Kenyan is 17. He is sitting for his Form Four examination this year.”
Ngala’s son abhors what his father does. And he would not encourage the teenager to become a beach boy.
“My African son knows that I am a beach boy. He vows not to follow my footsteps. I have told him how hard the “business” is. I just opted for this way of life as I did not complete my education. I often encourage him that he can get a well-paying job in Kenya when he successfully completes his education.”
The last time Ngala visited a European country was in 2010. When he first flew to a Western nation in the 90’s, he had a lot of expectations.
“I first went to Europe in 1992. I thought the moment you land at the airport, you are given free money. But that perception changed when I got to Germany. Getting even a USD10 note which is equivalent to Ksh1000 was hard.”
Out of his many sexual encounters, what was the largest amount of money he received for his services?
“USD20, 000 (Ksh2 million); God loved me because I was only getting filthy rich white women.”
According to an officer attached to Tourist Police Mtwapa Sub Base, the practice of cross-generational sex trade, especially between young men and older female tourists, is rampant in the coastal town.
The officer, who sought anonymity, says cases of crime resulting from such relations are rare. The officer has been stationed at the base for close to five years now, and in that time there have been no reports of theft or assault.
The police officer also divulged that no parent or guardian has come out to claim that his or her male child was lured into sex trade by an elderly tourist.
Keep it eDaily for Part II of the Mtwapa Sex Tourism series as Ngala unleashes even more details from his 29 years in the underground trade.