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Kenyan firms cash in on Obamamania

Kenyan companies are cashing in on a wave of euphoria over Barack Obama's US election win in his father's homeland, using his name to sell everything from beer to paint.

Kenyans regard Obama, whose father was born in the tiny Western village of Kogelo, as one of their own and Kenya's currency surged against the dollar after his victory. A public holiday was immediately declared in Obama's honor.

Kenya's biggest Daily Nation newspaper published a calendar in one edition called “the Obama year” that quickly sold out.

Businesses and some of Kenya's often unpopular politicians rushed to publish newspaper announcements congratulating the president-elect while other companies have launched commemorative products and Obama-themed advertisements.

One radio advertisement promises a paint job that listeners can believe in, making a play on the White House to push its range of more varied colors.

Tourism Minister Najib Balala sees Kogelo village, where Obama's grandmother still lives, as a focal point for reviving an industry badly damaged by Kenya's bloody post-election crisis early this year.

While touring the area last week he said the government will build a 5 million shillings ($63,600) museum dedicated to the memory of Obama's father in the hope of attracting more American tourists to Kenya, whose numbers lag British and Germans. One Kenyan firm, East Africa Breweries, had a head start in exploiting the Obama phenomenon.

In 2004, when the future president captured a US senate seat, an existing EABL lager called Senator got an instant boost, as Kenyans christened it Obama.

The brewer launched a limited edition lager called 'President' the day after Obama's victory. It plans to offer it for two months and might sell it permanently if demand is high.

“We launched the celebrate the mood that was existent in the country and to commemorate the momentous occasion,” said Ken Kariuki, EABL's corporate affairs director.

Other companies trying exploit Obama's name include an internet service provider and hotels.

Kenyan companies do not appear to have asked Obama's permission for their campaigns.

“The brand is not called Obama. It is called there is no concern,” Kariuki said. (Reuters)