Month: August 2012

Kenyan tenants no more

So my short-lived honeymoon and love affair with this my country is over. Sad, right. Reality check has set in.
I guess it is not possible to see the beauty of this country and not see what is also so wrong with it. What stands between the success that I envision and the rut hole we often are in.

Team Kenya

The just ended Olympics were interesting to watch. But more interesting was the support all Kenyans gave to ‘team Kenya’ despite its disappointing dismal performance in the Olympics (a topic for another day). I was amazed at how everywhere you turned we were ll talking such proud Kenyan speak. Facebook was ablaze with comments of a nation proud to be Kenyan. We were keen to show off our running capabilities. We were all behind team Kenya.
No one cared what tribe they were from, or religion; just that they were Kenyan. In fact, you should have had many of us discrediting the ‘Kenyans’ who represent other countries. I mean how can they be that unpatriotic. Yer right, you would think we are the most patriotic nation.

Then we forget….

The reality is we are so tribal it hurts. Everywhere I go, people are interested in knowing my second name, and then they can place any views I have to my tribe. We elect our leaders based on tribes. We are always suspicious of other tribes.
And tribes are a reality in this country. Recently I noticed that one of the radio stations I love is primarily served by people from one region. But do I blame them, no. I honestly do not even care, this radio station ministers to me and that is enough. People from my region however will not be caught ner this station, really!
Surprisingly it is the younger generation that is even more tribal. You would think that they would not care, coming from a more cosmopolitan position but no.
Now we have taken our separation of people a notch higher, the Muslims are up in arms against the Christians in our coastal regions. One of their leaders was assassinated and somehow to them the right place to their anger is against their Christian counterparts.

Fallen nature

I used to think that the reason we are so conscious of our tribe had something to do with the divide and rule measures that the colonist used. And it probably does. However, I look to the world we are in and I see the segregation of Muslims and Christians, I see the division of the English, Scotts and Welsh people, the Jews to the non-Jews, then I know all human beings have an innate fallen nature that wants to imagine that we are better than others. I guess in Kenya we have just taken that a notch higher.

No longer a tenant

Recently a friend of mine posted on Facebook that Kenyans we often act like we are tenants to this country, we forget that when Kenya burns, we all burn; regardless of our tribe, religion or allegiances.
This is my country, this is your country. You will never have any other.
For that reason, I will no longer behave like I am a tenant in this country; it is the only country that will ever be mine. So I will take my place as an owner, everything I do will be from an owner’s perspective. I will embrace other Kenyans. I will only be bothered by what grows this nation, and tribalism does not. Neither does any other separation. I am a Kenyan first, and then my tribe follows. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a tenant to this nation and I will not have tenants decide the fate of the owners.
Truth be told, what tribe you are has no bearing on what I eat or live on. So I will tolerate your different views. I will see you as what you are, a Kenyan. That I believe is the prevalent teaching in all religions, even the pagans, love one another.
I will hang onto that moment when ‘Rudisha’ not only won a gold medal but broke the world record. I was so Kenyan!


The land of milk and honey


Before my eyes are blinded on the beauties of this country let me write what else I see.

Growing up, there was this craze with going abroad. Every person who had a big dream for themselves, wanted to go abroad, to the land of milk and honey. However, nowadays I hear and see less and less of this. Not sure if it is because I am now older and so I don’t get to hear of this craze, I hope I am not this old!

Home is best

I want to believe it is because we are increasingly realizing there is nothing like home. And there really is nothing like home. You know the way when you are in your own house you can afford to raise your feet and place them on your side table or even chair without thinking much about how they look or even smell! Try that in another person’s house, however good they may be! When you are in someone else’s house, you have to be polite and at your best manners lest they kick you out. The same thing applies to being in a foreign land. It just never is home.

The food

First, the food is just not like our home food. The food in these lands is either too much of junk or too processed and therefore the taste gets lost in the food. No wonder these lands quickly discovered spices.

You just cannot afford to eat this food as plainly as we do. You know the freshness our onions, tomatoes, dhanias bring, nothing like that. No wonder most Kenyans will not leave this country without royco! It is their savior. Then you miss things like ugali, nothing like our ugali. Again, no wonder most Kenyans will not leave behind a bag of jogoo. We may not know it, but the freshness of our food, that we get fresh from our gardens make a lot of difference. That is until your taste birds adopt to the junk.


Then there is the culture. Africans are naturally warm, sometimes to fault, but warm anyway. I worked abroad for a few months and one of the things I missed is just hanging out with friends and families. We have a warmth that is not found anywhere else. I missed going out for the 1 hour long lunches of laughing and enjoying each other’s company. I missed being able to just walk into a friend’s house unannounced, dare you do that in those foreign land. I missed nyama choma weekend plots! Nothing like this; seat, hang out and laugh all afternoon. We are warm. Wait till you are in a foreign land then you realize even the best of them just do not have the African warmth!

I used to go to a church where amazingly, after the service, it was only the Africans who would remain behind, freezing way but deciding to have small talk. That is what Sunday is all about right, catch up with family and friends. The inhabitants of this land would find us weird.

Lastly, I should mention the weather in passing. If I get into this I will belabor the point but believe me, there is no where else wjere there is weather like Kenyan / African weather.

The shock of systems that work

You might then ask why people choose to stay in these foreign lands. Well most will tell you even after 20 / 30 years away, they intend to come back home.

However, truth be told the developed world has an allure. At some point most will weigh the cons I have just talked about to the pros of staying in these foreign lands and sometimes walking away from the pros can be hard.

I mean how do you walk away from a land where systems work. You do not need to bribe to get a service from a government office. The speed of the services is surprising, without a ‘kitu kidogo’! Traffic rules are followed. Transport systems are so orderly it is shocking. All basic services are just that, basic. You can sue the government for a 2 min power cut. Water is basic; you don’t need boreholes or water pumps. Accessing bank accounts is at the comfort of your household. Shopping malls are an experience. You then begin to see why this world struggles to say Kenya is developing, in all fairness underdeveloped might be closer. You then see the difference between our world and the developed world

My prayer is this

I have a dream. That one day, these systems will work in my country as well. That this nation will rise up to be all it can be. Imagine a world where our pros; the food, culture, weather just to mention a few, marry with the systems that work effectively. Just imagine! That is my dream.

The reason I love my country is this, we are in the middle of change, of something big. We are not yet there, but we are moving towards this. And the prospects get me excited! The city under the sun.

The city under the sun

Beautifully beautiful

My first
I am very excited to be posting my first blog. I love writing, that this is my first blog is just but surprising!
I have thought through what I want my first blog to be about. You know how special firsts are, first love, first job, first bank account etc. They hold a special place in our hearts. I guess it is because they represent the beginning of the unknown and that can be exciting. They represent greater dreams, greater opportunities. In firsts nothing can go wrong, the innocent and naïve mind of firsts prevails. Nothing like firsts. If you do not believe me, think of your many firsts, I bet they bring a smile on your face, if for nothing else just how naïve you were.

The love of my life
So anyway I am onto my first, I know many years from now this first will bring a smile to my face. I can bet on that. I have settled for writing about my love for this my country Kenya. I know without a doubt that there will be days you will read my blogs and wonder whether this writing lady is a Kenyan or she is a wanna-be Kenyan? Or even worse, is she one of those Kenyans living in the diaspora who seem to know all that is wrong with Kenya and believe that nothing good can come from this country. I am neither of all those. I am a Kenyan through and through. In love with this great nation. Humbled by the fact that God chose me to be a Kenyan in such a time as this.
I see the potential this country holds. Recently I read in one of our dailies that there are so many private equity firms scouting our country for opportunities to invest.

My secret love is out
They seem to have discovered what many of us have not, that we are in the midst of a miracle. Kenya, Africa, is rising from the darkness it has represented in the past to a new glory. Our economy is growing in leaps and bounds. In fact it is widely believed that the biggest growth, now and in the near future, will be coming from sub-sahara Africa. I have no doubt Kenya is playing a role in those numbers.
In this same daily, several days later, they were talking about the rise of a middle income class in Kenya and the wider Africa. This middle class want to spend a little more than has been done in the past. They want good quality items. They are the nakumatt shoppers of Nairobi. They want variety. This middle class is educated. They have no qualms in looking away from poor quality items. They somehow are also price conscious. They do not relate to those advertisements that are driven by foreigners. They are like me, jealously in love with their countries, very patriotic. So the multinationals are pacing themselves, to change the face of their advertisements to have an African middle class in mind.

And it is the love of many now
Over the last few months we have seen very many multinationals set up their Africa regional offices in Nairobi. This is a surprising trend given that for the longest time the Africa regional offices were based in southern Africa. What is driving this multinationals to sub Saharan Africa? To this once very troubled side of the world.
I recently was interviewed for a job with one of this US based multinationals that has opened its regional offices in Nairobi. I sadly did not get this job but we had some very interesting conversations with my interviewer on why they set up their offices in Nairobi. Turns out the world has noticed we have good quality human capital. We have very good work ethics. We work hard. We are intelligent. Skilled workers they call us.I am not saying all these to flatter us; in fact, my interviewer used these exact words. Some of this was surprising even to me. Apparently, the quality of the people who apply for jobs in this regional office has even amazed them. So the first reason they are here is the good quality ‘workers’ they will get.
Second is our location. Turns out it is easy to access most African nations from Kenya. We have the pride of Africa to thank for this. Any regional office needs to be a transit base; multinationals are looking for a location where they can move in and out of very easily.

They are here to stay
The last reason I recall was the quality of life the foreigners employed in these regional offices get in Nairobi. This one did not surprise me. Unknowing to many of us, we have the best weather under the earth; I unapologetically brag over this often as I so know how true this is. Nairobi is fortunate enough to be at the helm of equator and that means that our weather is not too extreme. It may get cold, it may get hot, but this is always within reason. (I pray we can say this in ten years with all these global warming effects!)
Then on top of the great weather, foreigners do manage to get reasonably good places to live in, places where they can almost forget that they are in Africa, we have great suburbs. In fact for some of these foreigners, the quality of life they get here is probably better than they do in their home countries. And no wonder many foreigners even after their time in Kenya is done, they will find a reason to stay on. Who would not want to have as many drivers at your beck and call as they will probably get in Kenya, or the preferential treatment they will get in many restaurants and malls. To fault, we Kenyans value foreigners more than locals so they will have a great time here.

So well, I will settle for a shared love
In short, what I am trying to say, in very many words is this. We have a great country. We have slept on this greatness for a while, we have not recognized how blessed we are. I am happy to see this turning around. We have invested heavily in infrastructure (and yes I know we still have a long way to go). We have put in place systems that can take us to the next level (some of the initiatives under Vision 2030 if implemented will be things that the world will reckon with). We seem to have made some great political strides, the least of which is the implementation of the new constitution (and yes I know the next general elections will determine if these strides will be cemented or washed away).
We are on the right track. We are in the middle of a miracle. A blessed nation. I know all these. And for this reason, I love this country. So when I criticize anything we do (and I promise you I will), please know it is out of love. It is out of the knowledge that this country has great potential. This staying as just potential can be very frustrating! So I will remove my frustration on any unutilized potential on this blog. Hopefully it will get the attention of another frustrated Kenyan and together we can play whatever role God will place in our hearts to.