It is Wednesday and time to meet one of the men who work and play in Nairobi in our Man Around Nairobi. Our Man Around Nairobi today is George Kilibwa. George Kilibwa is a former investment Analyst who has recently ventured into the business world (Swiztech Services and Mwana Systems). In his free time, he uses the pen as a sword to shape the world so he can feel how awesome it would have been if he were a writer. He is also a contributor to Potentash where he writes on Business and Finance.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I have grown up in Nairobi. It’s actually a privilege, I would probably have turned out with a funny accent and all. I was born when my folks were living in Bahati. I was brought up in Eastlands. I do not recall anything from Bahati though.
We moved to Ummo when I was three. It was a new estate, very clean, nice roads, good drainage system and all. Now the estate is in a mess. The opposite of what it was two decades ago. My happiest childhood memories happened there, and I had a happy childhood. It’s so silly, I’ll probably not bore you with it.
When I was five, we moved to Koma. I could describe it the way I described Ummo when we moved to Ummo. The houses were bigger and all. Funny thing, most of my folks’ friends moved to Koma and their kids and us are like bros. The thirteen years we lived in Koma were some of my best years, I made some good friends, did all that children do from playing hide and seek, to watching others play bano (Bano just wasn’t my thing) to playing football and riding bicycles. Life was great.
2. What you love about Nairobi?
What I love most about Nairobi is the diversity of the people. There are all kinds of people from different parts of the country. The mixture is what makes Nairobi great. I did not do my undergraduate in Nairobi. The first friends I made were people from Nairobi, coincidentally. We were all from different parts of Nairobi but we got along well. The friends I made are some of my best friends to date. The Lunje in me wants to send salamz but the interviewer is looking at me with very bad eyes lol.
Another thing I love about Nairobi is how fast it is. People who have been to Jo’burg, Dubai or New York will tell you Nairobi is slow, but compare it with Kampala or Dar-es-Salaam, and Nairobi comes out on top. I once travelled to Kisumu using a morning flight, the town woke up at 8. The biggest supermarket opened at 8. I had to walk around until 8 to get a shoe polish guy. My shoe polish guy in Nairobi is in town before 5:30. Mombasa is too slow. Eldoret is also slow although you would think it would be fast because of the runners.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
Traffic is a mess in this city. There was a time I used to spend four hours on the road daily because of traffic. I now live 20 minutes from town, but it sometimes takes one and a half hours to get to town. The traffic in the CBD is worse. All the PSVs should be removed from the CBD. It will make the traffic much better. If you drive, picture your car parked at the National Bank on Harambee Avenue. Get that car to Bus Station. On the other hand, I’ll walk to Upper Hill from the National Bank and when I get to Upper Hill, I’ll call you to find out how far you have gone. It’s that bad.
Extensions to buildings need to be regulated. Good estates like Ummo and Koma have been undone by extensions. Buru is going the same road. People are putting up apartments without proper planing from the County Council. In five years, we’ll see the effects.
Did you know it was illegal to harvest rain water in Nairobi? That’s just BS if you ask me. Encourage building owners to have their buildings harvest rain water to use in washroom cisterns. Have a proper waste/garbage disposal and/or recycling system. That would be good for a start.
4. As a professional how is it working in the Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi contributes 67% of Kenya’s GDP! If you have a business in Kenya, you have a better shot if it’s in Nairobi (or it has a branch in Nairobi). I am in the branding and printing industry, and we have done stuff for different parts of this country as well as South Sudan. How many people will leave Nairobi to get services in, say Kakamega? Unless it’s something to do with chicken :-).
A few of us (friends) also have a new venture we call Mwana Systems. You can check about it here www.mwanasystems.com. Our target market for now is Nairobi, and the response we have got from several meetings so far is incredible. I don’t know if we shall get the same response outside Nairobi.
5. If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting.
1. Hospitality. We tend to treat foreigners better than we treat ourselves. I have been to Kampala and Dar and they (especially Tanzanians) are not hospitable. Tanzanians expect you to beg for a service you are paying for or you will be branded as being rude. A tourist once gave his experience and reason as to why he would always choose Kenya. He had gone to a four star hotel in Tanzania. The telephone in his room didn’t work, there was no hot shower. Dar is hot, so that might be understandable. But when he came to Kenya, the first hotel he went to was not offering what he wanted, but they referred him to another hotel and even called a cab for him. That’s Nairobi for you.
2. Food. Our food is delicious! Whatever you choose, ugali, chapati, rice. It’s wonderful!
3. Weather. The coldest it ever gets is around 10 degrees Celsius (why do some people still use Fahrenheit?) and Nairobians would be freezing. The hottest it ever gets is less than 30 degrees Celsius. I don’t know about you, but that’s lovely weather.
If you would like to interact with George Kilibwa find him on twitter at @greatrnk.