It’s another Wednesday and time for our Man Around Nairobi segment. Our Man Around Nairobi today is Mbugua Njihia. Mbugua Njihia is a lover of tech and the great outdoors. He is the CEO of Symbiotic Africa. He is driven by the desire to see Africans become net exporters of value. He says that he is in constant pursuit of opportunities without regard to resources currently controlled.
1.Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I was born and bred in Nairobi. I grew up in 3 neighborhoods – Kariobangi South, BuruBuru Phase 2 and Zimmerman before my folks moved to the suburbs.
I “feel” for today’s kids, growing up in the era of the apartment block and cabro. My childhood memories are those of freedom, running around chasing chicken, digging up soil…dirt is good and trying to help tend to the kitchen garden out back in our Kariobangi bungalow.
Buru Buru was pleasant to live in and we in many ways experienced the 24 hour economy. I remember this shop that mama used to send us to even late at night without any cause for concern! The street lights worked, the eucalyptus hedges were well kempt, courts neat with all our picket gates and we all knew each other. It helped that we could also hear the school bell (Shepherds Junior) from home and make a mad dash to be just in time.
Zimmerman was a cool hood. I went to the same school – Thika Road Christian School with a lot of my neighbors and we often took the 30 min walk either to or from together. My teenage years found me here. “Partners in crime” were aplenty from the lighting up the garbage and making sure those cans of “Doom” and other aerosol sprays exploded, to going on bike expeditions to what is now Thome (then primarily covered in bush) on hunting missions with our catapults and “firestones” and even attempting to make a good meal of that “dush” or two that we hit, often in some discarded Blueband tin. BMX bike was all the rage at some point before my dad walked in one evening with a Nintendo console and Super Mario Bros 3…game over.
Good times 🙂
2. What you love about Nairobi?
I love that Nairobi is a mixed bag of experiences and people and that you are never too far from something or company that you need whatever your disposition. If noise is your thing, then the noisemakers have their place, if you are the quiet reflective type…you will find your pocket of existence. If you love the outdoors and running like I do, you will find a pack sooner or later. The combinations are infinite.
3.What would you change about Nairobi?
If we can get it to look and feel like the picture of the City in the Sun that is in my mind! Plans for this city have been known for decades. It would be awesome to follow up on those plans even if with modifications to account for the madness that we let fester for years. Services and infrastructure need an overhaul.
I will not complain about traffic because I am traffic, but what I will say is that along with some awesome guys at Sure Telematics; a hardware startup that is taking up most of my waking hours, we are building a solid solution that will make Nairobi a smart city with benefits for both the residents and daily visitors.
4. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I am in technology and Nairobi has been at the heart of it. The city has been kind to me and others who were at the big bang moment that saw pioneers dare to dream, some way ahead of their time. As a service provider, the opportunities to network are immense and there is always an event happening where technology has a seat at the table.
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.
People, Places and Things. If I was their personal guide I would serve them both the rugged and the refined. A day shopping in Gikomba for mitumbas coupled with a “circuit” on a number 9 matatu (I am not sure they are still the illest, but they were during my high school days), a nyama choma plan, a weekend morning run in Karura topped up with a music gig patronized by Nairobi’s be’s and wannabe’s.