Today our Man Around Nairobi is Raymond Chepkwony. Raymond Chepkwony is the Regional Program Manager for Geodatics where they are trying to take the guess work out farming. Geodatics give smart advice to bridge the gap between current farm yield and potential farm yield. They advise farmers on the kind of soils they have and the nutrients that are needed to grow different crop types.
When not in Nairobi, Raymond works passionately to empower farming communities. He also has a passion for social enterprise and strongly holds that smart solutions to obvious challenges, will lead to transformative agriculture that improves livelihoods and uplifts farmers. He believes that rural farmers are key to powering Africa’s growth.
Raymond is also a husband and a father. He says fatherhood has given him so much. He says “I know every song on Frozen, Sofia the first… Doc McStuffins…the list is endless.”
- Did you grow up in Nairobi?
Yes, I did. I grew up in Buru Buru. I grew up playing soccer with friends in the fields – 0ne estate versus another. I loved it. I still have fond memories of my childhood and back then, life was simple. We did not need a Fifa approved ball… All we needed was polythene bags, sisal ropes and Maradona aspirations. Simple but full of life. I enjoyed my childhood.
I remember the play would go according to seasons. Easter would be Safari rally o’clock! We made cars out of tin cans – Blue Band and Kimbo containers would be massacred for this end… Actually, my generation needs to have a chat with Unilever. How could they withdraw those without consulting us and we were the stakeholders? We would see who made the fanciest, fastest contraptions. We would genuinely race the cars and the winner…well…was never me! But I had one heck of a time competing.
Do “banos “ still exist? Crackies no payies was actually a serious gamble. You could lose your hard earned banos playing that. I guess it was the precursor to SportPesa. Let’s not even go the shakes route… and if street lights came out before you got home, well, you just knew you were in trouble.
2. What do you love about Nairobi?
I love the opportunities in Nairobi. Nairobi makes you explore and reach out to contacts easier. I recently needed a crash course in Blockchain technology and one phone call later, I have someone who could take me through BlockChain 101! That’s the power of the skillset in Nairobi. The skills and insights available to me in Nairobi make things easy and I have made great strides in Nairobi. The biggest Agricultural trade fare for example… is in Nairobi! That tells you that regardless of the location of the end user, you need to be in Nairobi to explore more variety.
I love the fast pace of life, the innovation and advancements. This town expands your mind. When you look at life with Nairobi lenses, you get a different and distinct view. Nothing is too complex…at the same time, nothing about Nairobi is simple. Nairobi teaches you to network. To stretch a little. To hustle a lot. You also need to be smart! Very smart. In Nairobi, “Ukikaa mbaya, wewe nje!”
- What would you change about Nairobi?
The commute to and from work in Nairobi is painful…painful being a sanitized word. This is a PG rated column right? If I woke up with a magic wand that could change one thing about Nairobi, I would probably change the traffic situation. Actually, I would definitely change the traffic situation.
We waste hours in traffic. It is an absolute waste of time and energy. I have worked in western Kenya for a while and the commute between home and was about fifteen minutes. You are therefore productive for longer. I could work early mornings and late nights and know I would be home shortly.
Nairobi needs to deal with how it moves its masses. I spend too much time being unproductive. The thought of crossing to Karen from Parklands for example, is so bad, that you can be temped to put it off. Traffic leads to reduced productivity for me. A situation I have no remedy for at the moment.
In Nairobi, you wake up at 0500 Hrs to be at work at 0800 Hrs and then have to leave at 1700 Hrs to be home by 1930 Hrs. That’s five hours wasted because of the commute. You spend almost as much time working, as you spend in traffic. That is probably the number one thing I would change for me to be more productive at work.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
The beauty about Nairobi is that it’s always open to new ideas and new developments. Working in Nairobi allows for development and reaching out to different players in markets. Nairobi is always open for business.
If only Nairobi would a little more patient, we would achieve more. Customer service and customer support are lacking in Nairobi’s culture. I quite often find Nairobi lacking horribly in listening to customer. And this doesn’t just affect small players… Client service lacks from huge corporates all the way down to mama mboga. Take a step away from Nairobi and it changes to impeccable, caring and attentive customer service.
It has made me want to improve service to my clients and the farmers that we serve. So in a way, the bad customer service is a benchmark of what NOT TO BE!
- 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.
Let’s see… Two obvious and one not so obvious. The obvious one would be the Nairobi National Park and a cold Tusker. Actually, a cold Tusker at the Nairobi national park should be sufficient bait to get anyone to come to Nairobi!
The not so obvious one: Kenya National Archives. This is a resource rarely used. It sits smack in the middle of town and it is a must visit. It tells a lot about Kenya and Nairobi and its formative years.
I would also throw in the Railway Museum. Well, because a Tusker at the Nairobi National Park is one item right?
I would therefore plan a day itinerary. Visit the Kenya National Archives, and then on to the Railway Museum… followed by a drive at the Nairobi National Park coupled with a sunset Tusker.
If you would like to interact with Raymond you can find him on twitter at @ItsNOWRC.