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In Nairobi, Its Karibu all the way

KENYA | Sunday, 24 May 2015 | Views [201]



NAIROBI is like any other capital city of any country.  Busy with business and social activities.   The first thing that struck me at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was the mode of screening for Ebola immediately one steps into the terminal.  All one needed do was just to move towards an officer seated with a computer in front of him and all ones temperature data is displayed on a 14 inches screen suspended above him.  No one need to point a gadget on your head painting a picture of ‘Your life or your money’ with the men of the underworld.  In my mind I said that was cool.

A Nigerian who is familiar with the area told me the Airport was modelled after the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos in the 70s but today,  the copied airport is not a match to the one in Nairobi and with consistency, it might even be able to offer what the Dubai airport has to offer.   Named after Kenya’s first president and prime minister, the airport can now boost of scheduled flights to over 50 countries while its national carrier, Kenya Airways proudly connects passengers and delivers them at their destinations. 

Picking up toll ticket at the airport is also electronic, so even if one is flying at any point of the day, one does not need anybody to issue ticket and open the toll gate.  Of course if such arrangement is suggested in Nigeria, people will raise their voices to the rooftop that the one who made such suggestion want an increase in the already saturated labour market.  But the arrangement in itself is a checkmate to sharp practices and the much dreaded corruption.

My schedule for the four days I stayed in Nairobi was such a crazy one that there was very little time to see the city outside of the four walls of the hotel.  But this little time was enough to at least create a lasting impression of a capital city that can be used as a reference to other African countries.  Although residents have their complaints on congestions in the city especially at peak hours so much that people with flexible schedules have to devise a kind of plan on when to go out  and when not to. 

Typical of any African country, they complained of slow spate of development in the transport sector, the railways are there, but they desire something more modern like in the Western world.  A ride through the Kenyatta Avenue passing through the Nairobi gallery to the city market located on the Koinange street depicts a capital city comprising of both a people on the high and low strata.   Books and newspaper vendors pursued motorists to make some quick sales while some young men sold pilled sugarcane to passers-by and motorists.

The estimated population of Kenya is said to be around 20 million.  With 42 tribes which have the Kiswahili as the widely accepted language, the country has other ethnic groups like Kikuyu, Luyia, Luo, Kalenjin, Kamba, Kisii and Meru.  Of course this is not a departure from what is obtainable in Nigeria where we have different tribes and diverse ethnic groups.  The only difference however here is that the entire population of Kenya can be just of one state in Nigeria, but of course there are lessons Nigeria can learn from the North African country.


On the last evening of my stay in Nairobi, I in company of Brigitte and Sally, colleagues from South Africa and Zimbabwe respectively insisted we wanted to see a bit of Nairobi and so off we went to the city market ready to explore and learn a little more of the people and of course do some shopping.  The first thing you’ll hear a Kenyan say when he or she see you approach his or her shop is ‘Karibu’ which translates to welcome.  Most times they are tempted to continue to converse with you in Kiswahili until you make them know that you are a foreigner.  So do we look alike?

The traders in Nairobi have a unique sense of business interaction.  You are in a bargain with them for a particular item, the two of you are not coming to agreement on the price but at the same time, they will refuse to let you go.  What!

What kind of human beings are these.  ‘Okay see you next time since you are not agreeing on the price’ you interjected and then make a move to go.

‘You know I cannot reject money’ the Kenyan responded and stands in front of you as you made to leave.

‘So what do we do, we seem not to be able to come to terms on the price’.

‘Eh, I cannot reject money now’

‘So let me go’

‘No you can’t, try and come up a little bit higher with the price’

And the bargain continues.  Talk of residence in the place of business, they have it.  A typical Nigerian trader irrespective of any tribe may abuse you if he/she feels that your bargain was taking too long.  We need to take a cue from Kenyans.


While you are in shop A, the owner of the next shop or opposite would do all he/she can do with body language to get your attention, so you can be in shop A and begin a bargain with the owner of the next or opposite shop, no one quarrels on that.  Back home hell may be let loose if such happens.

The city market is an open one targeted at tourists.  There one can find artefacts and traditional attires of many designs and colours.  Like our very industrious people from the Igbo extraction, a Kenyan will be more than willing to go bring you goods from other shops if he does not have your specification, the least thing he would allow is for you to walk away simply because you can’t get what you desire. 

For some kind of buses close to the high capacity buses found in Abuja and Lagos, Nairobi has what is called ‘Citi Hopper’.  A name the driver who brought us back to the hotel said literarily translated to ‘City Grasshopper’.  They are shuttle buses within the city and next to them are the ‘Matatus’, they are smaller buses like our ‘Araba’ in Abuja or the ten to fourteen passengers’ buses in Lagos.  And of course the taxis individuals can hire to take them to places.

The foods in Nairobi are not something out of this world that one cannot cope with.  The one thing I noticed however is that most of their foods are potatoes based.  They prepare mashed potatoes in different forms and take it with lots of vegetables.  A particular one I love so much and I could even eat it thrice daily if allowed is called ‘Mokimo’, a special delicacy from the Kikuyu ethnic group.   The final product is a leave green mashed potatoes with corn scattered in it.  

Like most capital cities, the city of Nairobi is clean befitting of a capital city of a country.  We never got to the hinterlands so one cannot really say whether the same can be said of other cities in the country and the remote places.

Nairobi is host to lots of foreigners who are doing business there from the Asia to other African countries and Europe.  What the government of Kenya does not do however is to joke with the welfare of its people as regards the way foreigners treats them.   On the second evening of our arrival, a colleague had gone to a Chinese restaurant not too far from the hotel in company of other two Kenyan journalists.  They got the shock of their lives when the operators of the restaurants said they close to blacks by 5 pm.  The mistake the operators made however was that they did it to journalists.  The incident had attracted a lot of media attraction and went viral on social media with local and international media in Kenya feeding on it.  When the operator by name Zhao Yang was arrested for interrogation, it was discovered he was operating the restaurant without licence and the latest update is that the government of Kenya is processing his deportation.  One wonders should this can happen in Nigeria, wouldn’t the victims rather lick their wound silently and then business would continue as usual. 

Warm and friendly people, when next you visit Kenya and they say to you ‘Karibu’, just have at the back of your mind that all they are saying is welcome and you need to be rugged like them to engage them in business bargains. 

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