The Grand Tour of Kenya’s Capital City — Nairobi

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In a few months Kenyans will go to the polls to elect a new president. And there’s plenty of tension in the air considering last elections saw tribal violence that left over 1,000 Kenyans dead and a lot of animosity between the dominant tribes in politics. Two of the accused of plotting and allowing the violence to occur in 2007 [against each other’s tribe at that] have teamed up to run together while the ICC continues to pursue them for their role in the violence. Well, if Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, can re-elect mayor a convicted felon caught on tape doing drugs with a known prostitute in a seedy motel after he gets out of jail for doing it while he was mayor the first time, why not, right?

For the record: B!tch set him up.

In addition to a bunch of benches downtown with the message of taking action and not just sitting around, there are several murals downtown with messages about the upcoming elections — mostly encouraging people to vote for what they believe is right and not because the tribal leader or an elder tells them who to vote for, because they got money from a politician, because of tribal differences.

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I do hope the elections are violence-free, drama-free and scandal-free. It’s such a beautiful country with beautiful people. I love Nairobi for being exactly what it is.

Nairobi is a bunch of people and a bunch of cars co-mingling in one giant mass moving parts that have a synchronized rhythm where somehow, without traffic law enforcement or road rage getting out of hand, they somehow co-exist in the streets and on the sidewalks if need be.

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The hustle and bustle of the city in front of the National Archives (top right)

 

Nairobi is doing what you got to do to make it, even if it means selling a bunch of power plug converters, cell phone batteries and cases and whatever else that might have been stolen from naive tourists and unsuspecting visitors to a city sometimes known as Nai-Robbery.

I was warned so many times by Nduku and her family about being careful carrying around such a large camera downtown that the fact that I still have it is feels like an accomplishment.

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More entrepreneurs selling jugs may have once held something toxic. I’m sure they rinse them out really, really, really good before they sell them, though.

 

Nairobi is in transition where one minute a Mercedes Benz will drive by and the next a man pulling a cart.

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Nairobi is the home of M-Pesa [pesa is money; M-Pesa is mobile money], an innovative and hugely popular way of banking using mobile phones to send money to each other instantly using SMS.

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In April 2007, following a student software development project from Kenya, Safaricom launched a new mobile phone based payment and money transfer service, known as M-Pesa. The service allows users to deposit money into an account stored on their cell phones, to send balances using SMS technology to other users (including sellers of goods and services), and to redeem deposits for regular money. Users are charged a small fee for sending and withdrawing money using the service.

M-Pesa has spread quickly, and has become the most successful mobile phone based financial service in the developing world. By 2012, a stock of about 17 million M-Pesa accounts had been registered in Kenya.

 

 

Nairobi is a city full of really cool people. As many horror stories as I heard [mostly from Kenyans living in America!], I did not have a single incident with anyone, even the “street boys,” or witnessed any such thing the entire time in Kenya. People were friendly, in a Kenyan kind of way. Kenyans stared at me since many times I was the only non-Kenyan in the building, but if we made eye contact, they quickly and politely looked away as to not make me feel uncomfortable, or let on that they were eyeing my camera.

People in Nairobi can be aggressive, the beggars and vendors especially, but I’ve encountered much ruder people in America. Kenyans are humble people. And they’re really working hard to make Nairobi one of Africa’s greatest success stories. I’m excited for its future and am glad to finally have visited the city known as “Green City in the Sun.”

And as the country turns 50 in 2013, we’re going to witness some major developments from the restructuring of the government to what a few years ago would have seemed like a pipe dream: Konza City, Africa’s Silicon Savannah…

The groundbreaking ceremony of Kenya’s first techno city is scheduled for next month setting the stage for the development of the Sh850 billion project. According to a senior official in the Ministry of Information and Communications, the multi-billion Konza ICT Park project will be launched by President Kibaki on January 23.

 

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As he walked by, both of us dodging cars, this dude wanted me to take his picture. So I did.

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