A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities- Side One of the Coin



Over the past few days I’ve been getting look at both sides of Nairobi’s coin. The rich and the poor- and the difference is stark.

Nairobi is awash with cash. I am not just talking about the white and Indian populations, but a growing black middle class. Affluent and Africa are not two words I normally associate, but I do here. Plush cinemas, restaurants and shopping malls are springing up all over the city. Golf links, spas, and casinos are not uncommon. From what I can see, everyone has a mobile phone. There are private schools which cost $15,000 per year in tuition fees. In a city where the average monthly earnings are between 10,000 and 15,000 Kenyan shillings a months (about $20), and with an unemployment rate of about 40%, I find this intriguing.

I went to ‘Village Market’ yesterday, (a shopping centre fancier than anything I have ever seen in Ireland), to meet a young lady called Judy who works in one of the coffee shops there- and admittedly I was taken aback. The queue for espressos, double lattes, decaf cappuccinos, skimmed hot chocolates (what is the point in that?!), was a continual ten deep. I asked Judy if it was always this busy, and sure enough it is. We had to postpone our chat until another day, when she has some time off and does not have to attend to the queue.

This is not the image of Africa which is projected in the media. But this is a genuine lifestyle for a large number of people here. There is a new confidence in the city too, which I did not sense to the same degree on my last visit here two years ago. Much of this is due to a decrease in the crime rate. The police have cracked down, and as a result more people venture out, and spend more. The streets are busier at night, and the place generally has more of a buzz to it. There is a hell of a lot more traffic too, but that’s another story.. in the meantime, cappuccino anyone?

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