A few months ago I walked into a kibanda — the makeshift, street-side eateries made of wood beams and aluminum panels — in Uthiru and had my last cup of tea and chapati in Kenya. After eight years of living and working there I had decided to move on.
CNN reports on the news that Nairobi has been ranked, apparently for the second year in a row, as the “most intelligent” city in Africa.
According to the Intelligent Community Forum, “intelligent communities” are those that have taken “conscious steps” to create an economy that can prosper in the “broadband economy.”
Well that’s definitely misleading: it’s not about intellectual intelligence. The forum merely considers the fact that Nairobi has relatively fast/cheap broadband, incubators for tech startups, and the ability to pay for stuff everywhere using our phones. Yeah, it does. Shrug.
The reality is that Nairobi is corrupt, dangerous, dirty, and expensive. I don’t think it’s any consolation to Nairobi’s denizens that their city is “intelligent.” Nairobi also has one of the most “painful” commutes of any city in the world. And the insecurity in Nairobbery obviously contributed to Kenya’s abysmal ranking in the 2014 crime index.
All of that doesn’t just stop being important because we can stream YouTube videos without buffering! We should be focusing on metrics that matter, like the Human Development Index or the Global Peace Index.
A Kenyan friend told me that if you hate someone in Kenya, you should send them a package. That is, the Postal Corporation of Kenya (Posta) is so inefficient, bureaucratic, slow, and expensive, that you will force someone to suffer should they try to collect their package.
I ordered some shoes from Asos — a website that surprisingly delivers to Kenya — and last week I got the package slip on my desk at work (this was admittedly another surprise). Because I work during the weekdays, I decided to go to Posta on Saturday to pick up my package. If only it was that easy.
Posta’s office on Haile Selassie Avenue is open on Saturdays, but the parcel window isn’t; they told me to come back on Monday at 8am. This is a Kenyan Government office, after all.