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WORK IS WORK AND INTELLIGENCE IS LIKE HAIR: THE PECULIAR KENYAN BUSINESS ACUMEN

Nairobi hawkers - You want it you got it!

When it comes to creativity and innovation, Kenyans have always stood out among their counterparts in East Africa. Ask a Tanzanian what he or she thinks about Kenyans and one word will invariably crop up in the description – “aggressive”. Well, not in a hostile way but yes, Kenyans are aggressive and the Kenyan youth seem to be taking this aggression cum opportunism to higher levels especially where making a shilling is concerned.

The slogan “kazi ni kazi” meaning, “work is work” is commonly used in the streets of Nairobi by hustlers, as they prefer to call themselves, and it is being played out by the Kenyan youth who are  cashing in on even on the most bizarre circumstances all in the name of ‘kazi’.

Even though they have refused to leave the streets and keep engaging the city council in running battles, there is something quite intriguing about the hawkers on Nairobi’s streets. They seem to have what you need exactly when you need it. Otherwise how would you explain a scenario where a hawker has been selling, for example, CD wallets or even fruits all afternoon, then all of a sudden there is a down pour thanks to the unpredictable weather nowadays, and the initial merchandise is miraculously replaced by umbrellas and scarves, all in a blink of an eye. The speed at which the change of business happens is want many find incredible.

KITU KIDOGO

Still on the subject of the weather, driving along Kenyan roads on a rainy day is every motorist’s nightmare thanks to the bad state of the roads. If you are new in Nairobi and you your car happens to stall, or one of the tyres gets jammed in an uncovered manhole, you might start commending the number of young men who will rush to your rescue for being helpful, only for you to realize when the job is done, that they were not just good Samaritans but men in business.  You will have to part with ‘kitu kidogo’ to cater for the services, after all we say, “hakuna cha bure”, meaning “nothing comes free” in Kenya, a statement borrowed from the retired President Daniel Arap Moi but which has since been constantly misused.

You will be stunned to find out that these ‘good Samaritans’ don’t just appear out of the blue, they are real men at work who hover around the open manholes for hours, especially when it rains, hoping that ‘business’ will be good on that particular day. It’s alleged that there are even specific groups who ‘own’ different manholes in the Eastleigh estate and around Ngara.

‘HUMAN FLIGHTS’

If you read the Standard yesterday, some photos of two women piggybacking on some young men may have caught your attention. The women, who were probably heading to work were in a matatu, had reached their destination but the flooded roads would not allow them disembark. Lucky for them, ‘human flights’ came in handy. All they had to do was part with 20sh and they were ferried across the flooded road. Size matters though in this case, and those who might be considered plus size would be required to part with a few extra coins.

A BUS TO ‘BABU’? NO PROBLEM

Early this year, multitudes of people from different parts of Africa, estimated at over 10,000 every day, flocked to the village of Loliondo (about 400km from the town of Arusha, north-eastern Tanzania) following news that a cup of a secret herbal concoction administered by a retired Lutheran pastor Ambilikile Mwasapile, in addition to special prayers, was able to cure chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, TB and Aids.

The story, which received massive airtime especially in the Kenyan media, saw flocks of people from all walks of life set off to the remote village of Loliondo by any means possible. Some landed in choppers, others in vehicles and on bicycles, and some walked to see ‘Babu’ as the REV is locally known.

So how did Kenyans cash in on this one? Well, our business minded brothers in the transport sector introduced a new route to their fleet – the ‘Loliondo Express’. All one had to do was to book a ticket and the buses would ferry them all the way to the magical land of Loliondo. One question that ran through observant minds was when and how did these people discover the route to this remote village that even most Tanzanians had not heard of before?

That’s not all, the most intriguing bit about the Loliondo saga is that it created a job opportunity for  a group of young Kenyans who set off to the magic land, not to get a cup of ‘babu’s magical cure’, but to queue on behalf of someone else for pay. It’s alleged that the queues were extremely long and that the traffic jam to ‘babu’s place’ stretched to 12kilometers. As a result people had to camp there for days awaiting their turn for an audience.

Well, getting a job in Kenya is no easy task and a story carried in one of the local dailies a few months ago revealed that a section of Kenyans have resorted to looking for vacancies in the ‘DEATH AND FUNERAL’ pages of newspapers.

Tough times call for drastic measures, and as a common Swahili saying goes, “Akili ni nywele,kila mtu ana zake”, which translates to, “Intelligence is like hair, everyone has their own type”. That’s Kenyans for you, making using of every strand of hair on their heads.

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