Last week I started my new segment called Man Around Nairobi. I had photographer Samir Dave as my first man around Nairobi. Today our man around Nairobi is Oliver Mathenge. You may or may not know Oliver Mathenge, but he is an interesting guy to interact with. He is currently a senior political writer with the Star Newspaper and he is also a Communications Consultant. I have known him for a very long time from our undergraduate days at Daystar University when we worked together both in the student newspaper Involvement (at some point he was my editor) and also as peer counsellors at I Choose Life Kenya.
Here is Oliver Mathenge’s view of Nairobi.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I was born and raised in Nyeri where I also studied for my primary and secondary education. After sitting my KSCE in 2001, I came to Nairobi for interviews to join Strathmore University where I undertook a diploma in Management Information Systems in 2002.
Though I had been to Nairobi twice before, the experience was different. I actually got lost on my second day in Nairobi and had to wait until nightfall to use the night lighting to trace the PSVs to my uncle’s place from the CBD. I didn’t want to ask where the stage was because of the stories we had heard that Nairobians “kidnap” strangers easily which I later learnt was a myth.
2. What do you love about Nairobi?
Nairobi has plenty of opportunities as compared to my rural town of Nyeri. Nairobi also has a vibrant social life that provides a wide range of activities that makes life bearable. Contrary to a common belief, Nairobi residents are some of the most friendly and helpful people that you will ever meet anywhere.
I love that Nairobi has a large number of vibrant satellite towns like Kitengela, Machakos, Thika and Rongai that also double up as getaways. The Nairobi National Park, the National Museum, the Kenya Archives, Karura Forest and the Animal Orphanage are also great locations for family outings inside Nairobi.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
This is what I would change in Nairobi. I always ask myself; “Why do we always appear to be in a hurry?”. We walk in a hurry, drive in a hurry and always seem to be rushing somewhere. As a result, we have chaotic streets and roads where no one seems to be courteous. I would also want to see a better public transport system that is better managed.
4. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
As mentioned, Nairobi is a city of immense opportunities. We do not have all that we want but we are better placed to cater for the needs of most professionals than most African cities.
5. If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting?
Nairobi has a wide choice of world-class hotels that provide some of the best services in the world. You don’t need to travel out of Nairobi to enjoy wildlife and Nairobi has a wide range of spots to enjoy the nightlife.
You can catch up with Oliver Mathenge on Twitter at @olivermathenge.