Every Wednesday we have our Man Around Nairobi where we feature the men who live, work and play in Nairobi. This week we feature Brian Mungei. Brian Mungei is a student of life who was born in Nairobi, raised in Nakuru and is now progressively getting moulded by Nairobi. He lives life through spending time with family, watching rugby, supporting Arsenal, travelling locally, loving a Ugandan and providing support to innovative individuals and companies. In his spare time, away from the above life, he gets paid to figure out the social media strategy for the leading telco in the country. In another life, he would have given Thierry Henry a run for his money, but everyone needs an icon, right? In his other life, someone has to be a farmer and feed Nairobians.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
Nope. I did not grow up in Nairobi… but I was born here – Mater Hospital to be precise. Is there something like a Mater Alumni? No? Ok. Nakuru is the place I’m proud to call home. That charming, sleepy town, (Well, at least before it became NaxVegas J) taught me a lot about life, people and friendship. Bonds were made and broken in that town; from communal pitches playing either basketball or rugby to high school corridors! Farming, my parents have always been farmers and a big part of our holidays were spent harvesting. Strangely enough, I actually enjoyed those times. Then, of course, there was the localized Nakuru sheng that most Nairobi people thought was weird lol. Shoste, brasa etc.
I moved to Nairobi in 2006 – to kick off my first year of study at KU. I had come to Nairobi a couple of times before that but we all know that doesn’t count until one is armed with an ID. Even after spending the latter part of my secondary school years away from home, this one felt different. It’s like getting a new chequebook with the choice to either write a figure on its leaves or figure out how to cash it as a blank cheque.
Simply put, I like to think that Nakuru raised me and now, Nairobi pays me.
2. What do you love about Nairobi?
The world is your oyster and Nairobi is no stranger to this. The opportunities in this city are phenomenal!
I know there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding Nairobi, especially among first-timers, the thought that it’s this big intimidating place and all. I believe there’s something for everyone as long as you have an open mind and are willing to put in the work. I learn new things every day from the most unexpected people. Next time you’re getting that haircut, get to know your barber…he might just surprise you! It would be naïve to assume that I have experienced the totality of this concrete jungle but I can comfortably say, the energy driving the city is incomparable and I always wake up glad to be part of fueling it.
Nairobi toughens you up, she moulds you into what you are destined to be. Let her through.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
Sense of ownership. Honestly, a big number of Nairobians have lost the communal sense of ownership and responsibility for this city. The city is slowly getting absorbed into the individualistic nature of cities in developed countries which I think has had a negative impact on even the simplest day-to-day interactions between people. Rudeness, indecency, insecurity, garbage and people with no smiles in the morning have become the order of the day. Yes, it might be life ascertaining reality amongst Nairobians, but it actually is disappointing.
If there’s one thing people in this city are good at and that’s complaining. Sana sana #KoT (yeah I said it). We all know a majority of KoT are from Nairobi – this energy needs to be channelled into solutions and innovative ideas that can contribute to progress. There are a lot of things that could do with some level of change, but it’s really the small things that will make the difference.
The kind of change I’m talking about is progress that is modelled by time, not perfection.
4. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is becoming one of the most intelligent cities in Africa and what I do plays perfectly into that. There is no better time to be in this line of profession in this country and it can only get better.
The digital landscape is shaping up to the predictions that were made about the industry about 7 years ago. The rest of sub-Saharan Africa is opening up their digital highways, I see Nairobi being an integral part of the process which means the right infrastructure needs to fall into place fast. A lot is happening in terms of connectivity and infrastructure, but I think it needs to pick up the pace to cope with the demand.
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?
It really just boils down to three things for me: Food, Travel and Opportunities.
The best way to experience any new place is through its food and Nairobi is bursting with flavour. Ideally, I’d say the best pick would be my mum’s chicken and chapo but since that’s not open to everyone… any authentic homemade Kenyan dish would do.
When it comes to travel, I’d say dare to go beyond the cliché tourist spots. I find it funny that people go on vacation to get away from their daily lives but choose places where they meet people they see every day (Coast!). Kenya has several hidden treasures…you just have to get out of your comfort zone and follow #TembeaKenya – literally, follow the hashtag and see for yourself. Personally, I have been to Magadi, and a couple of other places in the Western and North Western sides of Kenya that are just amazing!
Back to the driving force in the city…opportunities! I cannot stress this enough. Nairobi is vibrant and bursting with untapped potential, which, in my opinion, will increase as the local immigration numbers reduce. People are either moving back to the counties or not leaving at all thus leaving open spaces to be filled here. As Julie Gichuru would say, a hotbed of Innovation and Entrepreneurs.
Nairobi’s on the move, hitch a ride or ride along.
To interact with Brian Mungei check him out on Twitter @Mungei.