It’s another Wednesday and today our Man around Nairobi is Alex Nderitu. Alex N Nderitu (who writes as “Alexander Nderitu”) is a Kenyan novelist, poet and website designer. In 2001, he became Kenya’s first ‘digital novelist’ with the Internet publication of his suspense novel, ‘When the Whirlwind Passes’. He has since authored 3 more books and been nominated for various awards, including a Douglas Coupland Short Story Award for his spy story, ‘Life as a Flower’ and a Theatre Company prize for his stage play, ‘Hannah and the Angel’. In 2014, BBC Scotland picked his poem ‘Someone in Africa Loves You’ to represent Kenyan literature at the Commonwealth Games. Some of his literature has been translated into Japanese and Arabic. His official website is www.AlexanderNderitu.com
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
No, I grew up in Nyeri and came to Nairobi in 2001 to seek work in the IT world and, of course, pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Initially, I lived with my big sister, poet Caroline Nderitu, in ‘South C’. I got a job in a computer sales/repair company in South B, across Mombasa Rd. Nairobi differed greatly from Nyeri – back home we never had traffic jams but here they were commonplace. We even had a friend who had a car but no furniture in his house. We had a desktop computer in our living room and at night I used it to type my first novel, ‘When the Whirlwind Passes’ . One day, I told a neighbour that I was going to be a writer. He shook his head sadly and said, ‘Kenyans don’t buy books, they only buy beer and condoms.’ ‘When the Whirlwind Passes’ went on to become Africa’s first digital novel and garner positive reviews.
2. What do you love about Nairobi?
Nairobi offers more opportunities than any other town in the country – by a mile. If you want to make a lot of money, become a major artiste, become a bigshot, become famous, enjoy nightlife and so on, Nairobi is the best place. This is changing due to Devolution, but Nairobi remains by far the biggest city so it still has a centripetal pull for job seekers and adventurers. What I love about Nairobi is that it basically has everything you’d find in any major city in the world – theatres, malls, festivals, technology, media powerhouses, large middle class, everything.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
First, I’d find a way to reduce rural-urban migration. Nairobi’s overpopulated, which causes related problems like poor housing, crime, health crises, unemployment, and sprawling ghettos. I am a huge supporter of Devolution. Second, I’d fight to reduce crime, reduce traffic congestion, and improve infrastructure including the drainage system. I’d also find ways of nurturing arts and entrepreneurship.
4. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
The current city administration is very conducive to the arts. That’s why they didn’t mind Juliani’s Na3
the concert which shut down part of the street. But I wish they would make public spaces artiste havens, something that has already been proposed by a fellow arts promoter.
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?
1) It’s cosmopolitan – it’s like the New York of East Africa.
2) You can get all your regular comforts – Wi-Fi, road and air transport, any kind of accommodation, entertainment etc.
Potentash Founder. A creative writer. The Managing Editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories and stories about the inclusion of minorities. Find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We're all stories, in the end.” ― Steven Moffat