It is Wednesday and time to meet one of the men who live, work and play in Nairobi. Today’s Man around Nairobi is Charles Otieno Hongo. Charles Otieno Hongo is a development and humanitarian communications professional who is also interested in the arts, history, politics and literature. He says that he is mostly an introvert who finds small talk difficult but he will open up once he gets to know people.
Did you grow up in Nairobi? If you did where and how was it growing up here?
Yes, I grew up in Nairobi’s Buruburu estate. Back then it was still clean and organized. Most of the kids knew each other and I remember we would organize inter-court or inter-phase football competitions. Games came with seasons, there was a season for shakes, bano, safo etc. When we became teenagers and youth Buru was the trendsetting estate. I cannot believe how it has since degenerated.
2. What you love about Nairobi?
The thing I love about Nairobi is its fast pace of life, the diversity of its people and its culture to innovate. There is always something happening in the city. You can almost find anything you want, there is always a guy who knows a guy who can provide/do something for the right price. But it is also a city of contradictions, it is unbelievable how the same people can be so conservative in certain matters and so liberal in others…But I love these contradictions otherwise we would be a boring people, no?
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
I would probably like to see more Nairobians get involved in the management of the county and especially demand for better services. We love talking about our frustrations but we are a bit docile when it comes to taking action. A more organized public transport system would also be great. We also need to get a bit rebellious and say no to things we don’t like.
4. As a professional how is it working in the Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Working in Nairobi is great. There are opportunities for the type of jobs I do if you know the right places to look. It could be better though if there is more focus on creativity and professionalism as opposed to just connections, or the habit of intermediaries always looking for the quick buck.
It is heart-breaking when you see mediocre ideas being implemented out there when you know very well there are people with better ideas among us, just that they lack the connections.
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.
The most common thing that comes on top of mind when it comes to tourism is the National Park.
I would probably be more inclined to the bustling night life and entertainment especially on weekends, the hustle of bustle of Eastleigh and the nyama choma joints in the mtaas. In short I would probably recommend a more holistic tour, visit the glamorous locations but also take a walk on the other side.
If you would like to interact with Charles you can find him on twitter at @OtienoHongo.