Today our Man Around Nairobi is Josiah Mwangi. Josiah Mwangi is a communications consultant based in Nairobi. As a communication professional, it is his job to ensure that the client’s key messages and attributes are well communicated, in order to strengthen the credibility of their brand. He works at Africa Practice, a Pan-African strategic advisory and communication consultancy with offices in various countries in Africa.
Josiah is an avid Rotarian. He is also a sports enthusiast and is the immediate past Vice Chairman of the Nairobi Basketball Association.
- Did you grow up in Nairobi? If you did where and how was it growing up here?
I was born in a house in Umoja estate. I was literally born in a house. My mother must have yelled at my dad ‘’it’s time!!’’, the man rushed to look for a taxi, and when he came back, our neighbour Mama Muchangi had done the job and I was there grinning. They took me to Makadara Maternity which gave me a birth certificate and falsely claimed I was born there. I should take it up with them. We lived in Buru Buru until I was 10 years old and my family moved to Embu.
I grew up around many kids and I was one of the ones who got a spanking from their mother every day. I just couldn’t follow instructions and I had to go play after school before doing my homework, among other things.
My most memorable story is when an older guy called Njoro came and told us that he had discovered the best sweet in the world, it was called condom. He told us it was sold at the chemist. Once we had a 5 bob coin, Njoro took us to the shopping centre to buy the sweets. We leaned onto the chemist’s counter and this sweet lady welcomed us. My friend asked ‘’Uko na condom?’’ and the lady asked ‘’Nani anataka kutumia?’’ as she smiled. We looked behind and Njoro was rolling on the floor with laughter. He got us.
We played all sorts of outdoor games, it depended on the season. There was shake season, bano season, the season we’d all be riding the ‘’better’’, the season we’ll all have ‘’faya’’. I even did duff mpararo and went hunting for rabbits and birds in the expansive bare land from Buru Buru to Dandora. I did it all. There was also somersault season. I could walk for over 10 minutes with my hands. I tried it another day and discovered my hands were now carrying the body of an elephant, but the balance was still there.
There was the odd guy in the estate who owned a game and watch and we’d all go borrow to play some games before the battery ran out. Of course, this guy’s family were the ones who owned the only video player and coloured TV on the court.
- What do you love about Nairobi?
Nairobi is a melting pot. I remember hanging out with my Luo, Luhya and Kalenjin friends during the post-election violence in 2007. There wasn’t much to do, so we’d go to the pubs as we waited for things to cool down. We’d watch the violence on TV and argue but we were together. That’s one of the best things about this city. If the entire country had the same camaraderie, we’d be a better place.
What I love about Nairobi in terms of my job is that we have freedom of expression and the media is really open.
- What would you change about Nairobi?
Nairobi will always struggle to produce top-notch sporting talent because we don’t have good sports facilities. The County has many grounds, there are many left after the grabbing spree of the 90s, that can offer more than football. The only place you find basketball courts in schools. The best basketball talent in this city has been groomed through makeshift courts built by teenagers on the tarmac road in their courts. I haven’t seen a volleyball pitch outside a school in this city. The person who takes up this as a major initiative has my vote as governor next year.
There is not really much that I would change otherwise about Nairobi. Just to get clients to learn to pay consultants their worth. People love free services in this city.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I am a communication consultant and Nairobi has slowly grown to be the centre for the craft in Africa. Nairobi acts as a gateway to most of Africa, and we have many global organisations setting up their headquarters here. This is good for my craft.
Nairobi has grown to be competitive; however, we are still not paid as well as our peers across the world. Organisations have yet to appreciate the fact that the world has changed and storytellers have a bigger role to play than marketers.
- 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?
I have to do this many times. In order of priority, these are the items I introduce foreigners to:
Nairobi’s nightlife. There is a place you can appreciate our nightlife every day of the week. I always give a recommendation for any day of the week, especially weekdays.
You can’t say you have been to Nairobi if you have not tried our food. Most people end up loving Chapati, and some mutura. I’ve found some who try to eat nyama choma with a fork and knife. A Korean guest cried when we took him for dinner at the Carnivore. That’s memorable.
We have wildlife in Nairobi. The National Park, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and the Giraffe Centre. All are easily accessible and good for a guest who has a few hours to savour our wildlife.
You can find Josiah on Twitter as @MwangiJosiah and Google+, Facebook and Instagram simply as Josiah Mwangi.