Our Man Around Nairobi today is Abel Muhatia. Abel Muhatia is a Kenyan journalist and business blogger at BizNews Media (www.biznews.co.ke). BizNews Media which was started in 2013 is a digital platform geared towards telling the Kenyan business news stories as they unfold. Muhatia worked with the Kenya News Agency and the People Daily Newspaper until 2015 when he chose to immerse himself in what is termed today as the New Media. He currently works as the Managing editor at BizNews.
Did you grow up in Nairobi?
Yes I grew up in Nairobi specifically in the ghetto; Mathare North area 3. I then went to Gatanga in Muranga for my High school studies. This was the only time I left the city for a long period. Then I joined a media school in South B for my Diploma in Journalism. Basically my whole life minus four years has been natured in the city.
Growing up in Mathare North was fun and eye opening. Just like any other kids in this area, we would go swimming at Karura forest ( Karuch), make cars using wires and ride them all day, play all kind of games from bano to katii to chobo ngoto without gender discrimination. I learnt the essence of doing things in unity because; together we would achieve so many things. Bad and good alike.
Coming from a humble background with a jobless dad, it was not a walk in the park to grow in this environment. Many are the times that we would miss meals because there was no money. We would also be in and out of school for lack of fees and so forth. All these taught me resilience, and many times I would find myself in leadership positions in school which I believe it was intentional from my teachers. I grew a thick skin from this experience. Today I can withstand any environment.
However, growing up in this environment has impacted my line of career positively. As a journalist/blogger you need to develop a thick skin, appreciating people the way they are, the aspect of unity and the “I want to know why” attitude. These three things make you want to dig deeper while gathering content as a blogger, they make you a risk taker.
What do you love about Nairobi?
I love the availability of everything and anything in this city. Nairobi is one place that you will never feel out of place because there is always something for you despite your class or life status.
Secondly I love the unity in people, especially where I grew up. At times we would lack or not have salt or sugar but our neighbours were always willing to assist. This is despite of how small or inadequate their quantity was. This taught me generosity.
Fortunately or unfortunately it’s an area where people can also come together to make your life miserable if you behave like you’re from Mars. Ask those who have faced mob justice or criticism for one reason or the other. In a nutshell Nairobi is like a sharp knife, it can be good and bad. You just need to be careful which side you trade on.
What would you change about Nairobi?
In my role as a content creator, I would be more interested in changing the attitudes of Nairobians especially through awareness. Nairobians love free things a lot and promotions. They ignore the fact that effort was put in coming up with content. Most of them take content creators lightly and to some extent for granted. It’s sad that someone thinks you wake up in the morning, take 5 minutes to write and that’s it. Writing is a serious job like any other job and as content creators we put a lot of effort into it. So, people must be ready to pay the price of good content and not get used to freebies.
Secondly it’s the “Takataka everywhere” image. It’s sad that the only city with a National Park in it is also among the dirtiest cities in Africa. If you think I am lying, then Google “dirtiest cities in Africa” and you will find Nairobi as number one in the list followed by Luanda in Angola.
As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi so far has been the best place for me to work. I tend to believe that only a few content creators would want to work outside the city? I use the internet a lot; it’s my key tool of work and part of my basic needs. Nairobi is so far the most connected region in Kenya as far as internet connection is concerned. However, send me to shagz with a good data connection and fast internet and I will gladly bid good bye to the city.
Working in Nairobi has provided me with many opportunities. I am close to a bigger percentage of my audience, referrals are easy to get especially when your clients are satisfied, and in terms of proximity, it’s easy for me to walk in most of these brands offices and negotiate for business.
On the other hand, from a bloggers point of view, it’s not easy to survive in this city south of Sahara. We all know that there are few of us bloggers who have contaminated the industry and painted it red as a show of danger. They post content without verification or basis hence creating conflict with the same audience that I as a business blogger would want to interview the next minute. This makes it even more difficult for bloggers to be accepted in the society as champions of good will in terms of being a public watchdog or good ambassadors of this Nation.
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
Wow, that is a tricky question. But let me say Nairobi has friendly weather, there is innovation and it’s a melting pot of cultures.
Weather friendly because of the different parks within the city. One can just sit in any park, breathe some fresh air and have coffee. It’s never too sunny or too rainy, too cold or too warm (well most days).
Innovative because of the jua kali sector, the Matatu graffiti and hawkers in the street. The hawkers are always up-to-date with the latest fashion and trends, inclusive of their comic nature in how they market their goods by word of mouth. In this bracket, a visit to different incubation hubs in the city would really boost the selling of Nairobi as the next Silicon Valley.
A visit to Bomas of Kenya to understand the different cultures of Kenyans would also be something I would do. I would not mind taking them to Mathare and walk them through from area 1 to Mathare number 10 just to see the different house set ups and the lifestyles of different areas.