Our Man Around Nairobi today is Kevin Oyugi. Kevin Oyugi is a Communications Professional with a focus on Strategy, Content Development and New Media. He’s a God-fearing individual who’s passionate about architecture, music, sustainability, development and travel. Having worked with global and local brands, his motivation stems from a desire to excel at what he does, employing innovation and technology, and syncing with a dynamic team and environment that shares his vision for creativity, purpose and progress. In his personal time, he enjoys swimming, creative writing, travelling (through history and otherwise), watching films and series, and a new fondness for keeping in shape.
Did you grow up in Nairobi?
Yes I grew up in Nairobi. Though my high school nickname bordered along the lines of the title ‘Englishman’, I was actually born in the (then) very rural border county of Migori, but barely a month later got whisked back to the urban jungle that is the capital. My father happened to be a Provincial Commissioner and so my life was pretty much structured growing up – private schools, academies, and suburban neighborhoods.
In my younger years, my neighbours happened to be rather reserved and somewhat reclusive, so most of my friendships were forged in the institutions I was part of, and as a result, very multi-national. My father passed away when I was barely six, and I didn’t notice most of the changes because I was still too young.
My first best friend through kindergarten and early primary was an Indian named Pavaan. He was quite the swimmer. We often used to go to Premier and I kind of had to get used to being in the water and subsequently took up being competitive as well. It was an interesting experience being in Kenyan-Asian circles, which are very close-knit. They’re really big on family and a bit weary of outsiders, but Mama Pavaan was very welcoming. We lost touch unfortunately after they moved abroad, and then I became close friends with a Frenchman called Axel for my senior primary school years.
There weren’t any unusual games, most of the memories I have would be playing ‘bano’ during break times and also taking up tennis and badminton lessons.
Through it all, I got to experience living in posh areas, as well as the slum areas of the city, and back, so I genuinely feel that I have experienced all that Nairobi has to offer.
What do you love about Nairobi?
I’m attuned to the fast-paced, exciting, broad and complex nature of Nairobi. The city is brought to life by its people and their culture. The people may be pushy, selfish, narcissistic and brazen, but they’re also charismatic, go-getters, globally aware and communal. There’s a strong culture of quality family time and religious folks, juxtaposed against a club-hopping, party-loving, money-loving generation.
In terms of work, there’s always something happening and news-worthy. The non-profit sector is huge, you never have a shortfall of people and organizations looking to make a difference in the lives of others, and the support structure and network of people who would be instrumental to any activity is immense.
A constant need for connectivity makes the consistent Wi-Fi availability at venues across the city even more appealing.
Then there’s the breadth of architectural wonder is also amazing: Gravity-defying skyscrapers and post-modern and neo-colonial edifices emerge out of an often dusty, sometimes well-maintained environs, chocked with a buzzing transportation sector and an on-foot mass that always keeps things moving.
What would you change about Nairobi?
While I think the fundamentals for Nairobi to become a great(er) city are there, I believe that we need to no longer settle for mediocrity or a status quo. The city should embrace innovation and technology, resources which it has access to, and turn itself into an eco-friendly, efficient, forward-thinking and sustainable metropolis.
Employing global best practices, thinking of the people who shape the city and anticipating future growth should be the only things driving the city’s masterplan.
Being a person who’s constantly mobile, traffic snarl ups are a huge hindrance that needs to be resolved. If I have a full work day and an evening launch to attend, I’d need to either make my day shorter, or reach the office 2 hours early so I can compensate the time it would take to get across town in the evening.
There’s no reason why a city’s lifeline, more so one that prides itself as a leader in the region, should still be susceptible to power blackouts, heaping rubbish and waste, inefficient and intermittent transportation, inadequate housing and a generally poor quality of life. Let’s begin to critically shape the future of this African Silicon Savannah.
As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
Nairobi is, in theory and in practice, the beating heart of the region. There’s indeed plenty of access to opportunities and financial backing, which is very rewarding for any professional. The fact that it’s an air hub for East, Central, West and Southern Africa, numerous multi-nationals are headquartered here making it a fusion of culture and intelligence – a global marketplace with a wealth of access and exposure.
The communications and architectural spaces in the city are greatly abuzz as a result and with the same trajectory, I should be calling Nairobi home for quite a while.
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?
Nairobi is worth visiting because of its:
People – people and their cultural influence is what brings places and spaces to life. Nairobians are very welcoming to visitors, often going out of their way to be accommodative and helpful. They’re also a proud lot who value their image and profess religion.
Architecture – Business centers, shopping malls, colonial buildings, suburbs, churches, mosques, temples, clubs, restaurants and hotels form a marvelous artificial belt that characterizes a multi-dimensional and intricate society. It’s a marvel to witness how the interrelationship between roads, flora, fauna and these institutions forms an African city with a global identity.
Natural beauty – Within an hour of anywhere in the city, you can trek a dense forest, hike over rusty hills overlooking the capital, view game at a national park or lie down in well-manicured gardens.