Back in the 1960’s, the Upper Hill section of Nairobi was the enclave of the rich. It had nice homes surrounded by gardens above the bustle of Nairobi proper, but still very close to the city. After independence, many of the white landowners turned their property over to Kenyans.
By the time I first visited in 2004, it seemed a run-down neighbourhood. Those old homes were not kept up, and the gardens long gone. In fact, the Upper Hill seemed downtrodden enough to have a hostel there, Upper Hill Campsite, where I stayed. Now flash forward to 2009, and Upper Hill is on the up and up.Read More
I’m headed to Africa soon for three weeks of meetings and trainings in Nairobi, Abuja, and Accra for Inveneo. I’ll be in each city about a week, and would love to meet up with loyal Belly Button Window readers if you’re around.
See, while I am a fanatic proponent of web-based discourse – I’m publishing at least six different blogs right now – I’m convinced that online discourse is an amplification of offline, in-person connections. In fact, I believe that online conversations are not possible without some level of face-to-face discussions between participants.
Or as a friend once said “meatspace has the highest bit rate” And I haven’t connected with that many Belly Button readers in a while.Read More
Back in the day, I chose my Kenyan matatu by its paint job and musical selection – the more wild and African the better. But today the matatus of Nairobi are quiet, their proud African voices silenced by a music tax.
The Music Copyright Society of Kenya had put a pox on the sounds of Africa by requiring that matatus pay Sh2,000 ($27) or more to MCSK in royalties to play music in their share-ride vans. Now that may not sound like much money, but itâ€™s the concept that strikes me (and a few matatu drivers) as crooked.
Matatus, taxis, and other commercial passenger vehicles usually play the radio or CD’s. With the radio, it’s the broadcasters that should have already paid royalties. With CD’s and tapes, how can the MCSK make such a blanket tax without knowing if the music was legally bought or even made by the musicians they represent? Its not like MCSK is passing on the royalties to Bob Marley or any other Western artist. Its not even paying it own members all that much.Read More
This week I’m staying in the Nairobi Serena Hotel, an oasis of luxury in the lush tropical gardens of Nairobiâ€™s Central Park, and my hotel room has breath-taking views of Nairobi’s skyline – an African success story writ in glass and steel.
But don’t just take my word for it. Talk a video gander at my hotel room view for yourself:
Now don’t you want to be in the Serena Hotel yourself right now? Swimming in the pool on a warm summer day, with that skyline peeking past the attentive staff? I know I do…Read More
In the 1990’s, Kenya’s capitol developed a reputation as a center of thievery and lawlessness. People would be harassed by glue-sniffing street kids, their cars robbed of anything valuable, and any respectable citizen fled the city at sunset. That’s why they called it “Nai-robbery.”
When I was here in January 2003, President Mwai Kibaki had just been elected, ending twenty-seven years of rule by Daniel arap Moi, rule that became exponentially more corrupt over time. Kibaki’s arrival was greeted by two weeks of parties, the country rejoicing over the change, with optimism so high it frothed over in the streets of Nairobi.
For the first time in decades the zebra crossings were re-painted and cars stopped for pedestrians. Traffic police were refused bribes with drivers requesting a real ticket instead. The whole country seemed to cleanse itself overnight. At the time, I was impressed, but I didn’t think it would last.