I am looking a little spotty, my jeans are tight and the family diet has taken a nose dive. Why? Because I’ve been shopping at Carrefour!! I simply can’t resist the latest selection of well priced ready-made food that has arrived all the way from France.
Since the weekend we’ve been feasting on saucisson, paté and soft cheese, croissants (the frozen ones that you bake in the oven are best) cooked prawns, ready-made pizzas, fresh pasta, wobbly chips, tarte au framboise, frozen éclairs, crème caramel and chocolate mousse (to put this into perspective, I’ve been making fish fingers and chicken nuggets from scratch for the past 15 years!). Today at lunchtime I was transported back to our barge holiday in the South of France a couple of summers ago, as the kids and I feasted on baguettes, mouth watering butter, paté, Camembert and frankfurters. I’m even getting quite good at translating (the almost instant) cooking instructions from French and it’s lucky that I can make out this language since there’s no English and the German and Arabic options baffle me.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of local food on offer at Carrefour that is readily available elsewhere but I’ve made it a sort of personal challenge to seek out the ‘never seen before’ Carrefour branded items. If it’s ‘made in France’, then even better. I don’t know whether the favourable prices will last, but for now, this French version of decadent ‘M&S ready-meal’ style shopping is fairly affordable and I am loving the wide aisles, oversized shopping trolleys, underground parking and general European style experience. But this new brand arriving and shopping experience just yet another sign of how much Nairobi has changed.
So you think you know Nairobi?
When did you last visit? A lot has changed and is changing by the day. Yes, old style street trade is still in evidence but with thousands of additional imported cars registered on the roads every month, we are steadily grinding to a halt. Infrastructure is unable to keep up with a fast and furious process of urbanisation. Much has been made in the press about Kenya’s growing middle class and nowhere can you see this more evidence than in Nairobi’s sparkling new shopping centres that continue to appear month-on-month.
‘Mall Lifestyle’ – New shopping malls in Nairobi combine retail, hotel, residential and office space.
Nairobi’s shiny new shopping malls are pristine, generously proportioned, well designed and well guarded. Shoppers benefit from ‘secure’ shopping browsing amongst global brands, Nike, Addidas, Woolworths, Levis, sipping cappucinos at any of the excellent local coffee house chains that have sprung up, eating at Pizza Hut, Subway, Dominos, Ocean Basket and KFC. Fortunately, in answer to the city’s gridlocked traffic situation, a shopping mall has been built to cater to each neighbourhood and the malls tend to mirror one other, so no need for anyone to go far if they don’t want to. I went to Garden City Mall for the first time last weekend and felt that, if I clicked my sparkly scarlet heels (in case the analogy needs explaining, Dorothy, Wizard of Oz), I could just as well be in Churchill Square shopping centre in Brighton, UK.
Local retail landscape is changing fast
Each month, shoppers are offered more choice as global brands arrive while at the same time, local brand names rise to the challenge, offering proper, slick and well put together competition to incomers. Local fashion bloggers are partnering with clothing and food brands (This is Ess for Vivo). Local online retail is also gaining pace. This retail explosion offers a great source of employment but there is a sad side to the situation too. These shopping centres are unreachable to the majority of Nairobians, making the gap between rich and poor ever wider.
Nairobi Urbanisation Fact File
- 2.6 million people enter and leave the city daily (as at 2015). 5 million are predicted to be commuting in and out of the city by 2030.
- Number of cars registered on the road in Nairobi has more than doubled since 2012.
- Population of Nairobi is predicted to balloon to over 40 million by 2050 (potentially 9 million car users in Nairobi)
- The largest shopping centre in East Africa, the ‘Two Rivers’ mega mall is currently under construction – due to open later this year.
- The Hub and Garden City Mall opened in the past 12 months.
- Homegrown supermarket chains: Nakumatt, Chandarana Food Plus and Tusky’s. Nakumatt has over 50 branches throughout Kenya and wider East Africa.
Talking about home grown brands, learn more about Enda – Kenya’s first locally made running shoe: Enda Running Shoe