I’m sipping a cappuccino in a spacious, light and bright American style coffee house that would rival any scruffy high street Starbucks or Costa in the UK, hands down. Teenagers stroll past wearing the newest designer trainers, sagging jeans, baseball hats, the latest phones, gold; carrying designer shopping bags, chowing down on food from KFC on their way to catch the latest movie. Everything here is new. There are no boarded up shops or knock down prices in down-at-heel chain stores. In fact, right now, international retailers are fighting to get a foot in the market. Why? Because of the massive amount of disposable income being spent by Kenya’s growing middle class. Go to a bar and you will find not just glasses but bottles of whisky and champagne flowing. Third world? Not here. Kenya is not a place to be pitied.
I’ve written about Kenya’s growing middle class before but over the past 5-10 years it has grown faster than I could ever have imagined and boy, it’s visible. This place is prosperous. Restaurants and malls are packed with young entrepreneurs tapping away on laptops, glamorous ladies who lunch, designers, businessmen, young people. And this is a population of young people, it’s cool. It’s exciting.
Fashion bloggers collaborate on edgy clothing lines, athletes produce sportswear, local designers are producing the coolest clothes and accessories. Kenya is producing great music. There’s a food revolution. From expensive restaurants and exclusive member’s clubs, to funky food trucks. There are local Art expos and agents deal in African contemporary art, commanding high prices in London and New York. There are pop up stores, garage clubs, massive music, fashion and sports events as well as funky cocktail bars and coffee shops. Social media is huge. And what is the machine driving all of this? Forget expats, foreigners or ageing politicians, they are the young, the rich, the glamorous Kenyan middle class. At the gym I go to, there is a lady who asks the attendant to personally guard her Hermes Birkin while she works out. Golf is a big sport for the wealthy, who hang out in country clubs over the weekend, for brunch, lunch, staying to socialise long after the sun goes down. There’s money out there that makes your eyes water.
Don’t get me wrong. There is poverty and a huge disparity of wealth and that gap may well be getting wider. Yes, there are people who live in mud huts but there’s a generation of young people who are pulling themselves out of that poverty before our eyes. Not just aspiring to something better, but achieving it. Throughout the countryside in Kenya, you will find people carrying mobile phones (perhaps using it to pay for solar lighting devices or making money transfers). Those who have made it in the urban areas, are increasingly reluctant to go home to visit rural relatives. They are busy shaking off the shackles of familial responsibility in pursuit of their own prosperity. Smaller towns have mushroomed.
But still the overriding perception of Kenya overseas, is that it is a pitiable place. Shake your charity box for a school in Kenya on any British high street and that picture is perpetuated. But the reality is that Kenya is pulling itself up by its bootstraps. There is a new port, new international rail links, new roads being constructed and the growing middle class are less tolerant of wide scale corruption.
The Kenyan Olympic team are a good case in point. Kenyan athletes triumphed in the Olympics and were angered by the fact that some of the Nike gear they were promised ‘went missing’ and the Kenyan Olympic committee also failed to bring them home on time, instead placing them in shanty accommodation in Rio. The reaction of the Kenyan athletes? This is not good enough. We are among the best in the world and we won’t accept this. The result, the entire Kenyan Olympic committee have been disbanded, and now arrested. READ the FULL Story HERE:
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