Nairobi is a bustling city of 4 million people. Some whisper that the number is much higher; anyone who has been to Tom Mboya at 7pm knows this makes so much sense. Entrepreneurs in Nairobi develop a thick skin quickly. There’s a brazen opportunistic culture that makes you lose faith in humanity very fast.
Despite all these, we all respect that it’s the place to be not just in Kenya but among the heavy hitters of Africa.
Being an entrepreneur in Nairobi comes with experiences common, everywhere, and unique to this city. Here is a list of 10 of them; you can add others in the comment section.
Starting a business
The struggle is real. The struggle begins before the starter pistol goes off. It takes unnecessarily long to start a business. There are many pit stops with different authorities issuing different licenses and approvals. You wish everything would be under one roof- not literal like Huduma Kenya. Meanwhile in Rwanda it takes a mere two days to get started.
Dishing out bribes
You have to wonder how we all sleep at night and dress up for church in the weekends. As an entrepreneur in Nairobi you definitely have to deal with the Government. That means you have to factor the cost of expediting a process.
In our society, parents maintain a strong influence over their children late into their lives. So your parents, who come from a different era (but still update their WhatsApp), will always take it up to you on your life choices. They will shun whatever it is that you do that is not 8-5.
Very few people in this world have to put up with as much cynicism as entrepreneurs. Many will “lovingly” tell you about all that could go wrong with your idea. About why you should drop the idea and get a job or something. Then there’s, “is it making money?”
Everytime morning you try and get into the CBD. Every evening you try and get out of the CBD. It’s especially very hard on motorists. They have to stay for the whole show. You can’t just walk away from the car.
If you run your business in our version of suburbia you will understand what I’m saying. Power blackouts at the end of a rough month, how convenient KPLC. Moreover, if there’s power and you see a KPLC vehicle stationing in your area you know you are screwed.
Shamelessly promoting yourself and soliciting for funding
Those entrepreneurs born or raised outside the big city say that all they came to do here is make money. Everything else is a by the way. Thus with this as their guiding light, they do all they can to join the ranks of mall shoppers. It’s no surprise we thoroughly enjoy the “before and after” pics of those who win the rat race.
An entrepreneur in Nairobi soon enough notices the project eating onto the time of downing one with friends. Those Friday evenings now mean something else to you. Your weekends and holidays are also spent on running the business. It can burn you out but you know you love it; like some sadomasochist.
You’re not only busy but you are doing everything. Your business depends on you and you depend on your business. In this uneasy relationship you have to tick all the boxes; atleast in the beginning. Finance, sales, marketing, stocking, et cetera; you got it.
You are not only irritated by those inconsiderate individuals who can’t keep time but you also find it difficult to be timely. Is it because of our hot tropical climate that we can’t keep time? Afterall, only one country in the tropics has got its shit together. Time is very fluid here and, like corruption, you hate the status quo only when the shoe pinches the other foot.
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