The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Men in Black, Could Lower the Cost of Living in Nairobi

A recently released survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) got me rethinking my perception about Nairobi. The report named Nairobi as Africa's most expensive city to live in.

Nevertheless, this did not get me in surprise. This is because whenever I go to my local supermarket, I always get a small heart attack at the till. If I am buying milk and bread and a few other things, Sh1000 is rarely enough.

The biggest shock comes when I'm buying several items which fill a trolley as I do once a month. This leaves me Sh10, 000 poorer yet the shopping will last for few days. While I am not one of those who claim that in their days they could buy a house and its contents with only Sh50, it has somehow gone a little crazy in recent times.

As I mulled over the cost of living in Nairobi, I came across another report that stated that the city has the largest number of well off individuals in the country. These folks who the study termed as the high net worth individuals (HNWI) are just under 10 thousand and reside certain parts of the city - those referred to as leafy suburbs.

These two reports have really disturbed me. I have come to the conclusion that Nairobi retailers don't seem to understand how to price their products for all of their customers. They have been busy pricing their goods assuming that many Kenyans belong in the HNWI bracket while the truth is that these folks are the minority in our society. They are in fact under 10,000 in a city of over four million people. There has to be a formula to ensure that prices cater for the two segments of the city populace - the high and the low income earners.

The changes have to start at the supermarket level. This is because we know that the crazy pricing cannot start at the farmers' level. The changes won't happen if you ask the supermarket people politely to reduce the prices. Facebook and Twitter trend won't do much either. The only way to effect a change is for city dwellers to hire the Men In Black. The men in black I am talking about are not a reference to a 1998 blockbuster movie starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

I am speaking of a group of gentlemen in suits who appeared at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani and messed up an election of a popular party. While they were not well received by the party, they were meticulous in their work ensuring all the ballot boxes were mashed to pieces in spite of the cameras and protesting public. These Men In Black would then be very useful as they would invade the pricing area of the biggest retailers in the city and destroy any price tags over the price of Sh1,000.

After cleaning up the supermarkets, the Men In Black will now head to other areas of national interest. They will be seen going into dingy pubs in the Nairobi downtown that dare to sell their beers for Sh200 and above.

There will be some smashing that will force the pub owners to be wary of overpricing already over-priced and suffering Nairobians.

As they go on with their reign of terror for our sake, they will be seen at matatu terminals; another notorious area in terms of overcharging especially whenever it rains. As soon as matatu conductors see a drizzle in the sky, they starts yelling "mia tatu Rongai! (Sh300 to Rongai)" the smashing will then begin.

Their reign of terror will probably end as they realise that the biggest overcharging centres in Nairobi are actually the banks. There will be an increase in their ranks to deal with banks who are known to charge huge interest rates for services no one can understand. Unfortunately, the banks make so much money that two things are likely to happen.

Either they will hire their own Men in Black (Men In Brown after the Sh1,000 note) or they will hire the original Men in Black to locate people who take loans and go to hide.

Friends Bar and Restaurant:

It's not one of the most famous pubs in town by any stretch of the imagination. In fact it was a friend I had not met in a while who reminded me that it existed. This was after he invited me for a drink. It was one of those moments where you haven't seen someone for ages and there is always a plan to meet and have a drink but it never happens. Eventually he was having a meeting in this pub and pretty aware that I resided near the bar, he gave me a call.

I found a restaurant in a complex with a satellite dish of the diffunct cable company GTV. The pub itself is not really good for those in wheelchairs in spite of it being on the groud floor. On entering I found a reasonably large room with a seating area at the front were folks could do the "restauranting" while there was more of a pub/bar experience at the back. There were some typical things that one could expect at such an establishment. Décor was decent; there were a few TVs overhead which the sport fanatics would love as well as a pretty decent crowd.

Punters here were not the youngest you would find in town; mainly in their thirties and above. This I attribute to the fact that the place would not be attractive to a younger crowd due to the lack of public transport in the later hours of the evening. Also not attractive to the younger crowd is the lack of hype and hipness you would expect with the younger ones.

The price of the beer here is not horrible; Sh200 for a cold Tusker cannot be considered a bad deal if you consider some of the pricing you would see in other places in the city.

A quick recap of the venue;

Good: Great service, decent décor, sports fanatics can get their fix, clean washrooms.

Bad: Disability unfriendly.

My verdict: It's a pub for regulars but if you find yourself with the right crowd, you will have a pretty decent time.

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