There are times when Kenyans seem like they hate their country. At such times, it feels as if we are here only because we do not have a choice. To be honest, when the president says that 2 Billion shillings is lost to corruption daily or when Kenyan police kill a baby, it sucks to be a Kenyan citizen.
However, there are times when Kenyans overflow with pride and patriotism. Listed below are some of the top reasons why Kenyans love Kenya:
1. Continental Rankings
In a village of poor people, some of the happiest families will be those who are convinced that they have more than their neighbors. Kenya is particularly good at this game. Knowing that the Britam Tower in Nairobi is the 4th highest skyscraper in all of Africa helps us sleep better at night. I won’t lie; it does feel good that expatriates recently ranked Nairobi the best African city to work in, and that Kenyans are the second most fluent English speakers in Africa, only after South Africa – which was colonized for centuries and whose citizens are 10% white.
While it is true that we are better off than most of our African counterparts, we shouldn’t let it distract us from being the best that we can be. That said, let credit be given where it is due. With a GDP of 9.9 trillion shillings, Kenya’s economy is ranked 6th in Africa. We are also the only African country with a seat on the 15 member UN security council. I would also be failing if I did not childishly point out that if a loaf of bread in Uganda costs 100 Ugandan shillings, with 10 Kenyan shillings (330 Ugandan shillings), you could buy 3 loaves of bread and have some change.
2. Matatu Culture
First of all, it turns out that it’s illegal to tint public vehicles or to use the loud exhaust pipes that our much beloved Nganyas use. It is also unlawful for police to take sh 50 bribes on the road and steal from liquor shops during curfew hours but here we are. So, putting the law aside; our nganyas, with their unique art, are a source of immense pride for Kenyans, especially Nairobians.
It’s not only about the graffiti or other forms of pimping, it’s about a way of doing things that is unique to us. For example, videos of new nganyas undergoing exciting initiation ceremonies on the streets of Nairobi are popular on YouTube. The Matwana Culture has even attracted fans from abroad, among them Cardi B. She gave us a shout out after seeing photos of some matatus with graffiti images of her face. Against the law or not, Nganyas are undoubtedly one of the coolest aspects of Kenyan urban culture.
3. Kenyan Food
Which Kenyan doesn’t love Mutura? Or as my younger sister would put it, if you are a Kenyan who doesn’t love Mutura, you must be a witch… or something. The amount of diarrhea that Kenyans have endured as a result of this street delicacy that is best served when darkness falls is enough testament to our “till death do us part” love for Mutura. I don’t think you can find Mutura in any other country.
Other street delicacies that Kenya should consider copyrighting are mahindi choma, chips mwitu, chapo smokie, mayai kachumbari etc. We also love our more mainstream cuisine, including nyama choma, Ugali fish and chapati.
I am willing to bet a whole 1,000 Ugandan shillings that the major regret of Kenyans in the diaspora is that they can’t have Mutura. Because let’s face it, if you are seen making that stuff in a foreign country, you will be deported for witchcraft. And that is the only reason why you will always find me at my bedsitter in Kawangware, instead of at my London townhouse, regardless of what my enemies are saying out there.
4. Two Rivers
Immediately Two Rivers is mentioned, a good Kenyan should find themselves saying, or at least thinking, “Do you know that it is the second largest mall in Africa?” I am ashamed that to date, I have not visited the mall. It doesn’t matter that I would most likely find it very painful to buy anything there. What hurts me is that I haven’t had the chance to take a photo at the mall and post it to my 200 Ig followers with the caption, “Chilling at Africa’s second largest mall.” Better still, I should buy some cheap food and take it with me to the mall so that people can see that I eat at Two Rivers and that I am therefore not to be joked with.
Kidding aside, bloggers from other African countries like Nigeria have visited and documented the Two Rivers phenomenon. Also, the fact that such a huge project was viable and has proved sustainable in our country says something really positive about our economy. I probably shouldn’t be putting some of these things on public record but I have never been on a Ferris wheel, which is one more reason I should visit Two Rivers. And I will visit, just as soon as the sh 100 I regularly send to a local radio station turns into sh 300,000.
5. Lupita Nyong’o
Getting a job in Kenya and making a decent livelihood is not easy, no matter who you ask. Making a livelihood as an artist is even more difficult. It is not uncommon to find once famous artists in Kenya struggling financially. The recent story of Omosh from Tahidi High having to be bailed out in a sort of harambee comes to mind. We have also heard of comedians who have made a name for themselves on the Churchill Show getting into depression from financial trouble.
But Lupita Nyong’o came from such an environment and went on to win a freaking Oscar. She is a much needed beacon of hope for other Kenyan actors and it is no wonder that Kenyans are universally proud of her. This is despite claims by Najib Balala (Tourism CS) that Lupita was unavailable for the role of Kenya’s Tourism Ambassador. Ouch. The position was instead given to Naomi Campbell, who was not only available but also willing to do it for free. In Lupita’s defense though, can we really vouch for what our government says?
I know most of you haven’t had the chance to go abroad so let me tell you how it is out there. Despite my aversion to Mutura-free London, I usually find myself giving in to my girlfriend’s nagging and flying to the UK at least once a year. We do it during summer because winter in England is just sad. When we go, we buy a lot of Kericho Gold tea at Naivas and take it with us. Our foreign friends love Kenyan tea. One time, a woman kissed me when I gave her two 25-sachet boxes. My girlfriend made a big deal about it. Thank God not many young Kenyan men own a London townhouse.
Anyway, when we visit our friends or go to events and the conversation turns to Kenya, I love bringing up M-Pesa. I love saying how it has lifted 194,000+ households out of extreme poverty by facilitating transition from subsistence farming to small business. I also always mention how M-Pesa has created 200,000+ jobs through its agency system and how it has increased the percentage of Kenyans with access to modern financial services from 30% to around 70%. When my ‘friends’ realize what we have achieved with significantly less infrastructure than they have, they usually change the subject. And I’m usually left with a Stivo Simple Boy smile on my face.
7. Local Entertainment
Not so long ago, most of us simply didn’t care if local entertainment existed. PSquare, Chris Brown and Diamond Platinumz were the entertainment stars that we cared about. We watched Nigerian and Tanzanian movies in which people were made to fit inside lamps by witches, along with furniture like beds and tables. When I was in class 4, a traveling film group came to our school, collected 20 bob from each of us, and introduced us to the thrilling world of Mr. Bones – a South African film.
Fast forward to 2021 and the local entertainment scene has never been more vibrant. The Kenyan creative industry’s ability to entertain us has grown considerably. In addition, Kenyans are increasingly satisfied by local content. In comedy, NTV’s Churchill Show has produced an army of comedians, among them Njugush, Eric Omondi and MCA Tricky who consistently make us laugh. The internet has also paved the way for the likes of Desagu, Flaqo and Elsa Majimbo. Thanks to these people, we don’t import our laughter. In fact, we have gotten to the point of exporting, thanks to the likes of Elsa Majimbo and Eric Omondi.
Our music industry is also undergoing a rebirth. Our leading musicians – the likes of Khaligraph, Sauti Sol and Nyashinski – have created brands that go beyond our borders. A younger but nonetheless successful crop of musicians is following in the footsteps of the OGs, among them Nadia Mukami, Otile Brown, Willy Paul and his nemesis Bahati; and Bensoul of Sol Generation. Otile Brown’s Dusuma music video has 26 million views on YouTube after just 10 months, a record breaking achievement. Then of course we have the Gengeton movement that has swept through our youth like a more contagious version of Covid. We have the likes of Ethic, Sailors, Mbogi Genje and Ochungulo to thank for the renewed interest of Kenyan youth in Kenyan music.
Regarding film, thanks to the internet, we have jumped straight over the traditional model of huge budget films into the advertising driven model of short, entertaining clips on social media. Numerous content creators are making a living from platforms such as YouTube, Likee and Tiktok. If you ask me, this is the beginning of a golden age for Kenyan entertainers. Even the President thinks so.
8. The Trio Mio Generation
When Nikita Kering was 17, she won two Afrima awards at the 6th edition of the continental awards show. She was voted “Best Female Artist in East Africa” and “Revelation of the African Continent.” Wow!! Right? Now she’s 19 and making international grade music, the kind that will one day win a Grammy. Azziad Nasenya, who is 20, is the most followed individual on Tiktok in East Africa. The media refers to her as a “Tiktok sensation” or as we ordinary Kenyans like to put it, “Ule dem wa Tiktok.” Additionally, she has 1 million+ followers on Instagram and is one of the most influential people in Kenya.
Another 20 year old by the name of Shakilla, who is best described as a socialite, has gotten more attention in the past one year than most politicians. Elsa Majimbo, also 20, is friends with a whole host of international celebrities including Rihanna, Beyonce and Usain Bolt. She makes them, and a huge part of the world, laugh. The youngest on this list is 16 year old Trio Mio whose music video has 6 million views within just 4 months of being up on YouTube. Consequently, when Kenyans hear the phrase “Cheza kama wewe,” they think of him. Yes, he was a mono just the other day and hasn’t covered reproduction in Form 3 biology. Rounding up our list is Prudence Tonui, aka “King” Kalala, who is a 22 year old presenter at NRG radio. She’s yet to graduate from Juja Boys.
These are not isolated incidents of teenagers blowing up. They signify the increased power that the youth have, a disruption caused largely by the internet. As the youth grow in influence, we can expect them to be more involved in policy making and bring energy and a fresh outlook to the nation building process. Traditionally, old people have been hogging all the money and the power – not anymore. In short, in case you didn’t get the memo, THE YOUTH NOW MATTER. If you stand in our way, we will run you over. Just create seats for us at the table and we will all be better for it.
9. Safaricom, Equity & co
Safaricom is the most profitable company in East Africa. They recorded a profit of 63.4 billion shillings in 2019. There I go, comparing myself to my neighbors to feel better. Forgive me, I’m Kenyan; it would be strange if I didn’t. Now, we know how Safaricom have gotten their billions: by bleeding us dry in exchange for the internet. And by positively transforming our lives through M-Pesa. I personally use Airtel for my data and calls, but I’m still very proud of Safaricom. To be fair, they’ve done a lot for Kenya. And I’m even more proud because Safaricom could soon launch operations in Ethiopia.
I really hope their bid for Ethiopia’s telco license is successful because if it is, they will be bleeding other people dry and bringing home the profits – which is what big economies like America do. Thankfully, James Mwangi at Equity Group has already made major progress in this direction. Equity has operations in Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Congo. In recognition of Equity’s stellar performance, our president himself went to officially preside over a function in Congo. Equity Bank Congo is the second largest bank there, with more than 70 branches. Other publicly traded companies like Britam are following suit, not to mention private ones like Brookside. That is something to be proud of, eh?
10. Michelle Ntalami
At first glance, my decision to include Michelle Ntalami in this list may seem subjective. I want to assure you that it is, and unapologetically so. Humans are attracted to beauty and success and in no Kenyan woman do I find this combination more magnificently embodied than in Michelle. First of all, have you seen her and listened to her speak? Secondly, do you know about Marini Naturals?
In 2014, Michelle’s dad succumbed to cancer. While battling the disease, he had lost his hair and her loving daughter had shaved off hers in solidarity. The monster that is cancer became real to Michelle and, as she grew her hair back, she resolved to keep off the chemical hair treatments that were normal for Kenyans back then. That was the first step in her journey to founding Marini Naturals, a company that now sells 50,000+ bottles and tubs across 12 countries, including France and Turkey. In response to the growing demand for its natural products, Marini Naturals is in the process of expanding into the rest of Europe and the US.
Nothing says “Kenyan women can” more than Michelle’s story. And it’s difficult not to have a crush on an exotically beautiful, self made Kenyan millionaire. Other millionaires in Kenya are content to make their money through that shameless and undying culture of government tenderpreneurship. When you can see how a millionaire has made her money – through the blood and sweat method that the Kenyan rich seem to consider a taboo – how do you not stop and stare in reverence? May the Michelle Ntalami spirit be found in more Kenyans.
I am a writer, not a journalist. Subjectivity is bae. You can follow me on social media @mbigatimothy. Follow DekuTrends on all social media @trends_deku to stay updated on our posts. Feel free to leave your subjective comments in the comment section below. All for Kenya.