By Silas Nyanchwani
Nairobi is ruinously expensive. And it is getting worse. You will know this when you will take a young campus woman to an average restaurant and she asks for milk shake that goes for Sh 450. And all you have is 500. So you will be forced to pretend to be having some terrible flu, and order lemon water. Except that you will realise that hot water and slices of wrinkly and nearly rotten lemon cost Sh 100. Why is so?
Beer for instance. In an averagely bad club with white lounge chairs and a DJ who dropped out of his DJ College, beer goes for Ksh 250. The government just needs to state that it intends to tax beer and prices will shoot up like an morning erection. Or the club shuts down for renovation and hooray! Beer suddenly costs an arm, your leg, spleen and your liver. Nothing justifies the beer prices in the Nairobian CBD. It is just the untamed greed. There is a respectable joint right in the middle of the city that still sells beer at Ksh 160. And donâ€™t you get me started on that ambiance bullshit! And how did we accept buying shots for Sh 150, without feeling like we are being ripped off. I think I should start my own club
Then there is sugar. It is only in Kenya in the whole Planet Earth where a kilogram of sugar goes for more than an equivalent of Ksh 100. Even landlocked, war-torn, godforsaken shitholes like Sudan and Central African Republic, it costs cheaper. Even maize flour for crying out loud is scandalously overpriced for a country that is agriculture-reliant. Why in Dedan Kimathiâ€™s name?
Just recently I went to my favourite restaurant only to discover they now sell tea, damn Kenyan tea for Ksh 180. That is the cost of four packets of milk.
A year ago, it was Ksh 80 and you paid for the Wi-Fi, which is the fastest there is within Nairobi, by the way. Now, a mug of tea is Ksh 180, and you still pay for the Wi-Fi. Why in Mekatilili wa Menza name? And their tea is not the best. Most certainly, it is powder milk warmed off a microwave, because it tastes nearly like rotting camel milk. why, weâ€™d rather go to Java, even though mostly most Kenyans cannot tell good coffee from bad coffee. But tea?
Think about the Maasai markets on rooftops of malls. First the local sellers have a stupid disdain towards fellow locals and see Whites as the only potential market. Isabel Hughan wrote a great short story back in the â€˜80s titled â€˜Skin Colour Of Moneyâ€™. Nothing has changed ever since. An arm band or necklace made in the pattern of the Kenyan flag goes for a fortune. Same as a cotton T-shirt or anything we deem as Kenyan souvenirs (which basically anything deemed Maasai-like sold by folks from Central Kenya).
You probably guessed that I had to mention rent rates and land buying in Nairobi. An acre of land in Rongai of all places now goes for more than Sh 10,000,000. That is not a misprint. Rents in Nairobi have become impossible. In estates, such as South B and C, agents and landlords were sired by Satan and raised by Pharaoh and Jezebel. They are the perfect picture of extortion. For you to move to a good two-bedroom house in South B, you need a deposit of Ksh 36,000 and a rent of the same amount. Then you will pay Ksh 20,000 for legal fee, Ksh 5,000 good will, Ksh 5,000 for water deposit, Ksh 5,000 for electricity (they import their electricity straight from heaven.
Property valuers are the devilâ€™s representatives on earth. They can sell you a two-bedroom house in an apartment for Ksh 8,500,000 and shamelessly promise to give you a â€˜freeâ€™ 40 inch plasma TV or double-door refrigerator. What do they take the collective IQ of Kenyans to be? That of a rat? Or that of an insane warthog?
Bus fares. Someone going to Murangâ€™a pays Sh 150. Someone going to Rongai pays 150. Yet the Murangâ€™a chap will arrive first before the Rongai chap even gets past the border. Have you noticed that the closer you are to town the more expensive the fare? Langâ€™ata and South C folks, with or without the traffic pay at least Ksh 50 or more. Nobody bothers complaining for fear that you will be seen to be broke.
Bata shoes. Bata is a great shoe-making industry with world-renown repute. Except that their shoes areâ€¦how do I put this? Lemme say, bad. Like baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. And they cost a dime. Their shoes are generic, monotonous and I have never been convinced that they are made of leather. We may have liked Bata when we were young, but I see no reason whatsoever why any right thinking person will cough up to Ksh 4,500 for loafer shoes when you can go get good mitumba ones that will last forever. I bought my loafers along Kirinyaga Road in July, 1991, they are still intact.
Sometime last year, a visiting German friend asked me if she could get to sample our famed Nairobi National Park. I took her there only to discover that foreigners paid nearly four times what I would pay. While as a tourist, it makes sense to pay more, what defeated her, was why four times what a Kenyan would pay to see the same things. She was on her way to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa and she said she will try down there or National Geographic would suffice.
If we were to use the excuse that she was a student, she had to get a letter from her university, another letter of admission to the Kenyan university, a letter from the faculty dean copied to deputy vice chancellor academic affairs and forwarded to KWS from where it will be approved by ten individuals. That means by the bureaucratic standards of the Kenyan government that might have taken anything from 9 months to eternity.
And that is the precise problem with Nairobi. Throughout her stay, she complained about how some things were unnecessarily overpriced. And it is not about the notoriously miserly nature of Germans talking here.
Even flying KQ is unnecessarily expensive and they do not have the best service given their cabin crew never attended smiling classes. Tomatoes officially go Sh 10 and nobody seems remotely bothered. Education in public universities, more so public university parallel programme is outrageously expensive, yet the quality of their programmes is very substandard.
I can go on. But you get the drift. With Sh 2,000 you can barely buy anything substantial in a supermarket. I think I should move out of the country.
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