Wednesday, February 16, 2011

THE RICH AND THE REST: The Kenyan Story.

Aiming high!

A recent title of the Economist publication read “The Rich and the Rest’.

Before we get prejudicial as most of us do, I do not buy the economist on a weekly basis, sometimes almost never, I’d love to, but it’s an expensive habit to maintain. My former boss got me hooked though and once in a while, I will attempt to steal a copy, or go online to their website which has also now been squeezed to subscribers who can access it once they’ve paid for the 'Premium articles'. But this time, I painfully bought a copy, only because of its title; 'The Rich and the Rest.

The special report on this edition focused on what they referred to as ‘The few’ then stratified into other sections such as 'More Millionaires than Australians’. The world’s water coolers – where the influential people meet and talk, ‘The Global campus- The best universities now have worldwide reach.'

As I buried my head in the pages, Kenya’s rich (elite) made little flashes in my mind, and I began to wonder how really the rich become rich. Who are they and what do they do?

In this country, today, The richest are those that were born rich. Their wealth is a legacy they inherited from their parents and carried through mainly real estate development, farming and banking. Most of these rich are from politically connected families. The most famous are the Moi’s, the Kenyatta’s and a few others from the rich boys club. These families went to school in the U.K, (hardly America). They speak with a real English accent. They play Polo and Golf (Before bankers took the board room to the course). Their main stay was the old model Range Rovers (4.6 Hse) and once in a while the Land Rover. They lived in Lavington & Muthaiga (and moved to Runda and Karen while renting out their ‘too close to town’ mansions. Right now, if they are not in Parliament, they’re watching over their businesses, selling land and sipping tea at the Karen Country Club, Kentmere Country club and Limuru Country Club. Some will go to Cedars, the Lebanese restaurant for a quiet drink in the evenings. Their money is called ‘Old Money’ Their Children begin to drive after they turn 18. Usually a car (read Mercedes) is the birthday gift.

Then there are the relatives of the ‘Old money people’. They sometimes went to the same type of schools, they benefited mostly from being connected to the rich and famous. They got good jobs in government and nice homes and big tracts of land both in Nairobi and some far away places. Their kids went to International schools such as Brookhouse, Braeburn, St. Andrews Turi and Saint Mary’s. For University some of them went to London, most went to the United States. Some were taken up into top universities, even Ivy League as above. Most are still out of the country, doing well in great jobs abroad. Most of them hang out in Karen, in the comfort of homely pubs and restaurants like the Talisman. They like Tusker and single Malt whiskey. Their Children have Ipads.

Then there are those whose parents were hard workers. Their parents were born in poor homes (or not so rich), but were smart, very bright in school and got scholarships to study abroad. Some married white women, while some returned to marry their village sweethearts and soon whisked them into Luxury. They got very well paying jobs in the growing private sector. They got club memberships and were soon playing golf and driving Range Rovers. Some became Ambassadors and Permanent Secretaries, began to travel with their families, who now went to international schools. They know their wine and love international cuisine. They have no English/ American accent because they were either traveling around too much, or if they were left in Nairobi, they went to Kianda School and Strathmore. They’re proper; too proper sometimes. They were well brought up and understand their parents’ background. Some will live to work as hard as their parents, while some will get lost in wealth and turn into the black sheep of the family, ever struggling to be a real part of the “proper family’. Their Children own their own apartments or homes, or servicing a mortgage in an up class residential area. They drive big cars; BMW X5, Mercedes S class, and the modest ones drive BMW’s. Most of Nairobi’s bachelorettes would love to be married to these ones. They are top executives in the private sector. Their children have blackberry’s.

Then there are the “rags to riches’ category of Kenya’s rich. They were not born in Nairobi. They’re young, they drive range rovers (Sport and Vogue) live in Lavington and Kileleshwa, some of them live in Runda, (and will be heard saying so loudly in the club scene). Some of them started of selling cars, imported from Japan, when Kenya’s middle-class began to rise. Or bought land which turned into prime property, or built flats and apartments (from a loan at the banks) that became the most sought after commodity in the 90’s. Theirs is a story of being in the right place at the right time. They work smart. Some of them don’t speak proper English (and most have heavy accents). They did not study abroad, and perhaps not even got to University. They are comfortable eating Nyama Choma at the Hood, Le Jardin and Dagorreti Corner. Their children live good lives, go to great schools and have flashy Nokia phones. But their parents are keen on parenting them in humility.

Then there’s you and me. Upwardly mobile and trying to get there;

We’ve got a job and a side ‘hustle.’

Mostly renting, but some are servicing a mortgage in Kileleshwa, Ngong Road or Kilimani,or Mombasa road, eyeing a mortgage or dating a rich man to marry.( who already has his own house). The Upper end young men drive BMW’s,Nissan X-trails, Premio's or the Mark-X (not from the showroom). The ladies drive Rav 4’s or BMW 3 series old model, or imported Japanese models like spacio's or Alex. The men date younger one’s who drive a Vitz, an IST or a celica. They have management positions in the private sector, are very well read and know a lot of current global and local news. They love sport and hang out with their boys. They drink Heineken or white cap. Some drink Jack Daniels and swear they have no love for beer. The ladies drink brandy, sometimes wine. They stock a bottle or two of wine at home.The young men claim they play golf (loudly so). They hang out in Westlands, Brew Bistro and Slims.Some try too hard to 'fit' into the rich boys club.Some have a Twang after being in the US for their Undergraduate.

There’s the rich and the rest…many of us are ‘ the rest’

P.S: There are also the Asians and the Karen Cowboys, they need a separate blog!