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!

31 comments:

  1. Then there are those with nothing, those who are too poor to think of their next meal because they do not remember when they had their last. As they say, we have the Haves, the Have-nots, the Have-some and the Have-it-all!

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  2. am waiting the asian and the karen cowboys' blog. as for this one it's been such insightful and well said.

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  3. Great stuff

    Now to John Githongo's not so 'fun' way of looking at it: http://johngithongo.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/colonial-spoils-recycled-as-new-money/

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  4. Interesting read, particularly for me because we are about to embark on a syndicated cross continent research project on the middle classes. What you describe pretty much is mirrored across the continent, with some variances here and there, but Africa's success will be depedent on finding news seams of new wealth to mine, and the growth has to be shared, otherwise the social ructions will be seismic. South Africa will be particularly prone because half the black millionaires have no idea what it takes to build a company, too much spoon-feeding. Ok I am hating a bit, but its true. Vusi

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  5. Interesting analogy. So makes sense. There are also those who grew up in old money, their parents were Rich from rich families and these guys decided to quit school and "Hustle". They are the ones who are always at the club, buying drinks so that their friends can hang around them coz they have nothing to offer in terms of brains or good ideas. they grew up thinking life is a piece of cake and that their parents money will always be there - so they never work. All they do is mis-use their parents cash.
    Those are def not the rest - they are the annoying ones :-)

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  6. That made for an interesting read :)
    I agree with gretrnk - there're plenty others. What of the hawkers? what of the idps? those in kibera? those that trek to industrial area for work, or to just hang outside the big closed gate scribbled 'Hakuna Kazi' hoping for some luck?

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  7. Great interesting article, has filled me with insight. Some of us are eying big, falling almost nowhere in the article we still have big dreams and keen in living better lives than those of the born rich. Living a legacy of love and wealth to generations under me. Again Kudos!

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  8. I like the analogy, i already placed myself appropriately in the you and me category :-) a true reflection of the real situation. Upwardly mobile....sounds good/promising with an eye to graduate to the next level.

    This is nice

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  9. Wow Terry that is quite an analysis.... "bang on" is the expression...they are also those who through corrupt deals i.e. bad roads, non provision of water, cdf money, drugs etc etc have become rich they are also a different breed with a different story people we are not proud of!

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  10. A true depiction of the haves, the Have-some and
    the Have-it-all.

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  11. Thats a nice read! A true Kenyan Story! Someone could almost feel emotional wen reading this!

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  12. Loving the last paragraph. So aptly describes the middle and upper middle classes.

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  13. Interesting read, and accurately so- down to the car I drive, even though I would say more women drive Xtrails than men :), especially the short ones... I did actually think about what the car said about me when I bought it...and your post kinda hints on my thoughts then.

    There is one group you left out...born poor, inherit poverty. The ones who seem to be stuck on a ferris wheel of the underprivileged. Those are the ones who service the other groups, who keep their mortgaged houses spotless, their golf courses watered...

    You need to post more often!!

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  14. Nice read! Seems "rich" is relative, and goes to show how chasing all this wealth is vanity. Contentment is the name of the game.

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  15. In stitches. You earn an RT on my twitter. Cant wait for the Karen Cowboys edition...and you did a couple of people a hell lot of favour explaining what 'old money' really is!!

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  16. There are two other classes below the last one. And they are the majority. The ones who have just enough to eat, cloth and educate their kids, though painfully, and the ones who have none of the above to their name.

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  17. Beautifully written post. . cant wait for the asians and Karen cowboys. . .

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  18. some have some want. there's also rags to riches and back to rags...

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  19. I love this blog, truly a reflection of modern Kenya

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  20. Thanking you sincerely for dropping by and sharing your ideas on my minds rantings of what i see as Kenya's stratified economic classes. I would have loved to break down "The richest of the Rich, much who belong to the first paragraph, but that i will leave to The John Githongo's and the "Mars group'. They've got the time and the muscle to do the proper research....and perhaps some good lawyers they can hire.

    Now, there's groups below what I have referred to as "The rest". Most of us belong to that group, as we dont belong to "The rich". Even the lady in Kibera selling vegetables hopes to 'get there'.

    And 'getting there' means different things to different people. To me, it may mean getting that blakberry I've been eyeing, for another it could be getting a new home, for another it ould be signing on a new client, yet for another it could be getting a comfortable bed and a new blanket, or getting new capital to start a small new business. Its not conclusive, and all you have said above is a true picture of who we are today, and the same is echoed across several African Countries, as Vusi also says above.

    See you here again soon! ( Hoping to stop by Karen soon to check out the Cowboys:-)

    xoxo

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  21. Awesome post! Am officially a fan...RT and FB link. You also get a 'blogs worth note' on my Blog. Great stuff; now for the Asians n Karen Cowboys...

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  22. Good evening, your post has made me hit the torrents once again and i now have a pdf copy of the mag.
    Am amazed by some figures in the special report, but the info in general is good e.g. that the Bilderberg hosts the who's who in the world as far as influence in concerned.
    Now i know where to track them down from.
    Thanks for a nice post

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  23. This is a great blog! Have you considered applying for the Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards? They have a special section for blogs in their online media section and there's a 500 cash prize. Go to www.africapractice.com to find out more

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  24. Thanks again for your wonderful remarks. @Anonymus, i've never really looked at it that seriously, but i will give it a shot. A few years ago i was a finalist in a Diageo award

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  25. Great post, especially the part of the "get there" group, who for me manifest the hope for a better tomorrow, a I-must-do-whatever-it-takes attitude, those for me are the truly rich.

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  26. Well said and hilarious at the same time. We also have the have-nots who live below the $1.

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