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Recap: Surviving Nairobi!

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

Nairobi, Kenya, a bustling metropolis known for its vibrant culture and booming economy, can be both exhilarating and challenging for those who call it home. To address the intricacies of living and working in this dynamic city, OPENSPACE Global recently hosted its inaugural event in Kenya, 'Surviving Nairobi.' This event, held at the Nairobi Garage on the 15th of September, 2023, brought together a diverse group of individuals eager to engage in an open and honest conversation about their experiences navigating life and work in Nairobi.

Esther Katiba and Sydney Scott: Guiding the Conversation

At the heart of the event were two dynamic moderators: Sydney Scott, the founder of OPENSPACE Global, and Esther Katiba. Together, they facilitated an engaging and thought-provoking discussion that touched on various aspects of life and work in Nairobi. Sydney Scott's passion for fostering open dialogue and creating spaces for meaningful conversations played a pivotal role in the success of 'Surviving Nairobi.' Esther Katiba's deep understanding of the Nairobi community provided valuable local context and perspectives. Her contributions added depth to the conversation, making it even more relevant and relatable to the attendees.

Unique Aspects of Nairobi: From Matatu Culture to Dating Scene

As the conversation kicked off, attendees went beyond the conventional to reveal the distinctive aspects of life in Nairobi. From the notorious "matatu" culture, where colourful minibuses zigzag through the bustling streets, to the city's unique dating scene, where it often feels like "everybody dates everybody." These insights provided a fascinating glimpse into the vibrant tapestry of Nairobi's daily life. The discussion also touched upon the ‘crazy’ Nairobi's drinking culture, a facet that is both social and recreational. Attendees shared anecdotes about the city's lively nightlife that runs all week and how it plays a role in bringing people together, further emphasizing the city's unique character.

Exploring the Challenges and Triumphs

The event began with an exploration of the challenges faced by residents of Nairobi. From the notorious traffic jams to the high cost of living (associated with the implementation of Kenya Finance Bill 2023), participants shared their personal experiences and strategies for coping with these hurdles. Many attendees found solace in knowing they were not alone in facing these challenges and appreciated the opportunity to learn from one another. One striking issue raised during the event was the challenges faced by university graduates in Nairobi. Many attendees expressed concern over the struggles of recent graduates who find themselves unable to secure jobs. Two key issues emerged:

  • Skills Gap: Graduates often graduate with degrees but lack the practical skills that employers seek.

  • Lack of Awareness of Resources: Graduates were also unaware of the numerous resources available to help them find job opportunities and enhance their skill sets. The discussion emphasized the importance of connecting graduates with the right resources and support networks.

The complex entrepreneurial landscape was discussed with the attendees, highlighting challenges faced by established and aspiring entrepreneurs;

  • Overtraining of Women Entrepreneurs: It was noted that women entrepreneurs often receive extensive training, yet they face additional barriers such as gender bias and lack of access to funding.

  • Funding Challenges: Access to financing remains a significant obstacle for entrepreneurs in Nairobi. Attendees expressed the need for more accessible funding options and increased awareness of available financial resources.

  • Lack of Talent and Support: Entrepreneurs often struggle to find the right talent to help their startups grow. Mentorship and support networks are crucial for success, but they can be challenging to establish.

Conversely, 'Surviving Nairobi' also highlighted the city's abundant opportunities and the spirit of resilience that permeates its people. Attendees spoke about the vibrant arts and fast-paced culture scene, the promising entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the diverse community that Nairobi offers. These aspects serve as a testament to the city's dynamism and its ability to embrace and empower those who call it home.

Attendees at the event

Key Takeaways and Insights

Throughout the event, several key takeaways and insights emerged:

  • Community Matters: Building a strong support network is crucial for navigating life in Nairobi. Attendees discussed the importance of connecting with like-minded individuals and organizations that align with their values and goals.

  • Adaptability is Key: Nairobi is a constantly evolving city, and attendees emphasized the need to adapt to change. Being open to new experiences and opportunities is essential for personal and professional growth.

  • Independence of thought and initiative: The attendees encouraged each other to exhibit more independence of thought and independent initiative, as this seemed to be a growth area for many Kenyan professionals.

  • Resilience and Creativity: The stories shared at 'Surviving Nairobi' underscored the city's resilient spirit and the creative ways in which its residents overcome challenges. Attendees were inspired to embrace creativity in problem-solving.

OPENSPACE Global's 'Surviving Nairobi' event provided a platform for Nairobi residents to discuss the joys and struggles of living and working in this dynamic city. As Nairobi continues to grow and change, events like these help residents come together, share their experiences, and find the support they need to thrive in this vibrant urban landscape. 'Surviving Nairobi' was just the beginning! More thought-provoking conversations coming your way, Nairobi.

See you in our next one!

Credits: Margaret Mathenge

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