Somalis rewriting Kenya s economic history

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Approach any group of Kenyans in Nairobi today and casually introduce the topic of Somali nationals and their increasing economic influence in the city. Then, just stand back and watch raw emotions on display.

Call it pirate, khat or whatever kind of money, but one fact that nobody can dispute is that the Somalis (whether Kenyan or from Somalia) are awash with cash these days.

And, they are not afraid to flaunt it.

I heard a story recently of this plot owner in up-market Nairobi who was looking for a buyer. A lawyer got wind of it and introduced his Somali client (young man in his 30s, limited Swahili) hereinafter referred to as Purchaser, to the old property owner (Vendor).

Lawyer: Sir, we have word that you are selling this plot and would like to declare our interest.

Vendor: Yes, you are right. The property is up for sale, but I am yet to get a professional to conduct valuation for the plot. I suggest you give me until the end of next week to conclude that process first?

Lawyer: (consults client) How much, roughly, would you be looking at getting from this transaction?

Vendor: Off the top of my head……about Sh50 million.

Purchaser: (After getting translation from lawyer) No ‘broblem’ for Sh50 million. Take Sh100 million… cash, tomorrow!

Within the next twenty four hours, the plot had changed hands.

This story is replicated in many areas of Nairobi, Mombasa and other Kenyan towns. In Eastleigh, there have been allegations of grabbed plots, business people buying individual floors of buildings and so forth.

Come to the City centre and most new businesses are owned by members of the Somali community – from forex bureaux, to cafeterias, mobile phone shops to electronic shops.

This begs the question; are we witnessing a new chapter in the history of Kenya? Shall we look back, many years from today, and remember when the Somalia crisis led to an influx of enterprising people into our country, and who will by then be wielding a lot of economic power?

The fact of the matter is that Nairobi’s economy is increasingly being controlled by Somali immigrants, many of whose source of wealth is questionable bearing in mind the turmoil in their country.

Perhaps it is time for Kenyans to think of how to deal with this situation, by either seeking ways of tapping into this vast wealth, or securing the economy against any future capital withdrawals when peace returns to Somalia (which we hope will be soon).

My fear is that if we don’t openly acknowledge what is happening now, there may come a time when xenophobia will take root in Kenya. Going by our demonstrated hatred for our own neighbouring tribes, I shudder to think what xenophobia could do to our well-meaning foreign visitors.

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  • msema kweli

    I agree Laura, Kenyans should start acting. It begins with you(and me). Lets act by stopping to give bribes, to speak out against ills.

  • Lawrence Njenga- Limuru

    Laura…nice feature on your website. Anyway my point is simple. Kenyans are looking at Ruto now as a Hero. Like Artur is a BAD GUY but who wouldn’t want his autograph? Kenyan voters are everything their politicians are.

  • Githinji

    The Kenya we want is one without corruption but i don’t see and end it. We have tried to be united against it, remember 2002 when Kibaki become President,but it fought back hard and won. Guys as young as 20 are now seriously discussing ways to get to parliament and government so as to get involved in highly corruption ie Trition after all once we defraud billions all we need to do is by some MPs and get an expensive lawyer.It’s a small sacrifice for the billions.

  • Shikuku – USA

    How i wish more and more Kenyans got themselves engaged in the affairs of our great nation. Rally one another against relentless impunity by our leaders.
    Our leaders have lost the sense of being responsible to their employers thus continue to act recklessly in parliament (censure motion), they taint the image of our nations integrity. I dread reading news from Kenya everyday because they scream “something is not right again” and the worst is yet to come. Kenyans lets get involved in pragmatic political decisions of our nation right from our dinner tables. Lets resolve to build a better Nation on the principles of democracy. It can be done. WE CAN DO IT! I believe.

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  • One does not need to be a genius to know where most of the money from Somali piracy ends up. This is money laundering pure and simple. Kenya does not stop to think if all this money from “questionable sources” will have a detrimental effect on the economy. Kenyan officials need to wake up before its too late.

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