What have you done for Kenya lately?

I just bought a duvet from a Kenyan who lives in Dubai. It was not second hand. The fabric was good, the design was not too extra-ordinary, but its something I wouldn’t mind seeing when I am about to dive into bed or when I am struggling to get out.

He is a Kenyan, I am a Kenyan and the duvet was from Dubai. It wasn’t too pricey, but I could have gotten at least three for the same price if I went to Gikomba, or two if I went to a supermarket.

Have you ever been to those little shops on Ngong Road, or even in Naivasha, where you get some local hand-woven rugs or cushion covers? The fusion of colour, the one or two errors that make the purchase personal and unique are of admirable repute. The cost alone attests to that.

Do you think someone from Kenya would go to Dubai to sell it?

What about those nice suits sold in exhibitions that come from Turkey? They are affordable and the size that you think you are never really fits. If you are for example a size 12 you would need to fit a size 16… What I am trying to say is, is it really necessary for Kenyans to have this one way relationship with all these countries?

Nothing is for free and it’s about time we (Kenyans) played that to mind. Politicians use the trade imbalances as negotiating tools and we need to realise the losses we may be incurring. I for one propose that the only thing we should get from foreign countries is what we do not have here. The duvet was an example, but just think about it, visitors from most foreign countries only purchase from Kenya what they do not have at home.

Things you would get in Maasai market, those lovely flowers from Naivasha, and even coffee and tea. That’s it. Never a pair of jeans or sneakers – maybe Safari boots to go on safari with.

When I bought the duvet it did not even once occur to me that I could get something that would benefit more than just one Kenyan. I know someone who makes duvets, but they would probably cost me twice the price. What am I trying to say? That this market needs some tweaking in order to thrive.

I know deep in my heart that Kenyans are more than capable of designing clothes for the mass market that look much more attractive than the scary brown, purple, and green sweaters that you might spot in several roadside stores.

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