Quick thoughts from Nairobi

I’ve been in Nairobi since last Wednesday evening. Eb-F opened a new Unit here about three months ago. On Thursday we moved to a more permanent and bigger office and have just been getting settled. Friday I was able to go to the field – Kibera Slums. A lot of what I could write about Nairobi has already been covered really well by Kerry in other entries but I just wanted to share a quick few thoughts:

- Nairobi traffic is absolutely horrendous. It’s worse than any city I’ve ever seen in the US, except maybe Los Angeles.

- Al-Jazeera news gets a terribly unfair rap in the Western media. It’s one of the five channels I get on my tv in my hotel room and I have found it incredibly well-done. It’s informative, unbiased and just plain good objective journalism. This morning I watched a really good half-hour interview with the UN’s Shashi Tharoor. I’ve seen really solid coverage on US illegal immigration stories, Latin American development, floods in India and Bangladesh, Middle East coverage, etc. I’d say that it’s better than just about every tv news media in the US. A friend of mine spending the summer in Cairo doing his thesis research agreed with me.

- This follows up on what Kerry noted about the Kibera slums – that despite being a sprawling complex of slums of mud houses and horrendous roads, many people living there are relatively well off. They have TVs and electricity and are doing pretty well. Jaji Barlet, the Eb-F Business Development Officer for Nairobi raised some interesting points to me. First, he said there are over 220,000 NGOs and community development organizations working in the Kibera slums. If that’s true, then what has gone wrong, or rather what is going wrong? Why are they still slums? Another really interesting thing was his harangue against Playstation 2. As we walked through the slum streets, we saw a few places where kids could go and pay to play Playstation and other video game consoles. He said that a lot of kids now spend more time playing games than working on their studies, and that they invariably do much worse in school since the introduction of such Western technology and recreation.

About the author

Tanuj Parikh