Upon arriving in Nairobi on my recent trip to Kenya, I was pleasantly surprised by extensive improvements in construction and infrastructure. The new Nairobi Expressway was built to ease traffic from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to access Nairobi city centre. These new roads have made it much safer to travel on with no potholes and the expansion of four lanes cutting travel time down significantly. However, it was interesting to hear the perspective of our driver Alfyo who said most locals can’t afford to use the expressway as it’s too expensive for them. It costs 300-360ksh (Kenyan Shillings - roughly $3.86-4.63) to use depending on where they enter and exit. This is a lot of money for locals, especially as the average annual salary of Kenyans living in cities is about 843,148ksh (AU$10,859) or 2,310ksh (AU$29.20) a day.
The other thing I noticed in Nairobi was a change of atmosphere. One of desperation unlike before. The city was quiet. People used to hustle and bustle for a living. Now, many have returned home to their families living in rural villages as there is no work. Like the rest of the world, many people have lost their livelihoods. One of the hardest hit industries has been tourism, the second-largest source of foreign exchange revenue in Kenya, following agriculture.
We caught up with my friends Sammy and Rachel who I have known since 2010. They were updating us on the challenges and changes faced in Kenya during Covid. They have both worked in the tourism industry for many years for companies such as Intrepid Travel and Acacia Africa and have now started their own company called Kifaru Safari. They haven’t had business for 3 years since Covid. Only now are some jobs starting to pick up. They are only two of 1.2 million full-time employees who were laid off, while approximately $1.3 billion in labour income was lost in the industry.
This was confronting and eye-opening hearing stories like this echoed throughout our trip. Alfyo said he had to resort to selling potatoes at the markets with his mum to earn money to support his family as he didn’t have any clients to drive. Much like people in Australia and around the globe, people have resorted to jobs of menial pay just to earn an income. I have heard through some travel agents that Africa is one of the most booked out locations for next year. Hopefully the industry starts to pick up and more people can be employed again.
Apart from Gennarosity Abroad projects, every time I’m in Kenya I like to support other locally run incentives and initiatives. Whether they help people, animals or the environment, it is an important part of my trip to take part in getting involved with other much needed charities, so I can learn more about the communities we are involved in and get inspired for new ways we can help provide support.
One of my favourite places to visit usually is The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an orphan elephant rescue and wildlife rehabilitation program, that unfortunately we weren’t able to visit due to Covid capacity limitations. We were however, able to visit the Giraffe Centre which is a social nature enterprise that fundraises for conservation activities. In particular, they protect the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, focus on conservation education programmes for the Youth of Kenya and tourists, and are focused on the conservation of endangered flora and fauna. The Giraffe Centre has been renovated with an entirely new layout design to include Covid washing stations, social distancing and accessibility to people of all abilities.
For the first time, we also went to Ocean Sole which is a non-profit organisation that removes trash from the oceans, coastlines and makes stunning art to support marine conservation, whilst creating employment. It was incredible to watch the process of how these artworks are made. Many of the employed staff come from a wood carving background. We were not allowed to take photos of how the artworks are crafted but we could take photos of what the products looked like before and after.
Washed up flip flops from the ocean. The cleaning and treatment process.
Beautifully carved yet powerful artworks made from recycled flip flops and rubbish.