First Impressions

So we arrived in Nairobi a few days ago and already it seems like so much has happened. Our first call was the NGO Bureau in Nairobi trying to register the charity in Kenya to assure that we don’t get arrested for running and illegal NGO. As you might assume Kenyan bureaucracy is not the easiest to deal with but I think we made some progress.

Then we took a 2 hour bus journey to Nakuru to get settled. It’s nice because we’re staying here with the friend who I stayed with last time so it feels great to be back in Nakuru after a year and see friendly faces. In the evening we went out for a couple of beers and some delicious nyama choma (roasted meat).

On our second day we were invited by one of the youth leaders in this area who I met on my last trip to come along to an all day peace summit in a local church compound. We weren’t sure what to expect but thought it might be a good chance to make some useful contacts. By the end of the day our expectations were far exceeded. The day was fascinating hearing many leaders from different sections of civil society talk about creating long term peace in Kenya with the upcoming 2012 elections. It was also great to be reminded of the incredible energy and passion that so many Kenyans have to improve their country.  Their determination to prevent future violence occurring and to improve the plight of many poor people is hugely inspiring. For Kenyan Works this is great because our aim is to channel this energy and desire into entrepreneurship and business and the raw ingredients required for this certainly seem to be abundant. The day was also a success because we accomplished our initial aim of meeting some amazing local people who like our purpose and want to help us make Kenya Works a success. For example, we managed to get the Dean of Student of Egerton University signed up which is a real triumph this early on! It was also interesting to learn from Kenyans how our project can help build peace in Kenya. During the post-election violence it was mostly poor jobless youths fighting so peacebuilding through job creation is another potential angle to explore.

However, after being here for a couple of days we already have some reservations to explore.

Firstly, there is so much entrepreneurship here that it makes you wonder if all the opportunities for small scale businesses have already been saturated. It literally feels like everyone is selling something and everything can be bought somewhere. People try to assure us that this is not the case so we hope they are right.

Secondly, our original aim had been to work with the youth groups here for 6-8 hours a week for 8 weeks. However, it now seems unlikely that we will be able to get that kind of time commitment over such a long period of time. It’s my feeling that interest will diminish over time when the process seems so long. So it now seems much more plausible to hold more intensive sessions over a couple of weeks where we cram the ideas into a shorter time frame (this is what other similar programmes do). However, this obviously raises questions about our adapting our original model.

Thirdly, it’s confusing to know what youth groups to work with. We have had offers from the local university, from local youth leaders, from the church and from recognised youth groups to work with their groups. This is a nice problem to have but also quite confusing.

Finally, logistics is proving to be more of a headache than initially imagined. Nakuru is a fairly large city of 400,000 people and if we brought 16-20 people over from the UK at a time we would want them to stay near each other and get involved in local life and have a fun, amazing experience learning about Kenya as well as working with groups to develop business ideas. Therefore, the location that we choose for this setting is crucial. It’s hard to know whether a more rural location would be better where distances are shorter and the community is more contained. Or whether it’s better to be in a city where things are more hectic and confusing but where there is also a bigger market to start businesses.

So, in conclusion a good start with some great early contacts but plenty of things to work out…