Known as the “Green City in the Sun”, Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya with a population of more than 3 million people.For those who call Nairobi home, the city’s cosmopolitan charms no doubt brings a vibrant cultural life and pleasantly surprising comfort to expatriates. Set against a backdrop of city skyscrapers, Nairobi is also home to the only national park on earth that borders a city and offering the most accessible yet incongruous safari experience. Just last week, I got a glimpse of the abundant wildlife in this city when our car almost ran into a hippo on the road!
The name “Nairobi” originated from the Maasai phrase “Enkare Nyirobi”, which translates to “cool water”. The area for which Nairobi currently occupies was previously an un-inhabited seasonal swamp at the edge of a forest. The city only came into existence in the late 1800’s as a supply deport of the Ugandan Railway, which subsequently became the railway’s headquarters. Nairobi undoubtedly benefited from its hospitable environment – water was abundant and the high elevation enjoyed cooler temperatures than the coast. Since achieving independence in 1963, Nairobi has grown immensely. Home to thousands of Kenyan businesses and major international organisations, Nairobi is now an established hub for business and culture.
Yet beyond the glitter and glamour of this modern city also lies the undeniable reality of extreme urban poverty. First-time visitors to Nairobi will understandably be daunted by the city’s unenviable reputation. “Nairobbery”, as it has been nicknamed by residents and expats, is often regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in Africa. The rapid growth of the Nairobi also places great pressure on the city’s infrastructure. Enormous shanty towns of tin-roofed settlements can be easily found at the outskirts of the capital. This city is also infamous for hosting one of the largest slums in the world, which ironically is surrounded by the richest areas of town. Nairobi is often described to be a third-world city, yet crossing merely a road in the city can bring one into a first-world country.
No doubt, there are both positive and challenging aspects of Nairobi. As I embark on this challenging venture of micro-insurance, I am thrilled at how the skill-set of an actuary can have a positive impact in the lives of the low-income population in this developing country! May the destination of my journey is not simply a new place of Nairobi, but also a new way of seeing the world!