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One month Nairobi in retrospect

Today exactly one month ago I arrived for the second time in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. During a short visit last year the most populous city in East Africa already made quite an impression, but living here is just something else. The first month in retrospect!

While following the African media- and tech-space for the past 5 years, it was already very clear to me that Nairobi is one of the places to be in Africa.

Business-wise it is also one of the most important hubs on the continent, and that is one of the reasons why we decided to open the third Africa Interactive office here - besides the existing ones in Amsterdam and Accra. Together with my colleagues Kennedy and Lily I’m now running Africa Interactive Kenya Ltd, a subsidiary company of the main office in The Netherlands.

We are creating content (mainly video!) for clients by working with local media professionals all across Africa, and increasingly in Asia and Latin America as well. See the interview Balancing Act Africa did with me in the first week:

Of course I needed time to get used to the temperature, (35 degrees difference with Amsterdam!), driving in this traffic (still not used to it, crazy matatu’s!), the slow Wimax internet connection at the office, and the food (great Indian food!). But there was not much time for adjustment as the calendar filled up quickly with interesting events and meetings!

In the first weekend we joined my Ghanaian friend MacJordan to a SandBox Network meetup at a colonial horse race track where we met with Sebastian Lindstrom and his What took you so long video-production team. A great initiative that shares many of the same values as Africa Interactive by focusing on the strength and opportunities in developing countries. The main difference is that they do the filming themselves, but they live with the people they film before they switch on the camera. Check this cool video they made about iLab Liberia.

During the same day we got to know Lino Carcoforo who is, together with Nancy Wang, setting up Innovation for Africa, a seed-stage fund for tech-startups. Great stuff!

During the Mobile Web East Africa conference it was just great to meet so many people I only knew virtually. During the conference the excitement about the opportunities (infographic) broadband (mobile) internet is bringing to the region was tangible. Kenya has waited so long before the speed of internet went up and the price down, but that time is here! (I bought 1,5 GB mobile data from Safaricom for 999Ksh = 9,08 euro)

Great to see many examples of inventive ideas that solve problems of ordinary Kenyans through mobile solutions, I’m sure that ‘posterchild’ M-Pesa will get a lot of brothers and sisters in the coming years!

An example that Kenya is not there yet followed that weekend when a ship’s anchor in front of Mombasa’s harbor damaged the TEAMS undersea internet cable… TIA! A weekend without connection and a week with a slow Zuku connection followed. That’s why I bought a 3G modem of Safaricom, a great relief!

Two weekends ago the first Startup Weekend Nairobi took place at the Nailab. A great turnout of wannabe entrepreneurs showed up and on Sunday evening 14 ideas and demo’s were presented. Read my report with videos for VC4Africa.

It is exiting to see that the example of the iHub and Nailab have set on Ngong Road have resulted in many other hubs popping up in the city. I was impressed by the enormous 800sqm space of the ‘Startup Garage’, set up by the Scandinavian initiatives 88mph and IPO48. Another tech-focused space will be the GrowthHub, to be opened in April.

But it’s not only freelancers in tech that are looking for a co-working space. Last week I visited the recently opened PAWA254. The initiative derives its name from a combination of “power” in Swahili and 254, Kenya’s country code. Photographer Boniface Mwangi, who started it, is building this hub that will facilitate the use of visual and graphic arts, independent and citizen journalism, documentary film and photography, and digital and social media as means of civic expression and social action. A great initiative and… they have a great view from their rooftop terrace!

Looking back at the past month I start to realize how much has happened already! Adina and I start to feel more at home every day and I’m looking forward to month two!

Are you in Nairobi? Let’s connect!

Filed under nairobi kenya africa interactive africa media tech first month