There’s a new emerging middle class in Kenya. I don’t know much economics, but I recognize a trend when I see one. The trend I’m seeing in general is more spending, more expensive lifestyles and more products in the market just waiting to be bought. No one would invest in all that supermarket stock if there was no buyer. For example, drinking water. A relatively new trend in Kenya. And in a little over two decades, there are over 30 water brands in leading supermarkets and people walk around carrying little bottles. A new accessory.
Every Kenyan home, especially young families with both parents in their thirties and forties have all the modern kitchen accessories, electronics that were once for the rich and traveling lot. Fridges, flat screen TVs are all commonplace. What of the cars? Until recently, we have never needed to expand our roads and build more in the air. And homes in new housing estates are being snapped up by buyers even before they are built!. You show people a housing estate on paper and their banks approve mortgages in 24 hours. That is all good. I have no problem with that.
But to whom more is given, more is expected. That kind of lifestyle should come with some responsibility for collective space, the environment, for example.
I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. Two weeks ago, Mr Toyota Prado KAB, with his large family and beaming wife are enjoying a sunny Sunday in September. There’s laughter, reckless driving cause daddy’s on the phone so other cars please get out of my way. Then, after the multiple stomachs are filled, they throw their two empty pizza boxes out of the car window onto a pavement in Westlands. I wanted to scream. I’m the one who hooted my car (I know bad manners) but they didn’t get it. Who is supposed to pick that up? You drive a Prado and you have no trash bin at home where you can throw your trash?
And then, what of my neighbours on the fifth floor, I’m on the first, who throw out dirty laundry water out of the window? Always on the balcony making deals in “millions” so that we all hear and yet you cannot hygienically dispose of your used water, some with ugali bits floating inside. I think the situation is truly pathetic and people need to be more responsible for collective space and I thought that people would know better.
Don’t get me started about the families who walk about at night (or drive) carrying their trash, usually heaps of used diapers, bones of last nights take-away nyama choma and all sorts of containers that once carried water, tinned beans and vaseline. These night-walkers or drivers will then find a suitable location, like someone else’s farm, and launch their rubbish in the air and into that space. Of course, when others find that there’s dirt on that plot, they will in future throw their garbage there. It soon becomes the neighbourhood garbage heap. I pity the landowners who come to find that situation in the morning.
But there’s something wrong with me. Why do I think that the rich should know better? Seriously. A difficult question, that one. Okay. This is why. I thought that the rich have more access to information, they have TVs and the Internet at home. Some travel to distant nations to buy their used cars. Others are rich because they went to the university and got some degree in actuarial sciences and some of us really don’t know what those sciences truly are. Then those scientists get jobs in huge corporates with carpeted floors while the rest of us hit the dust. And so I suppose, wrongly so, that because of those experiences, these brothers and sisters know not to throw a pizza box out of the damn car window! I mean, you don’t drop candy wrappings on the office carpet, do you? Okay, no need to lose my temper over this.
Someday, when I get rich, I will buy a camera and shame those people. For now, just know that you may have money, but really, you have no class. And if you are living in an apartment block, demand that your landlord provide a rubbish disposal system.