Potential, Poverty, Politics & Parties: Why Kenya Attracts the Brightest Social Entreprepreneurs
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
They flock from America’s top universities, grad programs and consulting firms to the pulsing heart of a new Africa. From glass towers and Ivied halls to cramped garages, cooperative work hubs, and overflowing makeshift live/workspaces, these young, talented and driven entrepreneurs are riding a new wave of social enterprises, crash landing into a rapidly rising east African capital.
The most populated city in east Africa, and one of the fastest growing, Nairobi, Kenya has become an extremely strategic regional center for business, banking, development, and politics. A destination hosting a diverse mingling of foreign inhabitants, from emissaries, ambassadors and development agencies to mobile innovators, technologists and consultants, Nairobi has just recently to crept into the international market as a city to keep an eye on.
Yet economic potential and business prospects are only part of the reason why Nairobi’s become a bustling hub for young social innovators and social entrepreneurs from Brown, Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, who give up jobs at McKinsey, Bain, and Goldman Sachs to be here. So what is it?
It’s what I’ve come to dub as the four P’s — Potential, Poverty, Politics, and Parties — a unique blend that draws a distinct class of Gen-y ers looking to make money, make a name for themselves, and make a difference.
Let’s start with potential. At a dinner recently, I asked a few folks what their favorite part of living in here was. Hands down, they all said, it’s the people. Not just their fellow expatriates, who seem to keep coming in droves and reinforcing a self-fulfilling prophecy of the city being a great emerging capital for bright young social entrepreneurs, but the young Kenyans. They feel that Nairobi has a certain buzz, the collective revving of engines by a generation of Kenyans craving something different.