Who will own Nairobi in 2071 AD?


Last week, we mused over the state of Nairobi city by the year 2071AD or 51AC (after Covid-19). We shall be bolder today and ask who will own this city by that year.

Today, the majority of the city’s residents do not own it. They rent their business and residential spaces. They sell their labour (jobs) and use the proceeds to pay rent and buy goods and services.

Trading and manufacturing are other sources of income for the city residents. Sorry, a city still means Nairobi.

Yet ownership of the city should be seen beyond owning land or property. It is more about owning the means of production, that is land, capital, labour or entrepreneurship skills. We could add a fifth factor, managerial skills.

We must add that these factors matter depending on where you live. In the rural areas, land matters most as a means to livelihood, but cheap because everyone has it.

Capital is rarely an issue, while labour is rarely hired, everyone works for himself. Entrepreneurship is basic without breakthrough ideas. Nature takes care of that.

In the rural areas, things are slow. As long as the rain falls, life is often good and easy.

There is plenty of social capital that lessens the burden.

Let’s shift to the city or urban centres. The land is scarce and pricy. People here solve the problem by building upwards. We are yet to start loving basements. Capital is scarce, but institutions such as securities or stock exchanges and banks ease access.

The rise of saccos in rural areas is commendable! Labour is plenty in the city. After all, everyone wants to be there. The employers should employ the one willing to be paid the least! But unions and regulations keep wages high.

Competition and diversity keep the city at the frontiers of entrepreneurship.

New ideas from within and abroad find a home in the cities. But the same competition ensures you never make too much money.

Only continuous innovation can allow you to keep making money. If you can lobby regulators, you could land a monopoly that allows you to make money without too much competition.

One competitive advantage enjoyed by cities is managerial skills. Managing the factors of production is as important as owning them. That is why Africa has lots of resources but she rarely makes money from them.

She leaves management to others. Managing citizens, the work of the government, is Africa’s other soft underbelly.

By the year 2071, Nairobi will be owned by those who can control the factors of production. Who are they? Are you one of them?

If not, how can you own a piece of the city? Why the city? In the foreseeable future, cities will remain centres of wealth creation.

We are also getting more urbanised, at 28 per cent today. We could hit 50 per cent by 2050, says the World Bank. I could suggest 70 per cent by 2070. The landowners will still make money. That is why clever owners prefer leasing to an outright sale.

Land for offices, houses and open space will always be in demand aided by the high population, around 110 million by 2070. Landowners can’t lose.

Young men think owning land is old fashioned. They should revise that thinking. Capital and its access will unlock future owners of the city. Think of Equity Bank or even chamas. With so much demand for capital, anyone controlling it will make money.

We expect lots of virtual banks by then. The Talas and Branches could be ahead of their time. If you can pool capital and make it easy to access, you will own the city.

Labour can’t lead to city ownership. It’s transitory - soon you have to retire and be replaced.

But if you have rare skills, you can make enough money to own assets in the city.

Explorating from developed countries, entrepreneurship might be the secret to owning the city by 2071. Kenya is maturing and making money from deals or nepotism without taking any risks will soon fizzle out.

Maybe that is why the corrupt are working overtime; they know that window will soon close. Remember the robber barons in the US?

By 2071, the route to wealth will be through the brains; new thinking, creativity and innovation.

Brains will replace old money. Think of big firms such as Google or Apple, or even M-Pesa. They are about new thinking. That will not change by the year 2071AD.

We must add that “emotional services” could still make you more money. Think of the Internet, Facebook or Instagram. They are about appealing to our emotions as we communicate.

We shall still be human by 2071 AD. Remember money is made from people through people.

I am sure you wanted me to name specific owners by race, nationality and tribe. Just check who patronises our high-end clubs, malls, hotels and live in leafy suburbs. Will they still call the shots by 2071AD? Shall we have our Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Quandts and other affluent families?

Open market

Shall wealth become captive or will it become a victim of creative destruction? My hunch tells me as long as we remain an open market, economic laws will apply. We shall get new industries and owners by 2071 AD.

Leakage; some of the key owners of Nairobi by 2071AD will come from the east, across the Kenyan borders, both water and land. They are replacing the former owners from the north or isles.

We can’t rule out more ownership of Nairobi by more non-Nairobians. One popular strategy today is to make money elsewhere and invest it in Nairobi where returns are higher.

Why else is the price of land forever skyrocketing in Nairobi?

We are losing focus of our strategic interests. Who is buying out the coffee farms in Kiambu? That is why as Kenyans take pride in leaving the country, foreigners take pride in becoming Kenyans. Seen the smile as stateless people became Kenyans?

Let’s talk. Do you own a piece of the city? Will you be an owner by 2071AD? What of your grandchildren?

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