Are you inside or outside?

Vehicles carrying passengers on Thika Road, Nairobi [Courtesy]

The rush hour on Thika road can be nasty but exposes some design faults even for a non-engineer. Someone driving from the leafy suburb of Muthaiga to the service lane towards Thika Road crosses another road taking you to Kiambu - a real X.

That is not enough, why are motorists from Thika, Kiambu and Muthaiga “funnelled” at Pangani, creating a super-jam?

Enough on road design. I noticed two classes of passengers on this road - some in an open lorry and others inside a matatu.

That raises lots of questions. How did two groups end up in two parallel lives, one in a covered vehicle and the other in an uncovered one? Never mind what happens if it rains. Is it the level of education, family background, lack of good socio-economic policies?

Once we find out how they got there we can ask a more important question: how can we put a cover over the exposed group? Or better, how can we have the two groups drive their own cars with more comfort?

That image captures the nagging question of socio-economic mobility in Kenya. How open are our paths to upward mobility? Education used to be the best as some of the affluent Kenyans today will attest. Good jobs after school opened new economic avenues. That was when the population was low and nepotism was frowned upon.

Entrepreneurship is the other path, but a difficult one because of the high failure rate and the common perception that it is for failures. It is still a mystery why we expect D students and not A students to be entrepreneurs despite the complexity of running enterprises, some of which are new with no precedence.

Ever wondered why global firms such as Google or Facebook were started by A students, going by the founders’ alma mater? Others have tried shortcuts, call it corruption or nepotism, as paths to upward mobility.

The most recent path is through cash transfers, stipends given to the elderly and soon to be rolled out to the unemployed if the political promises are kept. 

Whichever path, upward mobility should be open to all, it’s one of the hallmarks of a civilised nation - and we are one unless proved otherwise. Were you in the open lorry or matatu? Talk to us...