How Nairobians survive the city's tough life, high cost of living

A section of Kibra slums, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

You do not need binoculars or a power presentation with graphs, diagrams and soundtracks to tell how life in the city has become expensive for some Nairobians.

Just keenly observe how Nairobians make purchasing decisions for services and goods.

The most sought after option is usually the cheapest in the market.

It is a scene that plays out at most of the mini-bus stages outside Nyayo Stadium for public service vehicles plying Ongata Rongai route.

On any weekday, despite how fast the sun will be setting and the clouds threatening a downpour, only a handful of Nairobians will heed to the begging calls from drivers and conductors to aboard their vehicles whose fare is Sh100.

Almost every other person on the stage always has his or her head buried in their phones chatting or surfing the internet for nothing important. But once the lowest price is announced by another matatu - Sh50, it becomes a fight for survival as passengers struggle to board the matatu and save Sh50.

This scene is common in almost every matatu termini in Nairobi, where passengers hover around the stage like vultures waiting for a dying animal to turn into a carcass.

This illustrates the extent individuals would go to either save a shilling or not spend at all amid the increasingly high cost of living.

It has been reflected as well in their houses as The Standard found out during some interviews with some Nairobians. 

Abraham Munai, a Nairobian, says the cost of living in the city has made him make adjustments in what he once considered as necessities.

There was a time he used to shop for items because they were part of his lifestyle.  Today, the items he buys must be necessities. "I have had to redefine what is basic in my life," he says. 

For example, while blue band margarine was important, today it is not. But while bread still features on his shopping list, he is slowly weaning himself and his family off the wheat.

He prefers meals or food items that can 'kill two birds with one stone. "Sometimes I would prepare arrowroots as supper so that I also have it on the morning as breakfast," he says. 

But a stroll in any market around the city reveals that even the prices of these alternatives are going up. Basic items like sukuma wiki are also becoming expensive going by what traders have been repackaging. Instead of a bunch being sold at Sh5, the packaging has changed to three bunches for Sh20. 

This means if you are used to buying Sh10 worth of sukuma wiki in some areas Ongata Rongai, you have to rethink your budget. 

The best option then for many remains to buy food wholesale. It is what Hesborn Kimani, a photographer and videographer in Nairobi does. 

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