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Two Rivers festival was successful in business and cultural fronts

By Mohamed Guleid | August 11th 2021
Two Rivers Mall, located on Limuru Road in Ruaka, Nairobi. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Towards the end of last month, Two Rivers Mall organised a cultural festival to showcase Somali culture.

For a whole week, the mall was flooded by a sea of humanity. Jointly with Fazul Mohamed, Chairman of Kenya Private Sector Security Authority, we were requested to form a committee to help the mall management plan the event. Initially, I had some reservations, but on encouragement by Fazul, I agreed to chair the planning committee. It took weeks of planning and organising but eventually, the hard work paid off.

The fact that the event coincided with the Eid-ul-Adha festival was a blessing. Close to 270,000 visitors eventually visited, surpassing the weekly average of 70,000. The biggest attraction, of course, was the performance by some of the best artistes. The youth came in large numbers to enjoy and mingle while connecting with their heritage. According to the mall management, Somalis are their biggest clients. This is interesting because if you visit any of the major malls in Nairobi today, you will see groups of Somali men meeting in eateries, sip coffee and discussing business. That is where most business deals are done.

The best acumen of the Somali community is no longer a secret. The upsurge of Somali entrepreneurship is not really new. Since ancient times, this community was known for venturing far and wide to discover and trade. It is said that even during the time of pharaohs the Somali traded with the Egyptians. The land of Punt, as it was known then, had business ties that stretched as far as India, Europe and China. When the Portuguese conquered the East Coast of Africa in the 15th century, they found established groups of traders with their own system of government. Today in Nairobi, the Somali community is expanding its businesses. The growth of the real estate business is largely being driven by the community. About three out of 10 real estate ventures are being developed by this group.

The Two Rivers fete is yet another indication of the Somali consumer muscle because 80 per cent of the revelers were of Somali origin. During the week, according to a post-event report launched by Centum, the owners of the Two Rivers Mall, the Somali Cultural Week surged the sales of the mall. There were more than 250,000 transactions and more than Sh1 billion in sales, a record for the mall. Encouraged by this event, the mall management is now contemplating putting up state-of-the-art stalls for budding Somali entrepreneurs to trade within the mall. This will give hundreds of people an opportunity to trade and increase their incomes.

The biggest impact of the cultural event was the showcasing of culture and interaction between Somalis and other Kenyans. The Somali community, though part of the Kenyan people, often feels discriminated against in service provision. Cultural events such as this one give Somalis and non-Somalis an opportunity to interact and celebrate together. Usually, Somalis are conservative and there are a few opportunities for them to mingle with other Kenyans due to cultural and religious differences. The Two Rivers Mall intends to organise such an invent every year around the Eid festival to increase interaction between Somalis and other Kenyans.

Mr Guleid is CEO, Frontier Counties Development Council. [email protected]

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