We could learn a lot from Mombasa’s night economy

Nairobi with its Kanjo-hawker races, thugs is a far cry from coastal serenity

In Summary

• Clip of Governor Nassir echoes my experience of vibrance rarely seen elsewhere

Revellers at a night club in Mombasa
Revellers at a night club in Mombasa
Image: FILE

The first thing many Kenyans think of when Mombasa is mentioned is laziness.

For a while now, just like any other community, coastal people have been stereotyped.

From being lazy to being very slow to even being gurus when speaking fluent Kiswahili, among others.

The unfairness of blanket statements notwithstanding, it is evident that the coastal community is never in a hurry.

If you frequent the Coast, then you know that businesses can open as early as 9am or 10am in the morning.

Some even open in the afternoon.

However, we have got to give it to them when it comes to their vibrant night economy.

I have met a few people who sleep or do other things during the day and fully function throughout the night.

Usiku Sacco, if I may say, tends to be at their maximum in terms of conceptualising and doing things at night.

I can resonate with this to some extent because times as early as 3am is when I can write better.

I recently saw a video making the rounds online, where a man who voiced the video was talking of how the county government of Mombasa has enabled its people to enjoy the night economy.

In the video, Governor Abdulswamad Sharrif Nassir is seen walking around with a wingman.

He is visiting different stalls, buying food, speaking and interacting with different people as well as young children.

He is also seen taking strolls and taking pictures with different members of the public.

I find it admirable and really nice that as a leader, he can comfortably interact with his people.

The guy who made the video continues to say that we can learn a few things from how Mombasa operates at night.

“Counties like Kiambu and Nairobi do not see that the night economy has the potential of employing very many people,” he says.

He continues to speak about how these two counties have made residents think that the night economy is only for sherehe (partying).

Nairobi streets are, however, packed with hawkers and business individuals who go about selling their products.

I remember a time when I was walking in town to go grab a matatu and head home, when I saw a long queue of hawkers.

I knew they were hawkers because I identified one of them as I sometimes buy vegetables from her.

At the front of the line, I saw a city council officer holding a list and asking them (hawkers) to maintain order as she will call them one by one to confirm if they have paid.

My guess is that the officer was confirming if they had paid for where they were selling their products to avoid the NFS race that usually happens in the capital.

This sometimes leaves us holding on to some of their things because we cannot correctly find the direction in which they ran to.

The Mombasa night economy is different.

The Mombasa governor has facilitated the lighting of the city, security and you can even see that it is a clean place

I was recently at the Coast and decided to take a night stroll along Mombasa streets, and I can for sure tell you that the night business is unique and enticing.

“The Mombasa governor has facilitated the lighting of the city, security and you can even see that it is a clean place,” the guy in the video said.

As I scrolled through the video’s comments section, I could see that people felt different.

Having spent most of my years travelling to and from different parts of the Coast but mainly Mombasa, I agree with the guy from the video to some extent.

“The night economy should be validated, yes, by barring off misfits, but still providing amenities and good infrastructure, and without infringing on basic rights,” someone commented.

As a Nairobi resident, I feel we are also embracing the night economy well, but we are still far from how Mombasa operates.

The level at which Kanjo move about the streets and conduct themselves, as well as the level of thuggery in both cities, is different.

The coastal region as a whole has been holding festivals for the longest, and most of us even make sure to pre-plan so we travel and get to experience the coastal way of life during the day and even at night.

Last year, Nairobi held its first-ever festival, and it was a really nice experience.

Talk about appreciation of culture, art, music and even businesses. 

I would love to see other counties post how their places come alive when it is nighttime and how they conduct business at night.

If you are yet to walk around Mombasa town at night, take a weekend off and travel to the Coast for just three days.

It is an eye-opening experience.

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