Nairobi, Intelligence is not enough

An aerial view of Nairobi .Photo/file
An aerial view of Nairobi .Photo/file

According to the Intelligent Community Forum, “intelligent communities” are those that have taken “conscious steps” to create an economy that can prosper in the “broadband economy.” We are number one in Africa. In fact,

Nairobi was the only African city to bear this prestigious badge in 2015. We have held this position for two years in a row.

Intelligent Community Forum co-founder Robert Bell says: “We see a strong foundation being put into place [in Nairobi]: sensible, pro-growth government policy, a more diversified economy, and an innovation ecosystem of startups, international companies and universities”.

I’d like to be the first to say, well done Nairobi but being smart is simply not enough.

Let’s consider for a moment that Nairobi is a person. A person like you and me (after all the intelligence accolade is attributed to us) and let’s recognise that being smart is simply not enough. Proof of that lies in something Charles Obbo said last week in The East African:

“It has been widely documented in recent times that Nigerian tech entrepreneurs troop to Nairobi to hatch a clever idea, then take it back home to make cash from it. You could say Nairobi writes great recipe books, but has no chefs to cook”. Well said Mr Obbo, now allow me to take it from here.

While being intelligent can be a necessary condition for making it to the end of your education cycle or for being successful in life, regardless of what you do, it is most certainly not the single most important factor.

So what do we need to add to our “intelligence factor” to make it matter. Well some organisation wouldn’t hurt. Let’s be honest, we lack basic organisation. In fact even when some sensible form of structure is introduced, we fight it with all our might.

As the inhabitants of Nairobi, you can tell we pride ourselves in going with the flow. Newsflash: only dead fish and waste matter go with the flow.

We really need to snap out of it and get structured and organised and stick to it. This is called for in almost everything we do; the rule of law, traffic lights, not littering, creating lanes in traffic that don’t really add value in anyone’s life, even our own.

Being intelligent without structure or organisation won’t get us very far. Think of all the failed businesses and persons you know, who seemed to have it going on in the smart department but failed at life simply because they couldn’t organise themselves to be all they were created to be.

Intelligence is also required to work hand in hand with optimism and let’s face it, there has never been a bigger group of regular naysayers than Nairobians. We will not even take a moment to bask in the wonder of the accolade of “intelligent” and then consider what that means to us and for us positively. We haven’t considered it would be powerful or even fun to be able to introduce ourselves regionally, or internationally by stating we are from a bonafide intelligent city. Nooo, not us, we would rather take to social media immediately and throw cold water on the very idea that as a people we are worth recognising. We think so little of ourselves. Thus you wonder why anyone would waste time thinking highly of us.

Our intelligence will not get us very far if we don’t grown a pair, or at least strap on a pair. How often have you sat down with a group of people who in no time, start the conversation about how awful life is in Nairobi and how good it would be to live elsewhere?

Not only are we not intelligent enough to see that we have it good as Nairobians, we don’t have the basic foresight and fortitude to buckle down and make it work. We are waiting for a Messiah to do it for us. Back again to Charles Obbo, “Crime makes people afraid and restless, yes, but in the process it also banishes complacence from the streets. But then Nairobi is not the only city with a bad street crime problem”.

Fellow Nairobians, without some willingness to be organised, without some optimism and without the ability to take the good times with the bad times, we may be intelligent but it simply won’t be enough to take us where Robert Bell says we can be and should be: “Nairobi certainly has the opportunity to build an exciting future for its citizens, businesses and institutions.” Are we smart enough to know this, believe this and act on it? Or will we take this, like everything else, turn into a set of memes and move on? It’s up to us – I hope we are smart enough to know this”.