• Hosting has been our forte for a long time. Nairobi is home to major local and international conferences.
• How then do we develop better ethics to create a good spirit of service amongst Nairobians?
Growing up, it was always automatic to embrace the spirit of service.
When visitors would come home, tiding up came first, and then there was the culture of the visitor’s utensils and dish. Our parents would suddenly urge the children to disappear until they signalled the visitors had left.
In between, we would greet the visitor, disappear, reappear, serve them meals and summoned to bid them farewell, then clean up. A few hours later, the house would be back to factory settings.
Prior to those visits, we would thoroughly clean the house and work round the clock to ensure everything towards the visit was akin to a diplomatic event.
My experience was similar in most homes in Nairobi.
Fast forward, it is a wonder why the same experience is now mostly, if not only practiced by the hospitality industry, not in other sectors in Nairobi.
At Kenyan Coast, the spirit of service goes without question, from their customs, language, to the levels of patience, and acceptable levels of trust. There is thus much lower crime levels than in Nairobi and a more vibrant tourism sector. But Nairobi, being the capital, must do better.
The Japanese call this spirit of service Omotenashi, and Ichigo Ichie, treating every visitors’ experience as if it were the first.
Omotenashi is Japanese hospitality culture at its finest. ‘omote’ means public face (the image you wish to present to outsiders) and ‘nashi’ means nothing. Together, it combines to service that comes from the bottom of the heart — honest, no hiding, no pretending.
So how do we develop a culture that is so welcoming that will get visitors, be it from other counties or countries to admire our Nairobi, the green city under the sun?
And how can this culture further elevate Nairobi so highly to become the go to city in Africa, competing with other top tourism destinations such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Cairo, Stone Town Zanzibar and Marrakesh?
We already have a lot of positives: Nairobi is urban to the core, yet with an acclaimed national park right in the heart of the city, pleasant weather, affordable general expenses and friendly locals with high literacy levels.
We also have a relatively integrated cosmopolitan society with locals and foreigners living in harmony.
Despite these positives, we need to create an environment free from traffic snarl ups, dangerous driving, crime, hawking and pollution, amongst others.
We can replace these ills with clean streets, less traffic congestion, good roads, clean air, a variety of entertainment for adults and kids, better ethics as citizens devoid of the few rebels amongst us through good governance.
While at it, great digital minds in our Kanairo city can further digitise most services as we live in a global world and that is the direction most countries have taken.
How do we then develop better ethics to create a good spirit of service amongst Nairobians?
Once the law enforcers have done their job, weeding out the few crooks, it is prudent that we start developing trust amongst each other. For instance, if someone stops you to ask for directions, gladly help. Infact, if the place is not so far, offer to walk them there. Let us not leave this to our security guards only.
We should also embrace culture in the view of cosmopolitanism. With this, tolerance to diversity will definitely take precedence thus tolerance to age, gender, tribe, nationality and religion.
Overcomplicating the process of governance by the county government in terms of people following rules should be avoided as this makes nothing change. People finf it difficult to adapt to change or may rebel, especially since the administration is still new.
Instead, processes should be simplified, such as clear dumping areas, clear walking paths, offer inclusive services and county bylaws should be simplified and taught to locals and foreigners.
Hosting has been our forte for a long time. Nairobi is home to major local and international conferences. Our tourism sector is also growing. Nairobi is soon set to host a major cultural fair, introduced by Governor Johnson Sakaja dubbed the ‘Nairobi Festival’, where streets will be set aside for people to display culture, food and creativity.
This is our opportunity to tidy up and display a Nairobi culture like no other.
Vera is a part time lecturer and a communications researcher