Identity Crisis: The Reason Nairobians Buy Overpriced Stuff

Having been brought up by a Kenyan mum, bargaining is one art I have witnessed over and over again. “Every shilling counts”, that’s what my mum used to and still tells me. If you were born in the 20th century, I’m sure you’ll concur with my allegation that our parents are a sensitive lot when it comes to matters of how much to pay for stuff.

Well, they say an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree but I’ll argue that our generation is one bunch of apples that fell on a different farm in the matter of expenditure. Look around Nairobi, everything is overpriced and people are lining up to get ripped off.  Coffee goes for around Ksh 250 or more (keeping in minds that Kenyans aren’t really coffee people) but the coffee joints are always full. Guys prefer to buy a bottle of coke for a Ksh 150 at the mall rather than get one at Ksh 60 at the normal retail centre. Everything from left to right is overpriced: ice cream, fries and all junk goodies, bus fare etc.

Yet even with all this in mind, we still go for the expensive stuff. We are the generation that goes shopping and picks the groceries without minding the price tag. Do we have too much to spend? Probably not because a huge percentage of our population is unemployed. The question then is why. Why would we buy overpriced stuff even though we know we’re being ripped off? Why are we spending so much on such miniature and meaningless tasks?

Of course, there are many reasons. You could have worked hard for a couple of months and just wanna treat yourself at an expensive joint, you could be a coffee fanatic just following some good beans etc. There is, however, one factor that stands above all others. Nairobians have an identity crisis. We have grown up watching western movies, doing western fashion, getting turnt up to western jams. We have grown up alongside too much western stuff that a part of us thinks we’re western. Hell, we’re even celebrating Halloween and having Black Friday sales. Dads watch the super bowl now, mums go to yoga and all that other stuff we didn’t use to have.

Don’t get me wrong, some of this stuff is amazing and our lives have really improved. One thing, though, as a human aesthetic sense is vital to one’s existence. A sense of origin and belonging, which we have lost as a generation. As a result, we end up doing things we wouldn’t normally do to fit a particular western profile which we’ve defined for ourselves. This is why girls who have never left the country have either a British or an American accent. The reason why there is too much immorality in college because we watched American Pie and college was all fun and sex.

Businesses have learned this and turned it into a brilliant marketing strategy. Come with a business and offer your clients the western feel and they’ll flock at your door step. You’ll find Kenyans lined up at a Japanese restaurant to get sushi and only a few people spotted at a local dishes restaurant.

As a people, we are torn between worlds and spending a lot of money to convince ourselves that we are part of a world that doesn’t fit us. It’s high time we ask ourselves “Who are we?”.


Patrick Gichini


  • Posted February 22, 2017 2:22 pm 0Likes

    True true. But then again, the art of bargaining for commodities is a western practice especially when monetary value is applied. What I believe is, deep down we know who we are, but we are ashamed of who we are so we try to cover that image of our true identity by seeking attention and what’s the best way to do that!? Blow money fast.
    But then again it’s our nature as human beings to seek attention.

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