It’s 2012, the party is on the up and up like any other in the Westlands area where all the cool joints are. Loud music, shimmering disco lights, sky-high stilettos and miles of legs every where you turn.
It’s a classy affair. Guests are being guided to cushy chaise lounges to chill and nurse their stiff drinks with ease. The excitement can be seen on our eager faces as we check in, clearly we’re out of our depth here. First-timers. Sub-urban posers. You name it. We stink of freshness. We don’t mind at all, we came to have a good time at the expense of the good people at Sankara Nairobi.
It’s a Samsung Phone cocktail party and we have managed to finagle invites as “press.” This is a right of passage for any self-respecting journalism student. When morphing to become a hotshot in the Kenyan media circle you will be required to worship at the altar of freebies, that’s just how it is. We’re interning at KNA, the government equivalent is KBC only with a newspaper attached to it. (Speaking of which I think Kenya Today, the KNA “newspaper” died and down went my published “by-lines” with it. I can no longer cash in on those during job interviews I go to. Such a bummer!)
A healthy crowd is milling around the meats and wine area and naturally we gravitate there to see whats up. Hold up, by “we” I mean our I.T guy, a random intern from the Thika bureau, a Kale guy called Mike whom I had a serious crush on and myself. Troubled times people, troubled times.
They’re serving sea food: prawns, lobster, calamari and their cousins. We pick plates and head on to get a piece of the action. A generous helping of lobster and reddish sauce is all I’m willing to experiment with at the moment. I dig in enthusiastically. We agree it’s quite tasty judging from the appreciative smacks and grunts.
I feel my jaw crunch something, wait, that is not a piece of succulent lobster. Then comes the second crunch and I’m convinced I have bit a claw or something. Reason says to spit it out, pride says to charge on like a true warrior. War chants anyone? Well, lets just say my introduction to sea food was quite a hilarious one, so when an opportunity to go to Sankara once again I did not hesitate to agree. Of course they will not be serving lobster, but the memories were colourful.
This time round they’re hosting Mind Speak. It’s a business club hosting free monthly forums hosted by Aly Khan Satchu. Over time he has built a reputable following among university students, aspiring entrepreneurs and numerous executives all attending his forums to learn from the usually impressive guests. And last evening he did not disappoint.
Stephen Jennings (pictured), the Founder and CEO of Rendeavour has been living and working in emerging markets for more than 20 years. Rendeavour is a major contributor to the multi-million shilling project Tatu City which has been dogged by court room drama and corruption allegations for several years now. This project he says, has been crippled by injustice meted out to him and his team and the frustration has left a sour taste in not only his but other potential investors mouths.
He outlines the constant police meddling with no reason and tears into Mr. Vimal Shah for masquerading as a major investor in Tatu yet he only had a 0.03% stake. He also names Mr. Nahashon Nyagah as another of his detractors. This goes on for quite abit, as hilarious as the barbs on them are, I feel the real issues are not being addressed in this setting.Whether by error or design I’m yet to figure out.
Mr.Jennings was one of the founders of the Renaissance Group since 1995, an investment outfit amassing a 5.2 billion USD stake in the 20 years he was in Moscow before he sold it to his partner. The New Zealander who was affectionately called the ‘Kiwi oligarch’ rose to become the richest man in the country in the 2008 Forbes list in his illustrious exploits.
During his exit his competitor Bernie Sucher of the investment bank ATON wrote he was “a high-wire act” and “a collection of colourful and super-aggressive money men banded together by vaulting ambition for wealth amid the land grab that was Russia in the 1990s.” in The Moscow Times.
If the large turn up was anything to go by, I can safely say the prospects for Tatu City are good if not great, Jennings’ track record is sure. Yet corruption is our undoing and until a working system works effortlessly to eradicate this then we’ll all stand in the sidelines as the rest of Africa grows away from our reach.