This is a city of smoke screens.  Everyone is living a wonderful life on social media but only surviving by the skin of their teeth on the ground.  There are so many hurdles to surviving in Nairobi.  So many problems designed to keep you down then out.  Problems that will especially leave the newbies wanting to tap out.  Until you have been here, you cannot really testify.  No amount of preparation is enough you will survive by pure grit.  Below are some of those problems faced by Nairobi residents. 

1. Traffic

This is not a problem for renters only but for everyone who calls Nairobi home.  There are days you will be unable to be on time no matter how early you wake up.  Thing is, if Nairobi decides to clog up and ruin your day then she will.  There will be a marathon, matatu strike or a spontaneous traffic snarl-up.

The only thing you can do is take it in stride and have safeboda on hand.  Social media is also a very useful tool in this instance.  You can have a little notice and maybe even revise your route.  This is a good thing to keep in mind when you are choosing a hood to rent in.  Find one of those hoods where you can access many roads.  For example, to get from Embakasi to town.  You could use Jogoo road.  You could use Mombasa road.  You could go through industrial area.  You could go to Allsops and access through Thika road.  All these routes are possible by matatu. 

2. Water

Some parts of Nairobi only get water supply twice a week like Zimmerman. For a building with 50 units, it would be very hard to store enough to keep the taps running for the other five days of the week.  That means that residents have to store their own supply for those days.  What then happens if someone is away on a trip?  What happens if the caretaker does not regulate how much everyone takes before the supply is cut off until the next time?  What happens if you are incapacitated and cannot fetch it? There have also been cases of the water lines crossing with the sewer lines then people falling sick from contaminated water.

You have a few options in this case.  You could find a building with only a few units. This way it would even be easier to mobilize and share a bowser if the need arises.  You could also find a building with a borehole.  Another option would bet get yourself enough storage so you can keep at least a week’s worth. 

3. Insufficient space

That then brings up the next issue.  If you are on a stringent budget,  chances are that you will find the amount of space you can afford lacking.  This will be especially true if you are moving here from out of town or are leaving home for the first time. You will find that the closer you get to the CBD the smaller and more expensive the units gets.  In some cases, you will need to rent out a two-bedroom unit when you could have been okay with a one-bedroom. The thing with Nairobi is that land is scarce. The few who are lucky to get land want to get more than the maximum benefit out of it. That explains all the incredibly high buildings you will find especially in Emabakasi and Kahawa West. The units in these buildings are usually very small to accommodate many tenants. This is common with buildings that are close to the stage or main road.

The solution to this really is to venture deeper into whatever neighborhood you choose to live in. For example, if you want to live in South B do not choose a building that is right by the Highway or the matatu stage. Chances are that rent will be higher and the units will be smaller than the alternative. You could walk around and see for yourself though.

4. Rent increase

This has been experienced quite often on the recent wave of infrastructure development. Whenever a new road is built, the landlords decide it is okay to increase the rent to be at par with the new upcoming buildings. Look at what happened to the rent levels in Utawala and Kasarani? You should expect it if it seems that the landlord is doing some major renovations. The current economic climate has seen different reactions from landlords. Some are being kind enough to lower their rents to relieve people who are being laid off or whose salaries are being downgraded. However, others are increasing the rent as a means of catering to their own survival. Other reasons to raise the rent are things like increased costs of power and fuel as well as taxes on rental income.

If you find that you are unable to handle the increased rent, really the best option is to get a smaller house or move to a different neighborhood. Often if one landlord is doing it then many in the neighborhood will follow suit. A tip about Nairobi living: always have a side hustle and/or passive income. Make sure you are ready for when the unemployment wrecking ball sets it sights on you.

5. Security

You are never quite sure if your TV will still be mounted to the wall when you get home from work in the evening. Unlike the village where child care is the responsibility of society and children can play outside all day, things are different here. If it is realized that your child plays outside by himself too often, he may be targeted by kidnappers. There are all sorts of threats to your security and safety. All you can do is be vigilant. You have to be conscious of your security measures and consistently cautious. You have to learn to anticipate threats to your security.

This shortlist makes Nairobi look like an actual hell. However, these are problems that can be encountered anywhere and are also circumnavigable. Nairobi is also a city of opportunity. If you are here long enough you learn to navigate without coming off scathed. All the best!