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Kenya, August 21, 2009

Moving Up in Upper Hill, Nairobi

Sprouting up in every field
Yes, this is still Africa
Back in the 1960's, the Upper Hill section of Nairobi was the enclave of the rich. It had nice homes surrounded by gardens above the bustle of Nairobi proper, but still very close to the city. After independence, many of the white landowners turned their property over to Kenyans.

By the time I first visited in 2004, it seemed a run-down neighbourhood. Those old homes were not kept up, and the gardens long gone. In fact, the Upper Hill seemed downtrodden enough to have a hostel there, Upper Hill Campsite, where I stayed.

Now flash forward to 2009, and Upper Hill is on the up and up. Those old homes and Upper Hill campsite is gone. replaced by shiny new office buildings. For me its the most obvious sign that the days of Daniel arap Moi have passed, and Kenya is taking its rightful place as a capital of East Africa. The Wikipedia confirms what I saw:

Companies that have moved from the CBD to Upper Hill include Citibank and in 2007, Coca Cola began construction on their East and Central African headquarters in Upper Hill, cementing the district as the preferred location for office space in Nairobi.

The largest office development in this area is the Rahimtulla Tower, which is primarily occupied by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. World Bank is also located in Upper Hill

But before we get too ahead of ourselves, note that old ways are still strong. Camels are still in Upper Hill, and empty lots still have "Beware 419" signs. And after last year's riots after the election, business seems to have stalled overall.

Change doesn't stall. And so Nairobi's skyline is in constant flux, now growing up the side of Upper Hill, and into Karen and beyond, even if takes a few years longer than Nairobians hoped.

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