Watching the detective

Cpl Patrick Simiyu discusses a fraud case with a bank employee in Nairobi Nairobi has long struggled to shake off the nickname Nairobbery, but Mike Pflanz discovers during a day with a CID detective that most crime figures are falling. CITY CENTER, April 28, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Behind the frosted glass door of an empty office in one of Nairobi’s largest banks, Corporal Patrick Simiyu is quietly meeting a source. In February, hackers broke through the Cooperative Bank’s online security and illegally transferred half-a-million dollars from customers’ accounts onto 480 cellphones hooked up to Kenya’s mobile money scheme, M-Pesa. When they began withdrawing the cash, computer alerts sounded. Since then Simiyu, 41, has painstakingly been building his case. Trawling records from the phone company, running surveillance on suspects, and partnering closely with the bank’s own investigations team, today he’s close to an arrest.

Stories from the streets

One of Nairobi’s street-children walks through Westlands’ traffic Uncounted hundreds of children and young men live rough on Nairobi’s streets. They tell Mike Pflanz their stories. WESTLANDS, April 25, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – It used to be worse, people tell you. The kids would swarm around your car, ready to launch a handful of faeces straight at you should you fail to pay. Keep your windows up, doors locked, that was the only way to drive through Nairobi. Today, that doesn’t happen anymore. The government, in operations with questionable motives and methods, have moved many of the city’s street children to ‘homes’ on the outskirts. Many, however, remain, struggling to find the money even for a cup of tea, constantly fleeing authorities, homeless and with fuzzy futures often devoid of opportunity. Too often ignored, each, however, has a story.

Faithfully reporting Nairobi

Muslims gather for Friday prayers at Nairobi’s Jamia Mosque, the largest in Kenya CITY CENTER, April 23, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Nairobi, cosmopolitan city that it is, hosts people of pretty much all faiths and religions you can imagine. By numbers, the most prominent are Christians, then Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and a plethora of traditional belief systems. This weekend, as the city shuts down for the Easter holidays, Daily Dispatches is taking a little time out from the hustle of turning around a story a day. We’ve not stopped the work though – far from it. We’re talking to religious leaders from the three main faiths, and to their congregations, about what faith means to them, and how it is changing as the city modernizes and expands around us. We’ll post the Dispatch we hope late Sunday or early Monday. We’re really keen to hear what kinds of questions you Read More…

Wheels of fortune

A new Nissan SUV on sale in a downtown Nairobi showroom Mike Pflanz charts the rise of car ownership in Nairobi, and sees how what were once toys of the few are now available to the many. INDUSTRIAL AREA, April 20, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – It was once the ultimate symbol of power in Africa, a car which gave its name to the continent’s often crooked elite: the ‘WaBenzi’. But the Mercedes Benz is losing its position as the only car to buy to boast of your success, as sales plateau, overtaken by Japanese SUVs and muscular 4x4s. “You cannot overestimate the importance of cars as status symbols here,” said Gavin Bennett, director of the Kenya Motor Industry Association.


Mary Cherop Maritim buying raw corn just after sunrise at Nairobi’s Kangemi market Name – Mary Cherop Maritim Age – 44 Work – Entrepreneur, Cherubet Company Lives – Westlands DONHOLM, April 18, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Mary Cherop Maritim launched her frozen food company by going straight to the managing director’s office at Kenya’s biggest supermarket chain with 11lbs of sample produce in a borrowed cooler. Four years later, now shipping 2,000lbs a week, she talks to Mike Pflanz about starting out, expanding her firm, and why financial independence is important for Nairobi’s young businesswomen.

Rapping a revolution in Nairobi’s slums

Nairobi’s hip-hop sensation Octopizzo, during a tour of Kibera Octopizzo, a hip-hop artist rising from Kibera, talks to Mike Pflanz about his contempt for US gangsta rap, representing the city’s poorest, and why music must be a business for artists to survive

A bright future?

Workers correct colors at a Nairobi printing firm looking forward to expanding its business Economic growth, stalled by the global financial crisis and Kenya’s election violence, is rising once again. Nairobi’s businesses are poised to reap rewards, Mike Pflanz finds. INDUSTRIAL AREA, April 11, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – With an incessant computer-controlled hiss clack clack, hiss clack clack, a million-dollar machine the size of a bus was churning out 14,000 bank flyers an hour. Over in the corner, sales pouches for a cellphone firm’s SIM cards were being folded. Nearby, neat stacks of An Introduction to Public Health stood ready for shipping. This 44-year-old firm, Colourprint, housed in a nondescript factory off a pot-holed road, is one of hundreds of companies clustered in Nairobi’s industrial area.

Vox Nairobi | 2

Name  – Peter Olendo Age – 59 Work – Photographer, Lens Image Creation Center Lives – Kibera KIBERA, April 10, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Peter Olendo talks to Mike Pflanz about his business as a studio photographer – his first camera, the advent of digital photography, and never forgetting a customer’s legs.

“We are all in the night together”

Daily Dispatches takes to Nairobi’s streets for two hours either side of midnight on Friday, to talk to people who earn their living during darkness. By Mike Pflanz. Photos by Brendan Bannon. CITY CENTER and WESTLANDS, April 8-9, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) Walter Njau, 36, Taxi Driver, Kenya Taxi Cabs Association, Koinange St “This is a business when sometimes you lose, and sometimes you profit. Weekends are busiest, but people come drunk in my car, I drop them far away then they say they don’t have money. What can I do? Other times, customers drop their money in the car then leave, that’s mine, that’s my profit. Or you are new to Nairobi, you say you want to go to Hurlingham, it’s just here but I tell you it’s $25, and you agree. That’s profit for me, you see, because Hurlingham is only $5. “When it’s quiet, I’m standing by my Read More…

Fast news day

NTV’s Robert Nagila reports on international court cases against Kenyan politicians Mike Pflanz profiles one of Nairobi’s fresh breed of TV journalists on one of the country’s busiest news days of the year CITY CENTER, April 7, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – The red digits on the clock on the newsroom wall climb steadily towards 10:30am. Guys in shirtsleeves thumbing BlackBerrys march past to meetings. Desk-phones peal. A plasma TV shows a smiling Kenyan politician spilling out of a shiny Mercedes by a smart office block 4,000 miles away in Europe. He is one six men accused by the world’s war crimes court of organizing election violence here three years ago. He and two others will appear before judges in Holland for the first time this morning.

Scrap metal market

Dickens Otieno swapped to using recycled metal after paint prices rose and sales fell Nairobi’s artists are struggling amid an economic downtown and a shrinking market for fresh work. By Mike Pflanz INDUSTRIAL AREA, April 5, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Mid-morning Mondays, round the back of Nairobi’s middle-class pubs, you’ll find Dickens Otieno waiting. He’s after the empty beer and cider cans swept up after the weekend’s merrymaking. For this 32-year-old artist, trash tin is sprung tight with colorful potential, waiting to be reborn. Otieno is one of the hundreds of painters and sculptors struggling to make a living in a city far from famous for its art, or its art market.

Resilience 101

Resilience 101

Small enterprises line a street through Kibera | Photo: Brendan Bannon Mike Pflanz hears from the Olympic Small Business Organization about how they rebuilt their companies after Kenya’s 2007/8 election violence KIBERA, April 2, 2011 (Daily Dispatches) – Less than an hour after the results of Kenya’s presidential election were announced late in December 2007, the fires started in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum. Supporters of rival political parties launched a month of attacks against their opponents in a wave of violence which eventually killed 1,300 people nationwide. Along one of the frontlines in Kibera lay the 100-odd small shops – selling everything from bottles of Coke to cheap plastic flip-flips – lining the 500yd road leading down to Olympic Secondary School.