It’s getting crazy on the money front. The other day I went to buy some tomatoes and I was informed that I would have to spend Kshs20 for three measly ones which when I got home turned out to be rotten inside. Bummer. Then the price of everything is creeping up slowly. Matatus are going for Kshs10 or Kshs20 extra on every route in the city. But even with the escalating prices there has been a general feeling that Nairobians are making more money more than ever. This is shown in not just the pricing of goods but also in the media. We hear of people who are making millions every month in shows like Young Rich on K24 and The Entrepreneur on KTN.
So it costs more to live in the city while there is evidence of moving forward. But the reality on the ground could be a bit different front what the chatter is coming from all quarters. So just how many Kenyans go home with Kshs100,000 every month. Is it five million? Ten million? 1 million? In a nation of 40 million plus that wouldn’t be such a wild figure right?
Which leads me to a guy I met in Choma base in 2010, let’s call him John, who my good lady friend introduced as her new boyfriend (in those days she had a lot of boyfriends, she is now married bless her). We started chatting about the big discussion at the time which was how the economy was booming. In my opinion we were doing well and the evidence was the cars that were flying off the shelves so fast that as soon as there was a new prefix it was it emerged. KAZ, KBA, KBC, KBD, KBE. They were moving faster than hot cakes those vehicles so that meant, in my true “Nairobi is the bees knees” mode, the economy must be booming right?
He smiled and asked me, “Is that what you think? How many Kenyans go home with more that 100K?”
“I don’t know. There must be like 3 or 4 million,” came my informed answer.
He laughed. Really hard. It was one of those laughs where one ends up holding their gut with one hand as they slapped their knee with the other one. He was almost crying in his mirth.
“What’s so funny man?” I asked.
“Four million? Are you crazy? You couldn’t be further off the mark.”
“Was I too low? Is it like six million?”
“No. Again you are wrong. Go lower.”
“Lower? Three million?”
“This will take all night. Its just under 20,000.”
You should have seen the look on my face. This John guy must have been smoking some seriously good Malawi gold. People in this town were balling. Right?
“You must be joking. People are blowing up in this place.”
“Really? Who are these people who are balling?”
“People. You know…”
“Ok what types of people go home with more than 100k. Tell me.”
“Well the MPs are balling.”
“And how many are there?”
“So these ballers you are using are 222. Who else?“
“Then there are all these guys in the big corporations.”
“How many companies do you think can afford to pay over 100k and how many people would be paid this huge amount in each of them?”
I thought about this one hard.
“Well I’d say all the company in the NSE bourse can afford to pay people at least 100k. I’ll suggest that on average 10 of the highest paid executives in each of the firms are paid more than that sum. So calculating that say 100 companies in that level of operations pay 10 staff that’s 1,000.
“So now you are at 1,222. Lest be kind and make it 2,000 shall we?” John suggested.
“Sawa”, I countered. “That’s 2,000 people making more than 100k.”
“And the rest?”
I tried to pad the rest. Farmers in the rift valley, athletes collecting cash from marathons abroad, artists who are making mad cheddar, tour operators, cell phone dealers, bums on the beach in the coast. I never got beyond 5,000 Kenyans making more than 100k a month net.
“So you see that people aren’t making as much money as you think they are?”
This really bugged me.
“But these cars are being unleashed like there is an offer. What is that about?”
“Aha! You see my job at the bank is to give loans to people looking for them. I have been signing off loans like crazy this year? Many of the cars you are seeing on the streets are there after I have signed off loans.”
“Wow. That’s just crazy.”
“It’s not crazy. How much is your net take home right now? ”he asked me.
“Come to my office. I have 500,000K to give you.”
In 2012, it emerged that there are 16,000 mortgages account in Kenya. Tafakari hayo.