Off duty in Africa: Out and about in Nairobi

East Africa Venture Capital Association executive director Esther Ndeti gives her tips for first-time visitors to the Kenyan capital.

Nairobi skyline

Where is the best place to stay?
The great thing about Nairobi is the many options spread across the city. I’d recommend you stay at the Nairobi Serena Hotel, on the edge of Uhuru Park in the central business district. As one of the rapidly growing districts, Westlands also hosts great accommodation options. There is the Upper Hill area or, further north in Gigiri, look out for the Tribe and Trademark hotels.

What is the best way to travel?
Kenya’s Silicon Savannah is home to a bustling tech-savvy population, making ride-hailing apps extremely popular. If you download your favourite – Little Cab, Maramoja, Uber, Bolt and so on – you’ll get around the city just fine.

Which restaurants would really impress a client?
Nairobi has a thriving culinary scene. The Talisman, Graze, Tamarind, Lord Erroll, Eagle’s Steak House and Zen Garden’s Bamboo restaurant come highly recommended for their wonderful atmosphere and cuisine.

Which building has the most jaw-dropping view?
Nothing beats the view from atop the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. The rooftop gives an unrivaled 360-degree view of the cityscape. On a clear day you can spot Uhuru Park, Central Park, City Park, the Railway Golf Club and the Nairobi National Park.

Local pension funds’ investments into the asset class grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 98 percent between 2016 and 2018. For local institutional capital, I’d recommend visiting the Kenya Power Pension Fund, National Social Security Fund, Central Bank of Kenya Pension and Britam Asset Managers. For the development finance initiative perspective, schedule time with the African Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, DEG, Proparco, the US Agency for International Development and the UK’s Department for International Development.

Where’s the best place for coffee?
There are wonderful coffee shops and garden cafes throughout the city: Artcaffé, Java House, Café Kaya, Spring Valley Coffee, Kesh Kesh Roastery & Café, Geco Café, Lava Latte, Connect Coffee, Wasp & Sprout or The Arbor, to mention just a few!

What’s the most enjoyable day trip to take?
Nairobi is the only city in the world that boasts a natural game park within its precincts. The Nairobi National Park, which has nearly 29,000 acres of untouched wilderness offering a large and varied wildlife population, is a prime destination for a game drive on any given day.

Which local delicacy should I try?
Ugali, nyamachoma and kachumbari! It is a Kenyan cornmeal staple, with roasted meat and served with a side of salsa. Eat this at any of the local ‘choma dens’ or at the famed Carnivore restaurant.

Where should I head for a night out in the city?
Options are plenty in and around the Westlands area, which is surging with an urban mix of bars, high-end restaurants, and late-night coffee shops. J’s Fresh Bar in Westlands is popular on Thursday nights for showcasing live Kenyan artists and bands.

Where can I go to pick up a last-minute gift?
The Maasai Market is a great place to go shopping for Kenyan branded trinkets, paintings, drawings, clothes and fabrics with East African prints, jewellery and wood carvings. Many are hand-made in Kenya by local artisans.