Low cost housing in areas considered as slums has been big business for slum landlords. Here is a feature on slum landlords in Kenya that shows how. This post was written and published by David ‘Kyrgitt’ Kiprono:
I met this lady called L. Waithera years ago. She walked into the consultancy office I was working at and she exuded so much power and gait that I believed she could have been a senior government official or a spouse to one.
When she entered the office to see our boss, her driver/bodyguard followed her with a briefcase containing some files. She looked good and smelt good too, I know my scents pretty well.
We tried figuring out who she was but none of us knew and we couldn’t ask boss who his visitors were.
Few weeks into it, as she came almost twice each week, it wasn’t long before I had a privilege to visit her office with my cameraman because we were doing some corporate portraiture for her for an insert I was working on for a leading business magazine.
Her office was in a swanky building in Westlands. It was actually a hair and beauty spa. That’s the day I believed beauty salons were very lucrative. Either that or she was a type of El Chapo using this as a front.
Though we used her executive door at the back, she had a passage to the salon. Next to her luxurious lounge, was a pristine board room with beautiful portraits of her family. Her husband came in and said ‘Kiprono, madam has been excited about the magazine piece hatujalala wiki mzima.”
He wasn’t dressed for any photos, he was shabby and seemed tired. “Nyinyi endeleeni I’m returning to Murang’a in a few I just dropped by’.
As we set up the shoot, I engaged her secretary in banter and she told me Waithera’s husband only came to Nairobi once a week, he was just a happy farmer who enjoyed golf and the village life.
Once we were done, she engaged me about her digital presence and I set up a separate meeting later that month.
As we talked, I became utterly shell shocked.
Waithera had a very expensive looking beauty spa. But that wasn’t where her source of money came from.
Her father had been one of the Kikuyu slum lords of Kibera. When she was young, her father passed away leaving his Kibera property with his wife and kids. Waithera finally inherited the Kibera houses which were a total of 600 units. They ranged from as low as 800bob a house to 5k a house. Her brother had inherited some tin shacks in Ruiru as well but he passed away in a road accident, so Waithera took control of the property for 7 years. These were some more 150 units renting for 1k each.
These units were spread in different places of Ruiru. With this formula, using her cash flow, Waithera built 1000 more slum houses spread in 6 different towns. Her younger sister returned from overseas studies and ran their late brother’s Ruiru tin shacks. In total Waithera had about 2500 mabati rooms spread in various towns. At an average of 1500 per mabati house, her potential monthly income was in the province of 3.75M. Add onto other activities like farming and her salon, she must have been making about 5M a month. More than double of the president’s salary.
‘Kip, this salon is where I meet my friends and where I exercise my passion. Sometimes I don’t even break even here but I’m not worried. Also, I started my masters at USIU and my friends can’t know that I make money from mabati houses (Laughter) . How can I explain my Prado? So I started this business to make them feel comfortable and also to meet business leaders in this office. In fact, I am the one who takes care of Pat ( husband) and he enjoys it…I enjoy it too. People think he gets government tenders because they see us invited by politicians lakini, it’s all hustling in the slums.
Young men, work hard. As you walk from industrial area everyday because you can’t afford fare since you’re saving your 2K rent, just know that your care taker or landlord is a front for the real slum lords who sit in air conditioned offices and play golf with your favorite politicians.
Waithera retired her ego and played smart.