I am entering my third and last week of this visit to Nairobi. This time I am here for the IMF to provide assistance to the Central Bank of Kenya’s implementation of its monetary policy (it follows a monetary rule). This visit comes exactly two years after my first, which was for a regional meeting of the Mount Pelerin Society. So I looked back to see what I had said about that earlier visit. To my surprise, I had come last time from Kazakhstan with a pleasant stop over in Istanbul. This time I am traveling on to Kazakhstan, with a week in Amman, Jordan for meetings with the Central Bank of Iraq in between. And the President of Turkey is here in my hotel. I had breakfast with him this morning, sort of (from across the dinning room). Who would have imagined such a connection between Kazakhstan, Kenya, and Turkey.
Nairobi is a nice city of high and low rise buildings among many parks and a population of almost 4 million. It has too many cars and bad traffic. Its altitude of 5,450 ft above sea level is too high for malaria carrying mosquitoes. Its two rainy seasons produce a beautiful green country side with exotic and beautifully shaped trees the likes of which I have only seen in Africa. Kenya is near the equator and always temperate but February enjoys particularly good weather, which is generally clear and in the upper 70s during the day and the low 70s in the evenings.
I walk the five blocks between my hotel and the Central Bank each morning and afternoon. I took special note the other day that during my walk back to the Intercontinental I did not see one white face among the thousands I passed on the street. Inside my hotel is another matter. The Kenyans I have met are very friendly and helpful, often sensing correctly that I am lost (generally within the Central Bank). They are very open and easy to talk to, something highly valued in my profession of advisors. Everyone speaks English fluently.
A few days ago I meet with eight members of the Association of Financial Market Dealers to discuss the trading of government securities and a new inter bank repo (purchase/repurchase agreements for government securities). The issue was why this new instrument, which had been several years in preparation, had not yet traded. Like dealers every where in the world they were young and full of energy (or vinegar as my grandfather used to say). They were not shy about identifying this or that problem. At the end of our meeting the head of the Association, a witty, quick talking young man in his mid to late 20s, smiled and said: “Yes we can.”
On several occasions I was asked where I was from. Upon replying “America,” my questioners would smile and say something like, “You know that your new President is our brother.” It is nice not having to claim to be Canadian any more. No offense Bill.