What you need to know:
- In this era where Gen Zs want jobs as influencers and build their dreams on social media, hundreds are flocking to the CBD to create content.
- These young workers are toiling at becoming business owners — just not in the way their parents might envision.
On Sunday mid-morning in Nairobi’s Central Business District, tens of young men and women, mostly graduates, hold tightly to their very expensive phones with enviable megapixels.
Some place them on small tripods or selfie sticks, others just by hand. Tiny Bluetooth-enabled speakers project loud music. Then there is another group with professional cameras.
In this era where Gen Zs want jobs as influencers and build their dreams on social media, hundreds are flocking to the CBD to create content.
While their parents are busy in churches for job opportunities for their children, these young workers are toiling at becoming business owners — just not in the way their parents might envision.
But is it just a craze that translates to them earning money or a waste of time?
As I am walking through the CBD, I meet a dance group that is doing choreography.
Kevin Wekesa is the Nairobi Street Vibe group leader. He says for months now, it has been customary that every Sunday from 12.30 pm he will be at the CBD, dancing.
They started the dance group early this year when CBD was a quiet place, especially on Sundays when many businesses are closed. CBD is also a central location since his group members come from different parts of Nairobi.
“It’s like a dance academy but no charges. Many young Kenyans are talented dancers but they cannot afford to pay for dance classes,” he says.
“Then using social media, we market the dancers’ skills. Artists approach us and hire the dancers. This makes us add value to the youth, some can even put food on the table with dancing,” he says.
Agnes Nafula is another dancer on the streets. She is a procurement university graduate but has not gotten a formal job yet. She dances on the streets, records and uploads on her 90,300 TikTok fanbase. The 1.2 million likes on her dancer posts also matter to her.
“I am a dancer and I come to CBD almost every Sunday to learn and also meet other dancers as we shoot either TikTok or YouTube content,” Ms Nafula, known as Miss Nafula on her social media handles says.
“This is my source of income so I need to bring new and interesting energy for people to like what I do. My following has many 90,300 followers with 1.2 million likes. I’m not a celebrity but at CBD we get to interact with many TikTokers here on the streets,” says the 23-year-old.
The drive to turn social media posts into sustainable income is highest among the youngest generation. Content creation is now the new buzzword. From cooking on three stones to depict the unchanged role of young women in society to twerking inside iron-sheet dwellings in slums to recording humour while sitting on scorched grass in a village, young Kenya fascinated by quick money, some idle and jobless are seeing, this as an elixir of hope.
More than 50,000 students graduate every year, but few get formal jobs. The high unemployment has led to tryouts' in new careers such as dance and singing content creation. They hope that they will make money by creating content that will attract paying brands.
However, TikTok subSahara Africa director Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, said in a past interview with Nation Lifestyle that singing and dancing content no longer attracts as many viewers.
“We have seen an evolving consumption. It’s no longer singing and dancing. We are seeing a lot of food, fitness, and business talk. In Africa, sports, especially football, is huge. Stand-up comedy is also popular as is lifestyle, “ he said.
The desire to have Nairobi’s tall buildings as a background in photos and videos has also sparked a thriving photography business. Nowadays, CBD photo shoots are now longer for newbies in the town. On Sunday, models, and those celebrating birthdays take photos at CBD.
“The Instagram reels taken amid these tall beautiful buildings is mind-blowing. CBD delivered an authentic background,” says Nancy, a model and content creator who wore 90s-themed attire for the one-hour Sh4,500 photoshoot.
Don Ndambuki is also a beneficiary of professional street photography.
“I would be lying if I said this was a planned photo session, I’m actually from a friend's place after a night out,” he says.
“CBD gives a unique background touch you don’t need to struggle with colour change because everything is outstanding on its own. Imagine for only Sh100 I get a photo of my choice, this is good business for the photographer and an advantage to us who like photos.”
For photographers who now frequent the CBD, they say this is a new strategy called ‘photography hawking’ where they take instant random shots and charge Ksh 100 which makes it very affordable.
“I love street photography and CBD has given us the chance to explore and earn money. It has amazing, different sites and backgrounds to choose from,’’ says Swaleh Lawless, a 28-year-old photographer.
Mr Swaleh is a civil engineer graduate from Kenyatta University.
“I gave up a year ago in my job hunting after every office I walked into wanted someone who had five years experience. So I had to create an income stream for my survival,” he says.
He had started photography while at the university as a hobby and better still advanced his skills after buying a Canon 90D with a lens 85mm and a strobe 600 pro AD.
“CBD imekuwa form [loosely translated to CBD is the new trend] we pay nothing yet we go back home with good money,’’ he says.
Job Omanga is another graduate. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nairobi.
“Sometimes we do not get good guidance on the courses to choose after high school. I have a Bachelor's degree in Science but I did it for the sake of because I have never had a chance to venture in any career related to the field of study,” he says.
Mr Omanga says he has been doing photography for six years now.
“I have no regrets,” he says, “CBD gives you a wide range of options and there is an opportunity to get quick money unlike in studios where you wait for bookings. Every Sunday is a chance to earn an extra coin from the street, I get about 40 percent extra compared to what I earn in the studio.”
He says photography has evolved, hence turning into a money-spinner.
“I have to keep advancing my camera. Currently, I’m using the Canon 250D. It allows images to communicate the mood and have life. I even take photos of Nairobi matatus ‘nganya’ as they speed out of town to beat traffic,” he says.