In the 1990s, having a home in the village was such a strong social statement. Indeed, those who lived and worked in Nairobi and other major cities and towns across East Africa lived for that moment when they would construct a house next to their parents’.
But experts in the real estate sector now say that they have noticed a paradigm shift as far as this old-age tradition is concerned, especially when it comes to millennial East Africans (aged 18 to 33).
Described by a recent Pew Research Center report as exceptionally tolerant, optimistic about their economic future, and connected to friends, family, and colleagues on the “new platforms of the digital era” — from Facebook to Twitter, millennials, everywhere you go in this world are said to be rewriting the rules of living.
And it will therefore come as little wonder that they are no longer interested in building homes in the village for the holidays, something their parents found very fashionable.
To begin with, is it true that millennials are not buildings homes in the village where they come from? And if this observation is true, where are they putting their money? Thirdly, what has brought about this paradigm shift?
On a random Saturday, Property Reality Company (PRC), a leading real estate firm, held a fanfare-filled ceremony in Kikopey, Nakuru County for a project named Kikopey Ridge Phase One, where investors of 300 quarter acre units were issued with title deeds.
One very notable thing about the event is that a majority of people who bought into this project were young people, a good number of them millennial. Nationmedia sought answers to these questions from them on sidelines of this event.
We met the trio of Penninah Wanjiku, a nurse based in Nairobi; Nimrode Manyara, a businessman; and Phylis Wambui, a customer care administrator with a Nairobi-based pharmaceutical company. The three save together and invest as a group.
They told Nationmedia that the bucket list of activities they have to do is long but does not include building a house in the village.
“It doesn’t make sense economically to build a house in the village that you will use maybe once in a year or never. That is like throwing away money,” says Wanjiku.
Her friend Phylis agreed with her saying that such a move will only make social and cultural sense in that one will be satisfying the expectations of villagers, who expect their son or daughter to build a home there.
“I would rather build a home for my mother with additional few rooms for use when I come home, but to build a home for myself is a big no,” says Wambui, echoing the sentiments of her two friends.
The three agree that they would reconsider building a home in their maternal villages if they came from a place near the Capital City, their workplace, like Kiambu County, one of the city’s neighbours, which is commonly referred to as Nairobi’s ‘bedroom’ area, and for those in Uganda, a village in Nansana Wakiso District, very close to Kampala.
Concerning their game-plan with the newly acquired piece of land, the three say they are looking at something income-generating, such as a holiday home or a camping site that would provide a nice getaway for city dwellers looking for a cool place to relax and get away from the bustling city life.
“We are actually disappointed to see some old people here today. We were hoping for more young people who can see far and have extra-ordinary ideas, not people who want to settle down with family in such a prime area for holiday and recreation. We hope they have the same ideas we do,” says Wanjiku.
The chunk of land, known as Kikopey Ridge, where Wanjiku and her friends bought a piece of land overlooks Lake Elementaita and on the tail end touches the Sleeping Warrior, a double ridge hill ripe for hiking, as evidenced by a group of young people who pulled over close to the event in a bus and went on a hiking expedition.
“We do our homework well. We have bought pieces of land elsewhere and we are looking at something that can make money for us while we are in Nairobi. In the next two years, we are hoping that this place will be buzzing with activity,” says Manyara.
In typical millennial fashion, Wambui brushed off the idea of building a family home and settling down so many miles away from the city in Kikopey, Naivasha, saying, “I don’t want to settle. I need to travel and see the world and to do that I need money.
I have a long bucket list, which I must have ticked on so many boxes by the time I am 50. They say you settle down when you die, until then I will be on the move.”
Saroya Milimoh, who was all smiles as she received her title deed together with her uncle Tonny Muriuki, dismissed the idea of building a home in the village saying that not unless her village was located along a beach, she would not dare give it a thought.
Saroya Milimoh was all smiles as she received her title deed alongside her uncle, Tonny Muriuki. They dismissed the idea of building a home in their ancestral village.