Garden City features in The Economist special report: A Matter of Definition

NAIROBI IS MANY cities in one. In tourist brochures, it is a pleasant, laid-back colonial city where you can see giraffes and lions in the national park before relaxing with a gin and tonic on a verandah. In the literature produced by NGOs and charities, it suffers from overcrowded slums and brutal crime. But in investors’ pamphlets it is a city of malls and highways. The latest temple to consumerism, Garden City, just off a new eight-lane motorway, opened in May last year. Inside, well-dressed Kenyans enjoy fast food and buy jewellery. The view from the roof-top car park, where SUVs wait under solar-panelled shades, is of terracotta-tiled new suburban houses in all directions.

The mall is the signature investment of Actis, one of Africa’s biggest private-equity firms. At one end a branch of Game, a South African chain now part-owned by Walmart, sells refrigerators, televisions and everything else needed to furnish those new semi-detached houses. At the other, an enormous supermarket, Nakumatt, sells food to put in the freezers. Duplex apartments built alongside it sell for as much as $600,000. It is a powerful symbol of investors’ confidence in the emergence of a large middle class in Africa.

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