Luthuli Avenue grows into an electronics hub
Posted Tuesday, July 3 2012 at 01:00
- From a derelict part of the capital city, the area now boasts new buildings that offer an array of products
Beyond the subtle Moi Avenue and the busy Tom Mboya Street in Nairobi lies a one-lane shopping district that is bustling with life.
Here, at least three matatu stages serving different parts of the city converge, boda boda operators and tuk-tuks jostle for customers, and the latest car models are parked along freshly-painted lanes.
Large and colourful advertising billboards showcasing technology brands dot buildings’ exteriors as hundreds of people walk in and out of the many shops and restaurants.
Amid all the noise and mayhem, the melody of gospel and reggae music finds its way to the eardrum of passers-by. You are on Luthuli Avenue, the newly-crowned technology centre in downtown Nairobi.
Once a derelict business area in the central business district, the street has over the years been transformed into a major shopping zone that has attracted customers and suppliers from across East Africa and beyond.
It has grown to become the capital of electronics, offering an array of goods ranging from television sets, camera accessories, mobile phones, to memory cards and even flash disks.
Shop owners here understand the advantage of diversifying, with high-quality and expensive goods being sold next to low-end, cheap merchandise.
When Ms Jane Njoroge started operating her shop on Luthuli Avenue, little did she know that her business would thrive quickly.
On a cold Wednesday morning, and draped in a woollen scarf, Ms Njoroge said she was happy with the way customers were flocking the area. “They find the prices here to be fair,” she said.
“Customers are able to find a price range that will accommodate their pockets. It is all about them.”
This price is what attracts many of the city’s residents and beyond to Luthuli. Mr Mohamed Abdullahi, who manages two electronics shops here, says that high-end businesses also come to shop for accessories.
“You will see some shops, some as close as Moi Avenue and others in high-end malls, coming to buy stuff from Luthuli,” he said. “Of course, the prices will be radically different, but our goods are from the same place.”
This has seen many business people and investors selling their shops in other areas to set base on Luthuli.
The Chinese factor
One of the most interesting phenomena about Luthuli Avenue is the number of Chinese nationals and investors who have pitched tent there.
This comes as Chinese firms and manufacturers go local in order to penetrate the consumer market in Kenya, with a special emphasis on the low-income segment of the society.
This, experts say, can only benefit the local economy by increasing capacity development and building the competitive market.
“As the population increases, there is demand for wealth creation and employment,” said Ms Carole Kariuki, the chief executive of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance. “So as more Chinese set up base here, we need to harness the opportunity and increase the capacity of our economy for growth.”