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Kenya’s Changing Business Landscape: Mac and Cheese, Foreign Waiters

Jeffrey Gettleman | NY Times   in  ·
October 17, 2014

NAIROBI, Kenya — There’s a newcomer on the Nairobi restaurant scene: the White Waiter.

The other night, Martin Mileveski, a smiley young man from Macedonia, leaned over a table of three immaculately dressed Kenyan women and delicately poured out the Captain Morgan rum.

“Anything else I can get you ladies?”

They smiled and he drifted away.

“That’s kind of cool,” said one of the women, Lawrencia Namulanda. “A mzungu,” or foreigner.

Kenyans don’t usually see working-class mzungus. Melanin-challenged visitors and residents tend to be professionals, diplomats, United Nations types or safarigoers — people with means. Tell Kenyans that there are white people who sleep in rags on the sidewalks of America and most shake their heads and laugh in disbelief.

But Kenya’s business landscape is changing at dizzying speed. International franchises, some with imported labor, are racing to set up shop here — Subway, Domino’s, Cold Stone Creamery and other big worldwide brands that had stayed away from this region but now want a piece of East Africa’s fast-growing pie.


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