A section of residents in Nairobi is unhappy with the rapidly changing skyline, saying it is hurting their business.
It is a contradiction, but the rise of new buildings, especially in downtown Nairobi tracing Luthuli Avenue, River Road, and part of Ngara, is leaving commercial sex workers a distressed lot. The old lodges, hotels, and buildings being taken up by malls and new classy hotels is not only changing the ambiance, it is also driving the lot farther out of town.
Some of the over 7,000 commercial sex workers in the city are unhappy with the changes. They say that with the opening up of the city, some of the hotels and lodgings where they used to operate have been refurbished and are now malls and stalls, especially in Nairobiâ€™s downtown.
The current Extreme Sounds building along Luthuli Avenue, which harbours stalls selling music systems and mobile phones, among other goods, was formerly the home of Three New Eden brothel.
â€œWhen we saw Three Eden closed and in its place new stalls put up, we knew our time here was up, and many more such places are now being transformed into other businesses, even supermarkets,â€ said Mary-Loise, a commercial sex worker who patronises Luthuli Avenue.
There is also Nairobi Matt that is yet to be fully operational after being transformed from City Lodge.
Some of the sex workers have said that the developments have scared away their clients, who cannot keep track of their location as the city gradually changes.
A number of other places that have been transformed include Jerry City â€” along Kirinyaga Road â€” that is still under construction, and former Inooro Hotel Club, now County Hotel.
County Park Hotel is now a high-end facility handling international visitors and select customers after it was transformed into a three-star restaurant.
The current New Amar Bar and Restaurant was formerly Amar Place, and Inora.
â€œWe used to make between Sh8,000 and Sh10,000 on a good day, but nowadays even Sh2,000 is a nightmare to us because the city council officers have become more vigilant,â€ said Julie Brown, another commercial sex worker.
They said that they were considering moving out of Nairobi and added that over the next five years, the idea of waiting for clients along the corridors of some of the remaining hotels where their trade goes on will almost be impossible.
Perhaps high-end areas along Koinange Street might survive the development.
This, according to them, has been made worse by the fact that life in Nairobi has become expensive.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a UK firm, recently conducted a research which found that Nairobi is the second most expensive city in Africa after Lagos in Nigeria.
It said Nairobiâ€™s ranking is linked to the steep rise in the cost of six goods in a basket used to measure relative prices.
An audit by a task force revealed that some entrepreneurs were circumventing the law by running brothels disguised as licensed massage parlours.
A 2012 Nairobi City Council report set up by then lawyer George Aladwa indicated that some people have opened massage parlours which they use as brothels.
â€œSome of the registered licensed massage parlours are actually operating as sex dens and brothels with both owners and patrons aware of the same, hence increasing the popularity of sex work in Kenya,â€ the report found.
It proposed that police and council askaris arrest suspected female sex workers in the company of female officers. The report indicates that commercial sex work, although illegal, is a rampant daily occurrence in Nairobi.
â€œApproximately 7,000 sex workers operate in Nairobi per night, with each having an average of 3-4 clients, which translates to between 21,000 and 28,000 sexual activities a night,â€ the report said.
City authorities ruled out legalisation of prostitution despite demands by sex workers that they be recognised.–Nation