Recently, an fellow online Peace Corps volunteer directed me to a recent blog post of his entitled, “How (Not) To Write About Africa.” In it, he syndicates another article written by a Kenya, Binyavanga Wainaina, which goes at length to satire the most common topics of white Westerners writing about Africa. I don’t want to take the time to go and compare all of my blog entries against the list, but I am sure I myself have written in this stereotypical fashion at points, though there really are monkeys all around my house that I frequently catch engaging in the most monkey-like antics you have ever seen! With these points in mind I thought I would write about the least stereotyped topic I could think of that I have more than average engagement with: the Kenyan middle class.
Let’s start with what everyone is most likely curious about: what kinds of jobs employ middle class Kenyans? Well, ask yourself , what kinds of jobs employ middle class Americans? I think you will find the intersection of cultures to be quite large in this regards. The, “middle class,” of Kenya is a large and diversified group of professions from factory managers to government professionals to computer programmers to research scientists. If my perception is correct, and Kenyan friends please correct me in comments here if I am wrong, positions such as high profile doctors and lawyers and the largest land-holders and most certainly politicians, are the beginnings of the Kenyan upper class and are thus not profiled here. As a side note, Kenyan politicians are some of the highest paid politicians in the world, paid even more than US Congressmen.
Starting off, your salary is as varied as the position you hold. All prices are in Kenyan shillings because converting them to US dollars would distort the complete image and people might start interpreting numbers incorrectly. Remember, the standard of living is different here and you need to adjust your perception of purchasing power accordingly. The lower middle class positions such as entry-level teachers might start out making around 8,000 shillings (/-) a month. Going up from there you have semi-skilled laborers making 12,000 /-; factory managers, 28,000 /-; middle-level government professionals, 43,000 /- and it continues to go up from there. I am under the impression that in order to make more than 25,000 /- you need some level of bachelor’s degree, or what is called a diploma here. Again, please correct me if you know otherwise. The upper middle class is starting to make around 150,000 /- a month. It is quite a range, much like the US.