Marie didn’t come to Nairobi with a romantic idea of a wild continent or to help work on a charity cause, she came in her words to “jump start her career”. Launching herself as a Foreign Correspondent Nairobi seemed the ideal base. In 2006 the city was a very different place, Marie remembers one of her first stories “It was about the boom of supermarkets…which at the time seemed very exciting.. That was one of the first indications of a strong middle class coming up.” Today the skyline is virtually unrecognizable and there are endless malls to choose from.
Marie no longer works as a roaming journalist but is now CEO of Buni Media which she co founded with Gado, one of East and Central Africa’s most syndicated political satirists. Buni Media produces, amongst other programs, the XYZ show, which uses latex puppets to humorously challenge local and international political figures. In its 10th season the XYZ show has a loyal following of millions of Kenyans. She is also building up Buni TV, a web and mobile on demand platform for content produced in or about Africa. Buni TV is the product of Marie’s unique insight living between Los Angeles (LA) and Nairobi. From LA she witnessed “the growth of Video On Demand (VOD) there and the cord cutting phenomenon” and in Nairobi the she experienced the explosive growth of mobiles across the African continent, especially in Kenya. Marie believes that “Nairobi is basically a place of early adopters. It is the best place in the world to be if you’re thinking of a mobile centric company.”
Living a 1/3 of her time in Nairobi, 1/3 in LA and one 1/3 everywhere in between Marie’s life has changed from when Nairobi was a sleepy town. There were frustrations back then, sending a story could take three days and sometimes she was forced to send her footage in twenty second chunks. There were pluses too though, Marie remembers quieter times, driving through leafy parts of the suburbs on the weekends. “You would go to lunch with friends and spend the entire day there because… what else?”. Now everyone is working hard, building something and “traffic has become soul sucking.”
For Marie Africa remains “a continent full of opportunities and Kenya…a very fertile place” but other cities in the region are calling. She spends a great deal of time in Lagos, and Johannesburg is opening up new avenues for her work. Only time will tell if Nairobi will hold onto this travelling resident.