NAIROBI, KENYA—One chilly evening late last month, Nathanial Ndichu wandered the tarmac roads of Githurai, one of the rambling and largely informal neighborhoods on the outskirts of Nairobi, searching for a place to sleep.
After eight years of living in Kenya’s frenetic capital city, Ndichu, an 18-year-old unemployed day laborer, thought he had put this kind of precariousness behind him. But as darkness fell, he sounded less frightened than bewildered, genuinely confused as to how he was homeless, once again.
“Akuna mtu aliye mleta mwingine uku Nairobi,” he said with resignation in Swahili. The phrase’s literal translation means “no person brings another to Nairobi.” But its figurative sense reflects the harshly individualistic attitude of a city on the rise: Nobody else brought you here, so figure things out for yourself.