Verbal medicine

Posted: May 15, 2009 by Afyanet Africa in Humour
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Due to public demand (and quite frankly some dose of idleness on my part), I have been convinced to educate the Nairobite (Nairobian, Nairobesse or however you wish to be referred to as) on the fastest growing industry. For those not in the know, the fastest growing industry in Nairobi is the alternative medicines industry. When I talk of growth here, this should be understood to mean both economic and biological growth. The industry is growing biologically in that it is supported at any one given time, by the fastest growing herbs in the Ruiru/ Syokimau / Ngong areas. A little agricultural know how will tell you that we have different plants growing fastest at any given time of the year. It is therefore not surprising that this industry is supported by different plants at different times.

 To help those not familiar with this industry let me go back to the basics. The industry I refer to, is a close cousin to what most of us know as Herbal Medicine. It is however different in that, whatever is sold in this industry can not be described as medicine without overstretching the definition of the word ‘medicine’ to previously unknown and unacceptable limits. The product of this industry is however (to the best of my knowledge) herbal and is marketed as medicine.  The customers supporting this industry are also (to the best of my knowledge) sick and are seeking treatment.


Now, for an industry that survives on selling ‘medicine’ to sick people to be the fastest growing industry in a town, one of a number of things must be happening;

  1. the sick people are getting cured by the ‘medicine’;
  2. there is a constant and growing supply of first time sick people; or
  3. the sick people are getting cured but not necessarily by the ‘medicines that they buy.

For the sake of the doctors in this forum (its common knowledge that doctors are not the fastest people aaaa, intellectually speaking that is), I will explain further.


Growth of an industry means that we have more customers today than we had yesterday. Any marketer will tell you that a disappointed customer is unlikely to come back to you (this of course applies only to those customers who have a choice of a different supplier, a fact that keeps many a doctor in practice). Thus, for an industry that fashions itself as an ‘alternative’ source of medicine to be the fastest growing, it must rely on one or more of the above mentioned reasons.


Though am not a doctor (at least in the context of the western medicine that we are used to), it is highly unlikely that a portion made of ‘any’ fast growing plant will cure any (or more accurately, all) diseases. Point 1, is therefore an unlikely explanation of this growth. Any Kenyan, will tell you that point 2 is valid and will continue to be valid until a cabinet Minister takes a swim (willingly) in the Nairobi River or manicured lawns appear in Kibera. However it is point 3 in my opinion that continues to support the meteoric growth of the ‘alternative medicines’ in Nairobi and the rest of Kenya.


Allow me to explain. A recent survey carried out by an international (read European) research firm has shown that the failure of the Kenyan healthcare sector, is mainly psychological. The normally reliable source of this information, informs the writer, that most patients in Kenyan hospitals do not get cured despite accurate diagnosis and effective medicines. This is because most of us will begin to put aside money for our ‘last expense’ based mainly on the tone of the doctor /nurse’s voice and/or their look. The ‘woooiee kwaheri’ look and ‘wooiee pole’ tone convinces many a patient that they are from then on dual citizens of Kenya and the thereafter. This is where the alternative medicine and point 3 comes in.


Any one who has encountered the marketers of this ‘alternative medicines’ will tell you that their customers get cured long before they see the medicine. There are two explanations for this. The first is that a good number of the customers are actually not sick to begin with. This group is convinced that they are sick by the marketers and are then convinced of their healing after the ‘medicine’. This is the group that makes up most of the ‘repeat’ customers in this sector. The second group may actually be sick, but the ‘presentation’ by the marketers leaves no doubt that they will be cured by the drugs and so their road to recovery commences as soon as their hand’s movement to the wallet begins. Details of this ‘powerful presentations’ by the marketers will be posted here as soon as I get another attack of idleness. For now, convince yourself that the post will be enough to cure you or alternatively get a ride in any of the city buses where hawking is not STRICTLY forbidden by Management..


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