Arguably the most famous and most enviable city in the world, New York has been the world’s crown jewel and the stuff of dreams for people around the world for ages. There isn’t a city like it on this earth. “The City That Never Sleeps” is big. It’s loud and in your face. It doesn’t have time for small talk or beating about the bush. It isn’t calm and devoid of skyscrapers like Berlin. It isn’t full of tourists like Paris. Nor is it as old or full of history as Rome.

But it has something in abundance that these other cities sometimes lack. It has character.

Its people are as full of character as their city. New Yorkers are always moving, always busy. Even just being in the city can inspire you to hustle and get active at something. New York isn’t the only city in the world that’s busy, but there’s something in the air that makes New York special. Something that makes the busyness endearing. There’s a whiff of that air in an upstart around 12000km away in East Africa. An upstart that would like New York’s crown.

An upstart that calls itself Nairobi.

Nairobi and New York aren’t so different from each other. If anything, Nairobi is like New York scaled down. And with more black people. And that’s the scale of nearly everything. New York is larger in physical area. It has nearly twice as many people. It has much better infrastructure. It’s better organised and better managed. It has better public transport and better public services. It has a more diverse collection of people. It’s more modern on the whole.

Some other things are the same, just offered in different packages. The crazy drivers and seeming lack of rules on the road? Nairobi does that better than New York. The crazy people on the streets? Nairobi has those. Strange things happening throughout the day? Nairobi sees those too. Expressions of art and culture throughout the city? There’s a bunch of that in Nairobi. Cool restaurants and places to go for entertainment? Nairobi has you sorted. One thing Nairobi has going for it is space and time to improve and grow. It’s harder to change things when a city is as established as New York is. Nairobi still has a ways to go to get there.

The city has changed a lot over the years.

The days of a laissez-faire attitude and a more laid-back approach to life are fading into history. They’re being replaced with a hustle and bustle that would rival many cities around the world. Some foreigners, especially those from other African countries, say that life in Nairobi is fast. They say that everyone is busy, appears to be busy, or is busy trying to get somewhere. Kenyans who’ve lived and worked in some other African countries say the same thing.

New York is famous for sky high buildings and costs of living. Nairobi isn’t so different. Rent is high for a country with only 2.9 percent of the 2.7 million formal workers earning more than 100,000 Kenya Shillings a month (around $1000). Space is becoming a luxury as more housing units are crammed into small parcels of land. Apartments weren’t so popular back in the day. They dotted the landscape and were far from a common site. Today they dominate the scene. High rise commercial buildings housing offices and other places of business have sprung up all around the city too. They’ve been put up everywhere, and they’ve got taller and the space in the units within them smaller with each passing year. What were once bushes and greenery have been cleared to make way for buildings, roads, and other infrastructure to allow people to live more comfortably.

It isn’t just the city that’s changed over the years. Its people have changed too. Nairobians are an impatient lot. They like things to get done and to be done well. They’re always hustling, looking for where they can make another shilling. They work hard and play harder. They’re still quite African, but western influence has crept into their lives quite a bit too. Some of them have started to prefer a more sophisticated lifestyle. Mediocrity can still be a problem, but some Nairobians won’t settle for anything but the best and have standards as high as any anywhere in the world. Their interests span so many different things and lend an eclectic feel to the city.

Over the last few years, Nairobi has grown in leaps and bounds.

Granted, it isn’t where it should be, but where it is right now is still something. Especially compared to where it was just a few years ago. It’s a hustling and bustling metropolis that can stack up against the best in Africa, and hopefully sooner rather than later against the best in the world.

New York may have a breadth of cultures from around the world that may beat out any other city in the world. But Nairobi has a diversity of local culture. Africa is unique in that one country can have so many different indigenous cultures. Take Kenya, which has more than 44 tribes. Each of them has a distinct language and culture. A lot of these tribes can be found in Nairobi. They come to the big city for some of the same reasons that people go to New York: in pursuit of a better life, in pursuit of a job or career, in pursuit of a dream. They bring with them their own unique culture and way of life. It’s all put on display in Nairobi and the city is more exciting for it.

Nairobi can’t match New York for size. It can’t match it’s achievements. It can’t match it’s infrastructure. But it may be able to match its appeal. It matches its swagger. It matches its spirit.

The sky’s the limit for Nairobi; New York had better watch out.