What it takes to run an uptown entertainment joint in Nairobi

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Kiza Lounge CEO Ali Oumarou
By Dickson Ogutu
As we enter the well-lit expansive entrance leading up to the terraces overlooking the leafy Kilimani suburb of Nairobi city, we can’t help but understand why Kiza Lounge is a favorite of many, and on the bucket list of many others. We are welcomed by an usher to where Mr. Ali Oumarou has reserved for our meeting. After a brief introduction and ordering our beverages, we settle down to hear his story. Dressed in a suave dark shade of azure blue coat and a spotless grey shirt, he already jokes about our struggle with his second name. “I’m African but I consider Kenya my home also because of its renowned hospitality that has attracted many worldwide companies having Nairobi as their African headquarters including the United Nations thus many multi-nationals live here. We saw this opportunity and decided to do it the African way,” he says.
Ali Oumarou is co-founder and also serves as MD of Kiza Lounge. A Nigerian who spent most of his youthful years playing professional football in Niger, Morocco and Saudi Arabia before moving into property business management in Saudi, Oumarou moved on to Dubai where he met his Kenyan wife with whom they have two children. Having relocated to Kenya with his family, he opted to open a lounge in Nairobi. The Executive Talk team met him at the state-of- the-art Kiza Lounge located in the Kilimani suburbs, Galana Plaza, 9th floor. So why the name Kiza?
“We borrowed that name from Luandan language which means people or community and our mission is tomorrow Africa, which urges that it’s time for Africa to remain united,” he explains. “Kiza started in Dubai seven years ago with a friend when we saw the African population on the rise. Our people were either living, on business trips or on transit. Many being loyal to African food, music and art, we created a joint where they could get not only African foods but also music and art hence the inspiration for the Kiza restaurant on 8th floor here in Nairobi, where we only cook African dishes.
One would argue for limitations that come with only serving African dishes as opposed to variety. “We should be proud of our own. It’s what we all grew up eating. We have foods from West, East, North and South Africa which means this is a culinary journey,” he affirms. “At the lounge, we sell delicious African bitings which you can enjoy with a wide selection of local and international high end drinks,” says Mr. Ali Oumarou in defense of the famed joint. Without a doubt, Kiza has been on the spotlight for having hosted, arguably, the highest number of international artists in the last two years, a trend that other clubs are trying to ape. Mr. Oumarou simply laughs this off. “Actually now we are realizing the fruits of investing because we have seen over sixty local and international artists who have visited Kiza. We also work very closely with the corporate world including Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) who bring their international artists here for the African cuisine and party. We also partner with Coke Studio to entertain their visiting artists.”

From my seating view, soft music fills the air, soothing enough for a hearty conversation. The enchanting view would definitely be worth paying for, a fallacy that the MD refutes. ”We only charge when we have a big local or International artist where we see the need to control the crowd. Our age limit is 24 years which also includes a dress policy clearly marked at the security entrance. We have been voted by different institutions as the safest restaurant and lounge in Africa not forgetting that this is a networking place and our service, security and food is always
world class as we keep training our personnel.” “We maintain a manageable crowd and have more than four clearly marked emergency exists. We have also secured the club area with numerous closed circuit TV’s (CCTV). You can be sure to get back any item you may have lost here as we have over 90% record for recovery of lost items. Now tell me which other club in Nairobi can beat that,” he says as a matter of fact. “For the sound,” he continues, “we have invested into the latest system (Bose) coupled with the best sound proof in all our three zones in the club including VIP lounge, Men’s lounge and Out- door’s lounge which have been certified by a registered authority. “As our conversation picks on, it’s easy to tell that Kiza is just not your usual restaurant and lounge but a brand in the moulding.
Mr. Ali offers to give us a quick tour through the expansive investment. “Our main attraction at the lounge is the type of service we offer, our safety features and the type of people we rub shoulders with. Here there is an opportunity to do business and everyone is considered a VIP. As we enjoy the fine rare décor and lighting in the club, he points out that every part of Kiza has an African attachment to it. From the V- shaped boat head to the wooden and bamboo lighting with a magnificent touch. For a first timer, I may warn you that you may easily be caught staring.
The club operates for six days a week and doesn’t have entrance charges. “Kiza is a walk-in, both the club and the restaurant. But we highly encourage reservations to have a table secured. The entire club is also laced with Wi-Fi ideal for that active social life, corporate / private parties and also business meetings.
As we marvel at the well-designed cigar bar, we are eager to find out about the future plans. He hints about opening more branches around the world. “We have our flagship brand in Dubai and we recently opened in Toronto and God willing we shall be in the United Kingdom and Abuja,” he says, adding that there are plans to open Kiza music and fashion line. “Is it that easy?” I ask. “Nothing comes easy. People want to enjoy success but don’t want to toil for it. Kiza is a movement and is for tomorrow thus this is a house for Africa and for anyone who wants to know
the positive part of Africa. Africans are building other continents and its high time for them to come back home with the knowledge and wisdom. Work hard every day and don’t forget to always put God first,” he concludes as we settle for a meal in the magnificent restaurant before he dashes out for yet another meeting.

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