To Look Cool in Nairobi, Drive a Baby Boy

In Nigeria, a 2000 Honda Accord is widely known as a “Baby Boy.” The 2003 model, a step up, is called “End of Discussion.” And if you’re lucky and rich enough to drive the 2007 model, they call that “The Discussion Continues.”

I read a story in yesterday’s WSJ about the Nigerian car market, which is made up mostly of used Japanese cars imported by dealers from Texas and New Jersey, and they’re usually at the bottom end of what a car auction would have on offer. The country’s average income is just under $2700 a year, and for many Nigerians anything other than a bus or a motorcycle taxi is a huge step up.

The story took the reader to the Berger Auto Market in Nairobi, a place where hustlers and hagglers descend on both the rich and poor looking to get a new set of wheels. They bring suitcases full of cash, and skitter across open sewers to view their next car.

On the day of the reporter’s visit, a woman toting a large orange purse offered counterfeit license plates to go along with any used car purchase. Some of the cars would be hard to sell in Jersey but there are always takers here. About 50,000 cars were sent over in 2008, most of them priced below $5000. Sometimes this includes flooded, stolen and damaged Hondas.

Despite the hustle, many Nigerians are very proud of their “Baby Boys” and “End of Discussions” and go to great lengths to keep them safe in the mean streets of Nairobi.