The past year saw challenges to the business community including a weakening Kenyan shilling, insecurity and high taxes, inevitably dimming their profits.
“It has been a tough year for the curio traders,” Muthini Kimonyi, the chair of the Nakuru Central Jua Kali Traders Association, said on Friday.
“We have had extremely low sales due to very few foreign tourists visiting our stalls,” he added.
Somalia-based militant group Al-Shabaab has caused insecurity in Kenya since 2013, pushing some Western countries to issue travel warnings.
While Kenya struggles to regain its pride as a popular destination for foreign tourists, insecurity remains a concern for traders whose businesses rely mainly on tourists.
“I only hope that we will have many tourists from China, America, Britain, France, Japan and others in 2016. They will at least boost our sales. We have struggled in thirst for them in 2015,” said Muthini.
Sales to the foreign tourists have reached 80 percent of the total profits for the country hence the reduced visitors hit them hard, according to Muthini.
“We will support the government in ensuring that security is maintained in the country because no business will prosper without peace and security,” he said.
For Julius Ouda who imports photocopy papers from China and India, his business have borne the burden of a weak shilling.
The stability of the Kenyan shilling against the U.S. dollar diminished from an average of 86 against the dollar in 2014 to 102 against the dollar last year, translating to an increase in the cost of importation of goods.
“In 2013 I could import a 20-feet of photocopy papers for 14,250 U.S. dollars but that now has gone up to 16,250 dollars. That is an increase by 2,000 dollars,” said Ouda.
“That is very expensive. It pushed up our cost of doing business. More troubling is the fact that many customers could turn away because of the high prices,” he added.
For the new year, Ouda wishes nothing but a strong shilling to reduce the cost of doing business in the country.
Mary Okemwa, a potato farmer and trader in Molo, Nakuru County, is concerned about the high cost of farm inputs and taxes involved in trading of the second most popular staple produce in the country.
“Up to 2012, I could spend up 70 dollars for farm inputs and pesticides for an acre of potato. But that has doubled overtime,” she said.
“You could be taxed once if you were transporting the produce from the farm to Nairobi. But the taxation structure has been disintegrated and you end up being taxed four times at different points,” she said.
She hopes for a review of the taxation structure to reduce charges payable in marketing of the farm produce to boost small scale farming across the country.
Okemwa said agriculture was a source of living for thousands of Kenyans and oppressive practices could leave many families in poverty.
“I educate my five children with the profits I make from farming and selling potatoes. And if I cannot make any profits, it means my children will not go to school. I do not want that to happen to my children,” she said.
Agriculture forms a main part in the Kenyan economy with more than 85 percent of the population involved in small scale farming feeding both the rural and urban residents.
Kenya produces tea, coffee, flowers, maize, potatoes, beans and meat, some of the major exports to the neighbouring countries and those in the Western and European corridor.
In his new year message to the country, President Uhuru Kenyatta promised Kenyans collaborative progression in 2016 while calling for unity and commitment to grow the country’s economy. Enditem