Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya in March, John Kimani, who runs a maize milling business south of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, would open his shop until 10 p.m., ensuring he serves the last of his customers.
It is over six months since he closed his shop before 9 p.m. to ensure he does not flout government restrictions meant to curb the spread of the disease.
The government imposed a dusk to dawn curfew, at first starting from 7.00 p.m. to 5.00 a.m. The curfew hours were later reduced from 9.00 p.m. to 4.00 a.m.
“This was a reprieve to my business and others, but the curfew still curtailed trade activities because people would do things in a rush to beat the restriction time. I hope it is removed next week,” he said on Friday.
Kimani is among thousands of small business operators in Kenya, who are looking forward to the full reopening of the east African nation’s economy due to decline in COVID-19 cases.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to address the nation on Sept. 28 and has hinted that he will lift the restrictions ahead of schools reopening in October.
Kenya extended the curfew period and other measures on Sept. 22 until Sept. 29 when new orders would be given by Kenyatta.
Infection cases currently average 100 a day, according to the Ministry of Health, from a high of 800 in July.
While the huge decline has been celebrated, health experts have warned that the country is not yet out of the woods.
But consensus across the east African nation is that it is time to fully reopen the economy, the reason why Kenya is working on resumption of physical learning in schools in October.
Motorbike taxi riders, public transport vehicle operators, shop keepers, fresh produce sellers, hawkers, tailors and alcohol and meat sellers are among traders looking forward to fullly reopening the economy.
“If the curfew is lifted, my vehicle will operate until late into the night or even for 24 hours as it were before the curfew,” said Paul Kimei, a driver of a public transport vehicle on Kitengela-Nairobi route.
With full reopening of the economy, Kimei, as many other operators, hopes their vehicles would be allowed to carry full capacity while observing COVID-19 measures like handwashing and wearing of face masks, which will translate into more income.
For small-scale alcohol distributor Collins Ngunjiri, the full reopening of the economy means a job for him since bars that were shut down in April would be reopened.
Ernest Manuyo, a lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, noted that being the drivers of the economy since they employ thousands of people, full reopening of the economy would be a huge boost to small businesses.
“Small businesses have been resilient during this pandemic period thus giving them more time to operate would be a huge boost. It is what many people are looking forward to. People want to resume their activities as they observe the containment measures,” he said.