Some big organizations in Kenya have scaled down their operations while others have closed shop all-together as they monitor the progress of the fight against the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
However, as the corporations squeeze activities, small-scale businesses have remained resilient, keeping their doors open as the country introduces various tough measures to curb the spread of the virus.
These traders include those running mobile money shops, agro-input dealers, fresh produce stores, welders, carpenters, and household goods shops in residential areas.
“I have never closed my shop since the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Every day I serve tens of people depositing or withdrawing cash,” Winnie Kabiru, who runs a mobile money shop in Kitengela on the east of the capital Nairobi, said on Saturday.
In front of her shop, she has mounted a handwashing point where her customers sanitize their hands. She has also placed a notice informing customers to maintain social distancing.
“I took the measures as soon as the government announced them. We better stay safe and run our businesses than be reckless and close them,” she said.
The government is encouraging Kenyans to use mobile money to transact business to avoid spreading the virus.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe notes that banknotes present surfaces that can be contaminated with the virus and spread as people use them. Thus, mobile money agents like Kabiru play a key role in ensuring the measure is successful.
Similarly, vegetable seller Grace Mutuku, who runs her shop in the east of Nairobi has never shut, ensuring residents have food amid the crisis.
She has employed one person at the shop, who she has retained as some big organizations sack workers.
“I go to the market for suppliers every two days. Prices are a little higher but the food supply remains consistent,” she said, adding in a day she makes some 6,000 shillings (about 60 U.S. dollars) sales on average.
At the front of her shop, she has also put a handwashing point for her customers and ensures they maintain social distance.
The government has designated food suppliers as essential services providers keeping food supply chains running.
The National Agriculture Sector Network chairman Bimal Kantaria said there has been little disruption of farm produce and input access due to the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus, lauding the government for the move.
Public service vehicle operators are among other small businesspeople keeping the Kenyan economy running.
Despite the tough measures introduced by the government in the sector, the operators remain resilient.
In the capital Nairobi, they are ferrying hundreds of people who have to go to work or places of business from residential areas to the city center.
“I still wake up at 5 a.m. to start my business,” said Jared Moseti, a conductor with Rembo Shuttle on the Kitengela-Nairobi route. He charges passengers 1 dollar for each trip but the number of trips has reduced due to new regulations introduced by the government including a curfew and stay-at-home measure.
On March 27, President Uhuru Kenyatta reduced tax from 3 percent to 1 percent for the micro, small and medium enterprises.
Ernest Manuyo of Pioneer Institute in Nairobi said a part of economy is run by the small businesses which belong to the informal sector.
“They employ thousands and generate a huge percentage of the gross domestic product. Amid this crisis, they remain standing to cement their position in the country’s economy,” he noted.
Kenya’s economy is expected to shrink significantly this year due to the pandemic. Central Bank of Kenya revised downwards its projections from 6.2 percent to 3.4 percent due to the disease. Enditem