Since mid-April, George Japolo, a furniture maker in Kitengela, south of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, has refurbished dozens of seats at peoples’ homes in the sprawling suburb.
Most of the works involved giving the sofa sets a complete makeover that included removal of covers and redesigning to end up with a new look.
“If it was not for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), I would not have done these jobs. I have so far done jobs at eight homes and more are still on the way,” said Japolo on Friday, adding most of those offering the jobs are office workers.
Hundreds of Kenyan office workers have been at home since the outbreak of the pandemic in the east African nation in March as organizations encourage them to work from home or sent them on leave to curb spread of the virus.
Other containment measures Kenyans are using include compulsory wearing of face masks, restriction of movement in and out of the capital and hand-washing.
The stay-at-home measure, according to Japolo, has made people note some of the things that need changes in their homes, which include the couches.
And the fact that they have time to supervise and see how the work is done, has given many the confidence to do the tasks, thus handing the artisans jobs.
Japolo is among tens of artisanal workers in particular in the capital Nairobi, who have recorded a boom during the pandemic period, helping to create jobs amid the gloom.
Besides furniture makers, mechanics, masons, tailors, electricians, plumbers and welders are among artisans who have benefited from the measure.
“I charge between 10,000 shillings (about 100 U.S. dollars) and 250 dollars as labour depending on the nature of work. I have been working with three other people,” said Japolo, adding the jobs have alleviated doom many had forecasted.
Joseph Kyalo, a welder, on the other hand, has so far constructed four car shades in homes in middle-income suburbs in Nairobi charging 500 dollars for a single-vehicle unit.
“The stay-at-home order saw many people keep their cars at home. And this is what made them see the need to construct a shade because in many cases, they park their cars under a shade at the office,” he said.
The mason has also done minor repair works at homes, noting the jobs have cushioned him from adverse economic effects of the pandemic.
“I decided to give my house a makeover so that I can remember that I did something and used my time wisely during the pandemic,” said Victoria Selima, a government auditor who has been working from home since March.
Since she has not only given her seats a makeover but has also repainted her house and changed tiles in bathrooms.
“I had to do something positive despite the gloom hanging all over. I am proud of what I have done, the jobs cost me 800 dollars, money that created jobs for people during this pandemic. I would have used it to go on holiday perhaps if the disease was not there,” said Selima, who lives on the east of Nairobi.
About 1.2 million workers lose jobs in Kenya’s formal sector due to the pandemic, the informal sector, where artisans belong, has remained resilient cushioning workers.
Ernest Manuyo, a lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, noted that the rise in artisanal work has helped protect livelihoods for hundreds of families and created business for sellers of materials. Enditem