With economies around the world going through a recession, the 2022 Safari Rally Kenya could not have come at a better time for the East African nation.
There has been little to cheer for most ordinary Kenyans amid record fuel and consumer goods prices coupled with the heightened political campaigns ahead of the Aug. 9 general election.
However, the return of the country’s legendary Safari Rally to the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar last year gave the nation’s struggling economy a timely shot in the arm.
On June 23, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said last year’s event had pumped over 6 billion shillings (about 51 million U.S. dollars) to the economy when flagging off the cars for the 2022 Safari Rally.
With the event concluding on Sunday, thousands of motorsport enthusiasts, and other Kenyans from all walks of life descended on the resort town of Naivasha, located 90 km from the capital, Nairobi to watch the ultimate battle between man and machine.
From sold-out hotels to a string of concerts and a hospitality boom, the 2022 Safari Rally gave the country a welcome distraction from the hardship most citizens around the country are experiencing.
#WRCSafariRally and #WRCSafariRally2022 hashtags trended on Kenyan social media for three days straight as mammoth crowds turned up to cheer local and foreign drivers taking part in the sixth round of the 2022 WRC.
The sheer numbers overwhelmed Naivasha, a big lakeside town located northwest of Nairobi.
Hundreds of spectators spent Saturday night in traffic along the main Moi South Lake Road that connects the string of resorts in Naivasha as well as the entry to the designated spectator stages.
Besides the huge gains made by the local micro and small enterprises serving the hordes of fans, the 2022 Safari Rally also lifted the hospitality and tourism sectors, with an influx of foreign visitors landing to work around or witness the event.
“We are living in unprecedented times owing to the economic downturn envisioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.
“The rally comes in handy to boost our economy as we expect it to pump more money this year. This injection will trickle down to the lowest of businesses in the area around.” Paul Russo, the chief executive of the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) remarked on Saturday.
He was speaking on the penultimate day of the 2022 Safari Rally in Soysambu as he joined other spectators.
The bank had sponsored two drivers, Evans Kavisi and Nikhil Sachania but they did not manage to finish the grueling battle in the African savannah.
Finnish driver and WRC championship leader, Kalle Rovanpera, mastered the punishing event to claim overall victory on Sunday.
With the event signed up with the WRC for another five years, the Safari Rally will continue to be a main stimulus for the Kenyan economy. Enditem