I’m watching my business die, says trader

Friday, June 19th, 2020 00:00 |
Abdulrazak Abubakar, a resident of Old Town in Mombasa, says he has nothing to celebrate after ban on movement was lifted in the area. Photo/PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

Dining rooms in many restaurants still remain empty even after the government allowed resumption of business after owners get fresh permits to ensure Covid-19 safety compliance.

Many of the eateries have simply remained shut, while others are relying on takeaways and delivery services to remain afloat.

While some of the big hotels have the resources to ride on during these unprecedented times, about two-thirds of eateries in urban centres may not survive.

Owners of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants have been piling pressure on the government to fully re-open the economy as they comply with safety measures such as social distancing, heightened hygiene procedures and protection of their staff.

For Abdulrazak Abubakar, 36, a restaurant owner, a dark cloud still hangs over his future. He is in deep  thought over how he will unhook himself from the economic turmoil brought about by coronavirus.

Celebrate freedom

A resident of Mlango wa Papa area in Old Town, Mombasa, Abubakar was caught up in containment measures which had banned movement in and out of the area.

The measures were lifted by President Uhuru Kenyatta on June 6 and residents took to the streets and social media to celebrate their “new found freedom” after 30 days of staying at home.

The lifting of the partial lockdown in Old Town, however, means nothing much to him.

Abubakar, a father of four, says he is in deep financial troubles as his restaurant and only source of income located in the Mtwapa area in Kilifi county still remains shut due to the Covid-19 restrictions.  

Abubakar now has to wait until when restrictions on movement in and out of Mombasa will be lifted.

He has no access to his business in Mtwapa which is the border town between Mombasa and Kilifi county. 

On June 6, President Kenyatta extended cessation of movement in and out of Mombasa, Nairobi and Mandera due to the rise in infections.

However, movement in and out of Kwale and Kilifi was allowed after the counties recorded low numbers of new infections.

“I have a family which depends on me, since these restrictions were imposed, I was forced to stay at home, no income, no nothing and I have bills to foot on a daily basis,” says Abubakar.

The businessman says he has three months unpaid rent arrears. His rented hotel is also indebted and he fears that if closure of hotels is extended further, he will have to completely shut down his business.

Access business

“I have been pleading with my landlord to give me some time because I have three months rent arrears.

My monthly rent is Sh40, 000 and now it has accumulated for three months. I do not know how I will raise the money,” he says.

“Although lockdown has been lifted in Old Town and movement in and out of Kilifi allowed, I still have nothing to celebrate because my business is in Mtwapa and Mombasa is still restricted,’’he adds.

“I have tried to look for documentation but I have not even gotten any  assistance. Now that we will continue to be locked in Mombasa, I fear things will get worse for me,” he says.

Abubakar says his employees are also demanding support from him after he sent them on unpaid leave yet efforts to get all necessary documentations to access his business have proved futile.

“My workers have been calling me asking for help but I am unable to help them. I have not opened my restaurant because I can’t access Kilifi and return to Mombasa. The cessation of movement has not considered this,” he said.

Abubakar’s case represents the dilemma many other small-scale traders, who live in Mombasa and have business outside the county or vice versa, have to bear with.

Said Bakhressa, 55, says he lost a construction contract after he was locked up in the Old Town. He is now struggling to start afresh.

“I am a contractor and since the lockdown was imposed, I could not move out of the Old Town to search for businesses, but now since it has been lifted, at least I will be able to move in and out in search of my daily income.

Lots of people are suffering paying rental arrears for businesses that have no income, the government has abandoned us,” he said.

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