Life returns at Eastleigh hub after State eased movement restrictions
George Kebaso and Alvin Mwangi
Eastleigh’s First Avenue, the commercial hub of East Africa’s largest boutique, had began to show signs of life barely 24 hours after the government eased movement restrictions in and out of the town, east of the capital, Nairobi.
A spot check by People Daily yesterday revealed that a business shutdown that lasted 30 days following a cessation of movement announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 7 is a thing of the past.
A walk down the Muyuyu Road along Eastleigh’s First Avenue saw a town that is bustling with activities and cash was once again flowing.
The silence that characterised the streets was replaced by noise from public service vehicle operators, hawkers and other traders shouting out for clients.
Streets are once again crowded while shopping malls like Emirates, Bangkok and Hongkong were all open.
Kamukunji MP Yusuf Hassan could not hide his happiness for the people he represents at the National Assembly.
He said the President’s move was welcome and geared towards reviving the economic activities of Eastleigh and the larger Nairobi.
“The move is welcome since it will open up the economy on both ends; within the business estate and for business people who depend on supplies from Eastleigh.
These people will be able to have their orders delivered since the roadblocks to the estate have been taken away.
This also means hope for the people who earn their living from working in the shopping malls and those who do small businesses,” he said.
However, he cautioned that it will take time for people and some of their businesses to get back on feet since 30 days of total closure is not a short period in terms of income generation.
“There is a large number of businesses that stocked huge merchandise for the Ramadhan and Idd holidays, which fell during the closure of Eastleigh. This means that these people may not recoup what they spent to stock,” he added.
He said the government also may not recover what it has lost in terms of revenue collection through taxes.
Transactions worth an estimated Sh2 billion take place in Eastleigh on a daily basis, according to available data. Eastleigh is said to contribute 25 per cent of the city’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Mohamed Ali, a shop attendant at Baraka Mattresses, like most of the residents of the populous estate, welcomed the President’s Saturday afternoon decision to ease the movement restrictions.
“The restriction that was there were difficult; customers were not coming, but at least, today we can see even the vehicles are coming in.
It is better something little than none at all. Of course in the last 30 days we have really suffered poor incomes, almost nil with just about one or two customers coming in per day,” said Ali who has a wise counsel for the residents of Eastleigh.
“What I can advise our people is to follow the Ministry of Health’s social distancing protocols; wear masks, wash hands, sanitise and keep the one metre and half distance.”
Across the street at Sunar Wholesalers, Ahmed, the supervisor said for the first eight hours yesterday, they had recorded a huge influx of buyers coming for retail supplies.
“We are foreseeing better days ahead if the situation remains the way we have seen today,” he said.
Outside the shop hawkers who had moved to other estates such as Pangani; Parklands and Westlands, were back to catch one or two customers.
“Today, I already have Sh800 in my pocket, which I have sold for today alone. In those other areas, I was only able to sell for about Sh200 in a day,” Benson Muthama, a hawker said.
Anthony Kiseli, a transporter is happy that the lockdown for Eastleigh has been lifted and hopeful that life will go back to normal.
“We just remained in our houses since there were no customers, even before the restrictions since the Coronavirus pandemic was reported in Kenya, work was still not very good, but now we are hopeful,” he said.
With the easing of the cessation of movement, yesterday there was evidence of tens of trucks offloading goods while Matatus and Boda Boda operators were back to business. There were no more roadblocks.
“Eastleigh’s stake to the economy cannot be underestimated,” Ahmed, an official of Eastleigh Business Community told People Daily via telephone.
By 6:00 am in the morning yesterday, most of the shops had opened with the area bustling with activities as traders in the area expressed their joy of finally seeing the light after 30 days of being confined.