National gratitude to essential service providers
For over four months now, Covid-19 has continued to exert considerable strain on the economy.
Businesses have been gravely disrupted, in what will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most difficult moments in the country’s history.
The SME sector, the country’s economic lifeblood, has been affected considerably.
To date, it is estimated that over one million jobs have been lost on account of the disease’s virulent impact, with many employees taking unpaid leave or pay cuts.
Given that the bulk of jobs today are created by SMEs, cross-sector stakeholders have sustained efforts to contain further collapse of small-scale enterprises and job losses.
While the pandemic has not shown any signs of abating, it is encouraging to see employers have heeded President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call to absorb the economic shock and prevent avoidable income losses.
Employers resorted to strategies that minimise costs not connected to the payroll while facilitating employees to continue working safely.
By all accounts, this is an unprecedented moment. Yet, in the characteristic Kenyan spirit, citizens from all walks of life have exuded resilience, marked with unmatched patriotism, even in adversity.
Beyond national duty, stakeholders have distinguished themselves for their selfless duty to the nation, undaunted by the raging fear of infection that has seen many sectors close shop.
Top on this list are our hard-nosed frontline health service providers. They brave untold occupational hazards to provide care to patients, conduct tests on suspected cases of infection, besides collecting data instrumental in monitoring and containing the spread of the disease in the country.
A glowing emblem of the country’s commitment to defeat the disease, their audacity and sacrifice should be saluted.
Similarly, the agriculture and manufacturing sectors deserve a thumbs-up for ensuring a sustained supply of goods and services.
Due to their commitment and resilience, Kenya has not experienced any recordable shortage of consumables such as food and other household supplies – unlike in other countries, where such challenges have been reported.
We have seen manufacturers produce locally made masks and ventilators that meet stringent international safety standards.
In the supply chain matrix, retailers have set an emulable example, enabling customers to conduct unfettered shopping while observing physical distancing requirements, among other safety protocols.
The Retail Trade Association of Kenya has also partnered with the Kenya Bankers Association to conduct the Kaa Chonjo!
Card, Mobile and Online Safety Awareness campaign to encourage cashless payments to prevent Covid-19 spread through currency.
It is important to recognise that innovation will be a key ingredient towards surviving the crisis and for business recovery.
On the other hand, financial service providers have made laudable efforts to support customers and the economy.
For instance, banks have collectively restructured over Sh500 billion worth of loans to protect thousands of households and businesses.
In addition to donating over Sh1.8 billion to Covid-19 emergency response efforts, banks have also ensured uninterrupted services through innovative digital solutions
Security agencies have also continued to do a commendable job. Following the introduction of cessation of movement for some counties, the police have kept vigil on inter-county borders to ensure compliance with the regulation.
This is a great sacrifice that often means spending nights in the cold to serve the country.
Further, they have played a great role in enforcing wearing of face masks and observing safe distance while at public facilities.
As we celebrate the great work that has been done by employers and essential service workers to support the economy, it is important to recognise the need for alignment to the “new normal”.
To this end, the Federation of Kenya Employers has developed guidelines and protocols that can be adopted by businesses to pave the way to safe and secure return to normalcy.— The writer is the executive director, Federation of Kenya Employers.