Picking up the pieces for small businesses post Covid-19

Sunday, June 13th, 2021 21:57 |
Phillip Mawira testing one of his machines that had broken down.

Irene Githinji @gitshee

Just like women, men have had their fair share of challenges with the advent of Covid-19 and they too, are picking up the pieces step by step.

A majority of men, who also play a critical role in providing for their families, have had to bear with the consequences of hard economic times.

Phillip Mawira, 45, from Chuka is one of those who have had it rough in the last one year.

From dwindling income to almost closing down his business to trying his luck in new businesses, describes his last year.

He is one of the people in small entrepreneurship who have worked so hard to establish their businesses from scratch, risen little by little only for things to change like snaping a finger.

Mawira is a small scale artisan. He earns a living by making chain link, doors and windows.

"I have never experienced such a situation since I started my business almost 10 years ago.

Since Covid-19 was reported in the country, things have been tough and fending for my small family has not been easy but I have to keep working hard so that my family and I can survive," says Mawira, a father of two.

Before Covid-19 pandemic, Mawira had bought a motorbike, commonly used in Kenya to ferry passengers especially in remote areas.

He employed someone to run the motorbike - locally known as boda boda - as he handled his artisan job.

But the first casualty of the pandemic's wrath was the motorbike business.

"Since people had learnt how the disease was spread, it was difficult to run this business because of the close contact.

Only a few agreed to use this form of transportation. Getting a passenger was almost impossible in a day," he says.

Weeks went by and things worsened and Mawira did not have a choice other than painfully relieve his employee duty.

"It was a painful thing to do because I could not afford to pay him any longer.

From the motorbike business, I could pay his salary and get some extra cash for my personal use. I decided to take this drastic move," he says.

As far as his artisan business is concerned, he says yet another tough decision had to be made and that meant making chain link had to stop owing to the huge labor required, the situation worsened by machine breakdown.

However, he is still making doors and windows but very few pieces compared to pre-Covid-19 times.

When not busy with making windows and doors, yes rides his motorbike to get himself some extra cash.

"Business has been so bad but we thank God we are slowly picking up. There has been a very slight improvement in the business environment and we hope things will get back to normal soon. We have not lost hope," Mawira says with alot of anticipation.

Also affected were salonists and barber shops among others small businesses.

When Covid-19 struck, they were not allowed to run as they were regarded as super spreaders due to close contact with the clients.

"I lost many clients because the salon I was working in closed down. Much as I could do house calls once in a while, my savings were running out.

I decided to try fish business and today it is picking up, I only braid people on my free time," says Susan Juma, a salonist.

According to data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), over 1.72 million jobs were lost in the better part of last year in Kenya,a situation that was largely attributed to lockdown, which also meant pay cuts in many companies.

The worst hit were young people, especially job seekers who had graduated from various institutions of higher learning.

Last year, Kenya’s unemployment rate stood at 10.4 per cent from 5.2 per cent while the employment to population ratio hit 57.7 per cent from 64.4 per cent as more Kenyan youths remained unemployed while those who were hitherto gainfully employed joined the bandwagon.

"Unemployment rate, measure based on the strict definition, increased to 10.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, compared to 5.2 per cent recorded in the first quarter of 2020,” the KNBS report stated.

In its second quarter labour report, KNBS estimates showed that employed Kenyans shrunk to 15,870,357 from 17,586,961 in the first quarter with fewer employment opportunities.

The rate was also higher than the 4.7 per cent registered in the same quarter of 2019, according to the statistics bureau.

"Highest proportion of the unemployed was recorded in the age groups 20-24 and 25-29, each registering over 20 per cent.

The same age groups also had the highest increase of over 10 per cent each in unemployment over the 3 months reference period,” KNBS says

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