Ray of hope as SMEs reopen amid strict anti-Covid rules

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
A Kiambu county worker fumigates Ruaka town as part of the measures to tame the spread of coronavirus. Photo/PD/Martin Mukangu

PD Reporter and Xinhua

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are registering a steady surge in activities as business picks up amid observation of Covid-19 containment measures.

Business is resuming as some companies that had sent workers on leave following the outbreak of the disease in March recall them.

Similarly, a number of people who had chosen to stay at home to enforce social distancing are resuming work as they observe measures to curb the spread of the disease.

Some of the businesses, particularly in the Nairobi City Centre that are registering uptick of activities,  include commuter vehicles, salons and barber shops, chemists, boutique and shoe shops, and hotels and eateries.

Banks and supermarkets, which though did not close down but had witnessed reduced activities in the last two months as people stayed away, are also registering a surge in the number of customers.

The steady resurgence in business portends bright prospects for the small and medium-sized enterprises as the country battles the disease. 

“We are happy that at least business is picking up,” said Andrew Mutie, who sells women’s shoes and clothes in central business in Nairobi. 

“Most of my customers started to return to work a week ago and I am now getting orders for clothes, shoes and bags, not as it was the case for the last two months,” he added.

The return of workers in the city centre has also come as a boon for hundreds of matatu operators who had been greatly affected by the stay at home measure.

Some of the matatu operators had grounded their vehicles due to low number of commuters moving from the residential areas to the city centre and vice versa. 

The government in March directed the commuter buses to carry half the capacity of the vehicles for passengers to maintain social distancing.

While the matatu tried to compensate the loss of income by raising fares, low number of commuters worsened the situation.

Geoffrey Muriuki, a conductor with Rembo Shuttle on the Kitengela-Nairobi route said more people are commuting to and from the city centre which assures operators business throughout the day.

“Though the curfew time is affecting business, things are improving,” he added.  

A survey in Nairobi on Thursday indicated the number of people visiting various businesses is on the rise, with hotels and eateries, banks and supermarkets being among the top beneficiaries of the resurgence.

Several customers

At an eatery on Kimathi Street in the central business district, several customers sat at different tables observing social distancing as they ate their food.  

The facility, like some others in the capital, started in-service over a week ago after testing all its workers for Covid-19 as directed by the government. 

“People are coming back, especially this week, there has been good traffic but we have to maintain social distance,” said Jane, a waiter at the outlet.

Ernest Manuyo, a lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, said people are resuming activities as they observe containment measures as reality dawns on them that they must learn to live with the virus around. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta has hinted at possibilities of easing restrictions and re-opening some sections of the economy in the coming weeks.

Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge says he expects resumption of normalcy in various sectors from this month.

“Cessations of some restrictions especially in sectors like hospitality have helped boost business and we expect next month (June) business to surge further.

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, so it is a good thing if activities resume,” he said last month.  

President Uhuru Kenyatta hinted at a possibility of relaxing current Covid-19 containment measures which include a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew and restrictions of movement into and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera last month.

The dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed on March 27 and has been extended twice to prevent the spread of the virus with the  recent extension is expected to end on June 6.

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