Reduced curfew time boosting Kenya’s businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020 14:56 |
Traders display goods for sale at Eastleigh in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, June 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Allan Mutiso)

When the sun sets down on Monday in Kenya, businesspeople will not be scrambling to close their shops and go home to beat a dusk-to-dawn curfew put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, they will have at least two more hours to serve their customers before closing the shops for the day.

This follows the reduction of the curfew time by three hours by President Uhuru Kenyatta on June 6, enabling the business to have more time to operate.

President Kenyatta cut the curfew hours from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. The extra working hours have come as a boon for businesses, translating into more income and jobs for workers.

 Hotels and eateries, supermarkets, fuel stations, mobile money agents, barbershops and salons, public transport vehicle operators and motorbike taxi riders, chemists and vegetable and meat sellers, among others, are some of the businesses that instantly reaped from the long working hours from Jun. 7.

At Moi Avenue branch of Naivas supermarkets in Nairobi city center, shopping went on to about 7 p.m. It was the same case at various businesses like chemists, restaurants and clothes stalls in the city center where customers and traders had more time to buy and sell before heading home.

 "The change in curfew time has extended business time, which is good for us. I no longer need to park my vehicle by 6.30 p.m. so that I beat curfew time. For the extra time now, I can do one more trip which means more money," said Joseph Mungai, a conductor with Rembo Shuttle, a bus firm that plies Nairobi city center-Kitengela route.

The public transport vehicles commonly known as matatus have seen their incomes drop as they carry fewer passengers to maintain social distance to curb the spread of COVID-19.

 "My 32-seater bus carries 16 passengers who pay 100 shillings (about 1 U.S. dollar) per trip. But I could hardly make four trips in a day due to the curfew and the reduced number of people. With the new curfew time, I can now make at least 32 dollars more," he said.

For Grace Mutuku, a vegetable seller on the east of Nairobi, the end of curfew at 4 a.m. means she can leave her home by 5 a.m. for the main wholesale market in the city center, Nairobi.

"The earlier you arrive at the market, the better the prices. With the new curfew time, I can also sell to more people in the evening without a rush. This is close to normal for me," she said.

Another happy lot is motorbike taxi operators scattered across the east African in their thousands.

The reduction of curfew time means the thousands of youths working in the sector can work for longer hours, especially in the morning and evening peak hours, and earn more.

"With the curfew time reduced, more people are returning to work which means more money in our pockets. This is better," said David Kiarie, a motorbike taxi rider in Kitengela, noting he was optimistic he would make more than the average 8 dollars a day he has been making since March when the curfew was imposed.

Ernest Manuyo, a lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, noted that longer working hours will boost livelihoods and create jobs, especially in the informal sector.

Kenya's COVID-19 cases have been on an upward trajectory since March, accelerating in June to clock 2,862 on Monday. (Xinhua)
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