Monday, March 30, 2020

Covid-19 and Kenya

In Kenya coronavirus containment measures are expected to bring additional economic hardship in a country where only 17.9 percent of households have an internet connection and informal labourers account for 83.6 per cent of the total workforce.

These are mainly rate workers, day labourers and informal traders - and many of them are under heavy pressure to keep working in order to be able to put food on the table. While urged to maintain physical distancing, the majority of Kenyans live hand to mouth and have barely been able to stock up on food and other items. Health experts recommend frequent and thorough washing of hands with clean running water and soap as an important control measure to slow the spread of the disease, but nearly 80 percent of households in the country have no place for hand-washing in or near the toilet
These are hard times for many Kenyans - not least because of the fear of contracting the new coronavirus. Kenya has shut borders and suspended most air travel, except cargo flights. Kenya also asked government institutions, businesses and companies to allow staff to work from home, "with the exception of employees working in critical or essential services".

"There are businesses that have placed employees on standby; some on half pay, others with no pay," said Kwame Owino, chief executive officer of the Institute of Economic Affairs in Kenya. "Whole sectors of businesses are down."

In a country where labour laws are as weak as they are unheeded, many workers have either been let go or sent on unpaid leave as nearly all sectors of the economy - including tourism and flower and horticultural exports, Kenya's key foreign exchange earners - have taken a beating. The crisis hit Kenya at a turbulent time, further exposing an economy already weighed down by rising public debt - standing at $60bn as of September 2019 - years of missed revenue collection targets and a budget deficit hovering at more than six percent of GDP.

No comments: