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Trade lobbies ask Uhuru to reopen economy

They want the Government to concentrate on measures to revive the economy and vaccinate more people

In Summary
  • In a jointed statement, the eight trade associations asked for immediate reopening of the economy.
  • According to traders, at least 4.7 million Kenyans have lost livelihoods since the pandemic hit the country in March last year.

Trade associations are angered by the government’s decision to extend the Covid-19 containment measures by another 60 days, terming it unnecessary.

In a joint statement, trade associations from the retail, hospitality, transport, creative, and entertainment sectors asked for immediate reopening of the economy to reduce the continued loss of jobs and business earning from the effects of the pandemic.

They want the government to instead focus on measures to revive the economy and vaccinate more people.

According to the traders, at least 4.7 million Kenyans have lost their livelihoods since the pandemic hit the country in March last year, pushing more families into poverty. 

''The government must strike a balance between preventing the spread of the virus and ensuring a sustainable social economy for its people. It must ensure more people are vaccinated,'' they said. 

Early this week, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said the  economic and labour crisis created by the Covid-19 pandemic could increase global unemployment by almost 25 million

The associations said there is confusion amongst business people on Wednesday’s orders by the Presidency and a High Court order.

As the President extended the curfew and other containment orders, the High Court ruled that the orders issued to law enforcement agencies on the Covid-19 protocols are in breach of the Constitution.

The traders' groups supported a motion by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir seeking to compel the government to replace all forms of lockdown, curfews and travel restrictions with less stringent but effective measures in a bid to restore the economy.

“MPs need to show that they care for the suffering of those hard hit by the pandemic by supporting the motion. The government must introduce economically friendly containment measures and vaccination campaigns,’’ Bar Hotels Liquor Traders Association of Kenya Secretary-General Boniface Gachoka said.

He added that even as the motion is debated, the government should consider opening up the economy and increasing vaccination campaigns to aid the recovery from the pandemic.

The associations also lamented the continued harassment of their members by police across the country, some of which have taken to carting away products from bars and restaurants in addition to outright extortion.  

Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurant Association of Kenya (PERAK) Nairobi chairman Frank Mbogo said that despite the issuance of a new set of protocols by the Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary and the clear statement that restaurants close at 9 pm, harassment by the police is rife.

Areas where police harassment is dominant include Karen, Lang’ata, Kariobangi and Westlands in Nairobi. Free Area, Bahati, and Kiamunyi in Nakuru, Kisumu, Kiambu Town, Malindi and Watamu.

The association’s national chairman, Mike Muthami, said the 18 months of the pandemic has felt like 10 years for the sector and the sector feels it has been discriminated against.

“We have been the first industry to follow protocols and there is no reason why if we are following the protocol, we shouldn’t be allowed to operate normally,” said  Muthami.

Bodaboda Association chairman Samuel Ng’ang’a said lifting the restrictions would enable a resumption of the 24-hour economy that benefits their members.

He said banks have repossessed their members’ bodabodas because of default in loans and more than 400,000 families have been affected as a result.

Cyrus Githaiga, the National Coordinator of the Market Traders Association, said the restriction of the hospitality sector has had a ripple effect on the fresh produce sector.

“Hotels and restaurants are the biggest consumers of fresh produce and when they are forced to shut down, we are some of the biggest losers,''Githaiga said.