A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

Kenyans decry high living cost, seek government intervention

The Consumers Federation of Kenya has warned of a huge hit on the economy

In Summary
  • From matatu drivers, carpenters, shopkeepers, bodaboda riders, the common mwananchi is feeling the heat from the heightened cost of living.
  • Currently, super petrol retails at Sh134.72 per litre up from Sh127.14 last month while diesel retails at Sh 115.60 from Sh107.66.

Cosmas Kimonge, Martin Kimathi and Susan Nkirote are all complaining.

The three are in different occupations, a boda boda rider, a carpenter, and a vegetable vendor but they are experiencing the same struggles.

What are they complaining about you may ask? They are all struggling with the high cost of living, from costly food to fuel. 

Kimonge, a rider on Mombasa Road told the Star that business is currently very low due to the high cost of fuel.

“With the high cost of fuel, I have increased the cost of rides by almost Sh100, a trip that would initially cost Sh100 is now Sh200, leaving customers complaining that this is too high,” said Kimonge.

He said this at times forces him to carry clients at lower fares despite the high fuel prices or he might end up losing out on business completely.

Kimonge says that the number of his customers has dropped  as some have opted to walk to make a saving because of the tough times.

“On Tuesday, I carried just carried two people unlike in the past where I would not lack more than 10 clients in a day,” he said.

Kimonge is hopeful that those in government will make remedy and reduce the price of fuel to ease business.

“I heard that the leaders have gone to Parliament to appeal for fuel costs to be reduced, I hope this will work,” he said.

Kimathi says the cost of electricity that is a major factor of production in his carpentry business has  really gone up thus hurting his business.

“The increased cost of electricity has hurt my business which has been struggling since the onset of the pandemic,” said Kimathi.

This, coupled with the high cost of living that has seen a drop in the demand for furniture has affected his business.

“We need school fees, we need to eat, we don't even know where to start, the government should reduce the cost of fuel as in turn the cost of everything will go down,” he said.

Nkirote, a vegetable vendor at South B market, says business has been hard and life very expensive.

“Life is currently a struggle, the cost of everything is high, three small bananas cost Sh20, a two kilo packet of maize flour is Sh140, getting something to eat every day is a hustle,” said Nkirote.

Nkirote said she currently views electricity as a luxury as it is very costly.

She appealed to the government to reduce the cost of living to make things easier.

This is just a micro picture of what ordinary Kenyans are  is going through. Life is tough.

Currently, Super petrol retails at Sh134.72 per litre up from Sh127.14 last month while diesel retails at Sh 115.60 from Sh107.66.

Inflation hit an 18-month high of 6.57 per cent in August on increased food prices and fuel.

The price of food increased 10.67 per cent while rent and the price of water, electricity and cooking gas rose by 5.07 per cent during the period.

Kenyans from all walks of life are basically living from hand to mouth.

David Mutembei, a matatu driver on the South B route says the high cost of fuel is hurting his business which has been struggling from low returns.

“The increased cost of fuel is seeing us spend more and earning less, we used to spend at most Sh2,500 per day on fuel this has shot up to more than Sh 4,000 affecting our daily earnings, as the owner still has to get their target,” says Mutembei.

He says raising fares on the route to offset the high fuel costs is not an option, as even with the resumption to full capacity it is a struggle to get passengers.

“We understand the plight of Kenyans as life had become costly, we are just hoping the government will hear our cry to reduce fuel prices,” said Mutembei.

Peter Gachanja who sells fruits at the busy Nairobi Bus Station says the cost of fruits such as apples and oranges has gone up while customers have reduced.

“Since the Covid-19 hit, we have been struggling but with the recent increase in fuel prices it is getting worse, the government should intervene,” said Gachanja.

Gladys Wangui, runs an M-PESA shop but with the high cost of living she says she says her clients have been reducing by the day.

“This has seen my commission drop, I am even thinking of closing the shop, as what I get cannot cater for rent and personal supplies in the house. As for electricity the last time I bought tokens for Sh500 I got 19 units down from almost 30, life is unbearable,” she said and appealled to the government to intervene.

Justus Otieno, a procurement officer, has seen his life move from luxury to survival mode.

Otieno started working in 2015, he has been a salaried professional since then, three years into working he took a loan to buy a car and moved from Eastlands to live in Syokimau. He was living comfortably.

Currently, high fuel costs, servicing his loan and the high cost of food have seen him move back to using a matatu.

“Things are thick, right now it's better for me to leave my car as my monthly spend on food, electricity and other personal effects has increased ,” he said.

Margaret Njeri, a housewife, tells the Star that she has had to reduce some of the items she used to buy in her house with the high cost of food and other house utilities.

“I used to buy food in bulk like 5kgs of rice but now I get rice that can get me through the week, as for cooking I have resorted to using charcoal at times as cooking gas is very expensive,” Njeri said.

The increased cost of fuel has seen Kenyans stage demonstrations in some parts of the country.

On September 16,  transport along the busy Migori-Isebania highway was paralysed as motorists staged demonstrations over increased fuel prices.

The protesting motorists said the government is only keen on inflating fuel prices, not on their welfare.

Parliament summoned Energy Cabinet Secretary, Charles Keter, and his Petroleum counterpart, John Munyes after the uproar.

The two on Tuesday snubbed summons by Senate’s Energy Committee in which they were required to respond to the fuel prices hike.

Keter said fuel prices did not fall under the purview of his ministry, and passed the buck to to the Petroleum ministry.

Munyes requested to have the hearing by the Senate Committee pushed to next Wednesday.

The Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) has warned of a huge hit on the economy from the high cost of production, surge in food prices, transport and overall, a higher cost of living 

“The foreign direct investments, as well as consumer purchasing power, will be driven south for a struggling economy reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said in a statement.