BACK TO BUSINESS

City centre back to normal despite rising virus cases

Hawkers reclaim strategic business corners on pavements

In Summary

• Pedestrian movement is a struggle on Ladhies Road, Ronald Ngala and Tom Mboya streets as hawkers have reclaimed their favourite spots on pavements.

• The items on sale ranged from vegetables, cutlery, secondhand shoes and clothes, textbooks, fruits, mobile phone accessories, et al.

It's business as usual on Luthuli Avenue. Hawkers are happy with the return of commuters in the CBD as that means more business for them.
NO SOCIAL DISTANCING: It's business as usual on Luthuli Avenue. Hawkers are happy with the return of commuters in the CBD as that means more business for them.
Image: CHARLENE MALWA

Nairobians are increasingly throwing caution to the wind and returning to the Central Business District for "business as usual" despite increasing cases of coronavirus and related-deaths.

The Star took to the streets on Tuesday and found hundreds of hawkers displaying their wares on walkways, thousands of commuters at bus stops and beggars in strategic corners.

Most of them - from Racecourse Road, Ronald Ngala Street, Tom Mboya, all the way to Koinange Street - had face masks as they went about their "disrupted" normal business.

Two months ag0, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe flagged Nairobi as a coronavirus hotspot alongside Mombasa.

Subsequently, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered a cessation of movement into and out of the capital city, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale. Mandera was added to the list a month later.

Eastleigh and Kawangware are Covid-19 hotspots in Nairobi. The former and and Mombasa's Old Town were locked down for 15 days. The lockdown ends today.

Secondhand clothes hawkers outside Cianda market on Ronald Ngala street on May 11,.
BUSINESS IN UNUSUAL TIMES: Secondhand clothes hawkers outside Cianda market on Ronald Ngala street on May 11,.
Image: CHARLENE MALWA.

 

On Tuesday, pedestrian movement was a struggle on Ladhies Road, Ronald Ngala and Tom Mboya streets as hawkers had reclaimed their favourite spots on pavements.

The items on sale ranged from vegetables, cutlery, secondhand shoes and clothes, textbooks, fruits, mobile phone accessories, et al.

The hawkers were happy with the increased number of people in the CBD as that meant more business for them.

“Miezi mbili hatujauza vitu. Lakini sasa watu wamerudi town na tunapata wateja (We have been out of business for the past two months. But now that the CBD is full, we are getting customers),” Karen Wambui said.

They are conscious that they have to leave the CBD before 7pm curfew time. 

Bob Kipng’eno  said: “Due to curfew, we are even selling more items as people rushly buy and leave town early. We also want to return to our homes with money and food for the children."

City Inspectorate vehicle parked at Tom Mboya Street on May 20, 2020
City Inspectorate vehicle parked at Tom Mboya Street on May 20, 2020
Image: MAUREEN KINYANJUI

The rundown county inspectorate (kanjo) vehicles were also back to business off Kenya Archives on Tom Mboya Street.

Their occupants were out to control hawkers and prepared to engage them in the usual cat and mouse games.

Urchins and street families camped outside Naivas Supermarket on Moi Avenue, Chicken Inn opposite The Hilton and other outlets like Tuskys and Naivas on Ronald Ngala Street.

Public Service Vehicles along Tom Mboya Street on May 19, 2020
Public Service Vehicles along Tom Mboya Street on May 19, 2020
Image: MAUREEN KINYANJUI

 

The return of commuters to the CBD translates into heightened chaos and unruliness by public service vehicle operators.

Touts compete for commuters with PSV drivers honking horns. For them, it is  back to the good old ways.

Chaotic traffic starts from as early as 3pm as commuters board the PSVs to be home before curfew time.

Matatu Owners Association chairman Simon Kimutai told the Star they are hardly making profits, blaming this on the government’s directive that they should reduce capacity for passengers to maintain social distancing.

“Commuters have increased and some of the matatus we had grounded are back on the road. But we are still carrying almost half the required number of passengers. We are still not benefiting as we ought to,” Kimutai complained.

In March, the state ordered PSVs to carry fewer passengers to observe social distancing to limit the spread of the coronavirus. 

The 14-seater matatus were ordered to carry eight passengers, 25-seaters 15 and 30-seaters and above to maintain 60 per cent occupancy.

The travel ban into and out of Nairobi is said to be costing PSV operators Sh2 billion daily.

The crew as well as passengers must wear face masks and sanitise before boarding vehicles. The sanitiser is an added cost to the PSV operators.

- mwaniki fm

Bus station stage within the CBD Packed as of a normal day. Nairobians have gotten back to the hustle to be able to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic. May 11, 2020.
Bus station stage within the CBD Packed as of a normal day. Nairobians have gotten back to the hustle to be able to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic. May 11, 2020.
Image: CHARLENE MALWA