[Column] Lulu Kiritu: Effects of Covid-19, Will it get easier

Covid-19 has in a big way affected the world. Businesses are now looking to the lifting of the travel bans and restrictions with the hope of adapting to the ‘new normal’. The 6th of July 2020 is a date that every Kenyan looked forward to, with the hope of an ease in the movement within the country. There are great speculations that the ease of movements will help ease businesses. With the current economic and financial situation, individuals, companies and the economy at large has experienced major blows. According to a survey released by the Trends and Insights for Africa (TIFA) research, about   69 percent of Kenyans have reduced earning and 43 percent of them have completely lost their sources of income. Companies have also had no choice but to either send some their employees’ home or reduce their salaries. 

Since the announcement of the ‘lockdown’, certain sectors and industries have been affected. The tourism and trade sector have been hit the hardest given that no flights are allowed in and out of the country.  According to the Kenya Trade Network Agency, the registration of trade permits has decreased by 50 percent since the pandemic. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics as well released statistics indicating that the value of total exports decreased from Sh64.48 billion in March to Sh43.21 billion in April, while the value of imports decreased from Sh137.77 billion to Sh119.75 billion. This is a clear indication of the drop in imports and exports in the country. Kenyan businesses heavily rely on imports and as a result of the drop in imports, a lot of the have been affected. 

As a result of the declining growth in businesses, the rate of unemployment has risen. The tourism industry, for instance is quite a big employer. The effect on the industry has had effects on all other interconnected industries such as energy, agriculture and manufacturing. Suppliers and service providers in the industry have experienced a low demand. I recently had a conversation with an employee in the tourism industry and I was able to clearly understand the kind of effect this pandemic has had on the sector. Most tourism companies have had to re-think their business strategy. As most companies are heavily reliant on International trade, most of them have had to restructure the business around domestic tourism.  Other businesses have also had to re-structure their business models and look for innovative way of making money during the pandemic.

Despite the hardships and negative effects Covid-19 has brought about, it is good to look at things on the brighter side. Being in isolation or locked away in our homes for example, has provided an opportunity for us to restructure and re-strategize our lives and most importantly, our businesses. Most businesses have in this time discovered the power of online media. Our justice system, for instance, recently launched an e-filling platform where people will be required to file their cases online. In the same way, Kenya Trade Network Agency has ensured that they provide an efficient and fast online platform to aid in the transparent lodgment of trade documentation for importers and exporters. This has helped facilitate fast and easy importation and exportation even during this time of the pandemic. The systems in place will ensure that faster and safer trading continues even after the pandemic. One of the services, I-Screen, has been quite effective in the prevention of trading with fraudsters especially during this period where crime rates have increased. 

The recent directive from the president has stirred a lot of hope for trade and the economy. According to statistics from the World Bank Group, the opening of borders in a large way contribute to the enhancement of trade and in return, a growing economy. I believe that despite the ongoing pandemic, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, businesses will go back to how they used to be and the rate of unemployment will decrease. We shall overcome!

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