More than five million people in the informal sector of Kenya, the country’s largest employer, have been around since March 2020, when Kenya first reported its first positive case of COVID-19 and taken tough measures to contain its spread, according to the Federation of Kenya Employers lost their jobs.
The Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics says that’s in addition to the 1.7 million people who lost their jobs between March and June this year.
COVID-19 emerges as an economic crisis for Kenya, in which, according to the statistics bureau, 63% of lost jobs are among young workers between the ages of 20 and 29.
The computer scientist Don Adrian Ingutia (27) is facing another uncertain day.
He is a freelance loan seller. His earnings depend on the number of people in need of quick money and he can persuade them to take out loans.
Times are tough, however, and there are many days, weeks when he is not making a sale.
“It’s hard, it’s really, really tough, the last month has been really tough for me because I haven’t published a sale and if you don’t book a sale, you can’t earn anything,” says Ingutia, who lives in Nairobi.
It was not always like this. The 27-year-old worked in a clothing factory that shipped designer jeans to the United States until COVID-19 crossed the coast into Kenya.
“They said it was about COVID, they said look at us, COVID affects us, there are no more deliveries that are no longer coming,” he says.
He then joined at least 1.7 million Kenyans who lost their jobs between March and June last year due to restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19.
âIf I sell a loan today, I take an advance instead of waiting for the month end to be paid out so I can survive. Rent is an issue, I used to pay the rent on time, today even the landlord is like you are really doing. “
Jacqueline Mugo, CEO of the Federation of Kenya Employers, says COVID has brought a degree of despair.
âCOVID-19 has brought a degree of despair and hopelessness as you in the government know that we are in dire straits, the country is broke, we didn’t have the money to run the various services we operate want. âexplains Mugo.
The African Development Bank estimates that nearly 2 million Kenyans fell into poverty in 2020, statistics from the Federation of Kenya Employers paint an even bleak picture, especially in the informal sector, which employs at least 83% of Kenyans.
âThe FKE carried out a survey this year to see how the impact on the informal sector worked out specifically in three counties, and these are the numbers that we extrapolate from the numbers we have collected, 34% of jobs in the informal sector would have been lost, if we extrapolate this at the national level, then this year we seem to have wiped out 5.1 million jobs as a result of COVID-19, “says Mugo.
The rescue packages introduced by the government last year to cushion those affected by the pandemic did not reach the informal sector and many unemployed people like Ingutia were out of luck, and aid in the form of cash transfers did not reach them. And although East Africa’s largest economy has vaccinated less than 2% of its population, it is relying on vaccinations to fully reopen the economy.
“It is impossible to say how quickly we can recover because once we are vaccinated they say we have vaccinated, work somewhere near normal to the extent that we cannot vaccinate quickly enough to pick up and move on”, says Mugo.