Even before President Kenyatta reopened the country further, many people were chafing under the restrictions meant to save lives and hoping the easing would bring life back to normal. There was a pervasive air of quiet rebellion and open defiance, not at the Government, but at the pandemic itself.
Individuals will never again feel comfortable mingling in huge gatherings, even during happy occasions like weddings. Affectionate hugs and pecks on the cheek are called for, people will try to limit such activities to their lovers and close family members. And thousands of senior citizens unless they are suicidal, will continue keeping away from church buildings and make peace with their maker in the comfort of their homes.
Needless to say, a number of people will still die of Covid-19 or related causes, hopefully, not too many, and that’s the crux of the matter. This is because nobody can say for sure whether we have hit the peak or whether there will be a second wave of infections, which is why they are urging Kenyans not to relax in the observance of the protocols needed worldwide to contain the pandemic. But is anyone listening?
In a rural setting where people long ago gave up wearing masks outdoors. In fact, those of us who persist look like misfits, and indeed, it does look a little odd for you to be the only one wearing that prophylactic when you interact with shopkeepers, butchers, green-grocers and market women who look at you as though you are out of your mind.
Some say reports about Corona were grossly exaggerated, while others say it was a ploy by the Government to attract donor funding. They have related their suffering and why people should protect themselves. Did anybody listen to the harrowing tale told by Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna on his near-death experience when he was laid low by Covid-19? If such a narrative cannot move the reluctant few, nothing can.
Yet the bull-headed denial persists, which is strange. For a change, it is the Government which is ahead of the people. When drinking dens were opened, the happiest people on earth were bar-owners and the proprietors of hotels and fast-food eateries. The second happiest were, of course, social drinkers and revelers. So they may well be forgiven for eagerly rehearsing dance steps to the unforgettable Jerusalema.
However, they should do so with caution; we are not out of the woods yet and the fact that a number of highly developed countries had to re-impose lockdowns in their cities after they were hit by a second wave of infections, speaks volumes.
There is always the danger that our next generation will be replete with morons, but that is a small price to pay considering that the alternative is so unthinkable.
The teenage girls cannot remember how many men they have had to sleep with within the seven months since COVID-19 closed their schools, or how many of those men used protection.
Painfully, they recall times when they were sexually assaulted and then beaten up when they asked to be paid — as little as $1 — to help feed their families as jobs evaporated during the pandemic.
From their rented room in Kenya´s capital, the girls say the risk of getting infected with the coronavirus or HIV does not weigh heavily on them in a time when survival is paramount.
“If you get $5 in these streets, that is gold,” says a 16-year-old, seated on the small bed she shares with the 17-year-old and 18-year-old she calls her “best friends forever.” They split the $20 rent in a building where every room is home to fellow sex workers.
According to UNICEF, the U.N. children´s agency, recent gains in the fight against child labor are at risk because of the pandemic. The world could see the first rise in the number of working children since 2000. The U.N. warns that millions of children may be forced into exploitative and hazardous jobs, and school closures exacerbate the problem.
Mary Mugure, a former sex worker, launched Night Nurse to rescue girls who followed her path. She says since schools in Kenya closed in March, up to 1,000 schoolgirls have become sex workers in the three Nairobi neighborhoods she monitors. Most are trying to help their parents with household bills.
The youngest, Mugure says, is 11.
Each of the three girls sharing a room was raised with several siblings by a single mother. They saw their mothers´ sources of income vanish when Kenya´s government clamped down to prevent the spread of the virus.
Two of their mothers had been washing clothes for people who lived near their low-income neighborhood of Dandora. But as soon as the first local virus case was confirmed, nobody wanted them in their homes, the girls say. The third mother was selling potatoes by the roadside, a business that collapsed because of a new curfew.
As eldest children, the girls say they took it upon themselves to help their mothers feed their families.
The girls had been spending their free time as part of a popular dance group, and they were paid for gigs. But when public gatherings were restricted, that income ended.
“Now I can get my mom ($1.84) every day and that helps her to feed the others,” one of the girls says.
Elsewhere in Nairobi, single mother Florence Mumbua and her three children — ages 7, 10, and 12 — crack rocks at a quarry in the sweltering heat.
The work is backbreaking and hazardous, but the 34-year-old Mumbua says she was left without a choice after she lost her cleaning job at a private school when pandemic restrictions were imposed.
“I have to work with (the children) because they need to eat and yet I make little money,” she says. “When we work as a team, we can make enough money for our lunch, breakfast, and dinner.”
In Dandora, 15-year-old Dominic Munyoki and 17-year-old Mohamed Nassur rummage through Kenya´s largest landfill, scavenging for scrap metal to sell.
Munyoki´s mother, Martha Waringa, a 35-year-old single parent who also scavenges, says her son´s wages will help pay his seven siblings´ school fees when classes resume.
Similarly, Nassur´s mother, 45-year-old Ann Mungai, doesn´t see anything wrong with her son helping with the family´s daily needs.
“When he started working, I realized that it is helpful as he does not sit idle at home or play video games that are not beneficial to him,” she says. “But when he goes to work, he earns money that helps us. He also buys clothes such as shirts and shoes for himself.”
Phillista Onyango, who leads the Kenya-based African Network for the Protection and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, says with schools closed, parents in low-income neighborhoods prefer to have children work instead of staying home, where they can slide into drug abuse and crime.
Onyango says enforcement of child labor laws has been lax. Kenya´s employment act defines a child as someone under 18. It allows the employment of children 13 to 16 for part-time and “light work duties.” Those who are 16 to 18 can work in industry and construction, though not at night.
According to a U.S. Department of Labor report last year, Kenya has made “moderate advancement” in eliminating the worst forms of child labor, such as sexual exploitation, but there is still work to be done.
Kenya had 85 labor inspectors, probably too few to police a workforce of more than 19 million workers, the report says.
Kenya has started easing restrictions on movement and public gatherings due to the country´s relatively low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and plans a phased reopening of schools this month. But Onyango says many children who started working when schools closed will not return.
Sub-Saharan Africa already had the world´s highest rates of children out of school. Nearly a fifth of children between 6 and 11 — and more than a third of youth between 12 and 14 — do not attend, according to UNICEF.
The 16-year-old sex worker and her two friends say they hope they won´t be doing this for the rest of their lives, but they think their chances of returning to class are remote.
“Where we come from, we were some sort of role models,” the 16-year-old says. “Our neighborhood, if you get to 16 without getting pregnant and still in school, then you have made it. Having avoided pregnancies, we were this close to graduating from high school and making history.”
Kenya’s economy is expected to bounce back with the improved performance of the agricultural sector, according to a new report.
According to the report released in London by Scope Markets, Kenya’s economy is expected to grow at almost 2% in 2020 driven by improved agricultural performance as export markets open up with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. This improved performance is expected to impact the entire value chain positively considering the dominance of agriculture as a key sector in the Kenyan economy.
The analysts noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on all businesses and sectors within the Kenyan economy, but with the easing of restrictions in key export markets, the agricultural sector was set for a rebound in 2021/ 2022.
The country’s major agricultural exports are tea, coffee, cut flowers, and vegetables. Kenya is also the world’s leading exporter of black tea and cut-flowers. Agriculture is key to Kenya’s economy, contributing between 27 percent to 33 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 27 percent of GDP indirectly through linkages with other sectors. The sector employs more than 40 percent of the total population and more than 70 percent of Kenya’s rural dwellers.
Scope markets note that the performance of East Africa’s biggest economy is expected to improve significantly with a 17 percent increase in tea export earnings to US $850 million (Ksh9.1 billion) in the first eight months of 2020. Flower exports are also recovering as European markets ease lockdowns, which is critical considering the European market accounts for 70 percent of Kenya’s cut-flower exports.
The analysts indicate that the significant recovery of the agricultural sector is expected to catalyze accelerated economic recovery with the US $750 million (Ksh8 billion) World Bank grant putting the sector on a firm recovery path.
While the positive signs of recovery are visible, budget funding is a cause of concern for the Kenyan economy. The budget gap of East Africa’s biggest economy is seen at Ksh840.6 billion ($7.8 billion) in the current fiscal year or 7.5% of the Gross Domestic Product. Kenya, however, declined the G-20’s offer on debt relief because it would have a negative impact on existing commercial lending terms.
In Kenya, as in many other countries, State corporations and enterprises are known to be the critical engine of productive economic activities.
Globally, it is estimated that at least one-third of the world’s gross product and one-half of the world’s profitable public investments are accounted for by governmental enterprises or corporations. These State firms perform crucial functions and are found in almost all sectors.
According to the Inspectorate of State Corporations, there are about 220 State corporations and enterprises. They are the engine for driving the Kenyan economy and the achievement of Vision 2030, Kenya one, Kenya first, Kenya the best.
They run electric utilities, broadcasting and postal services, national irrigation projects, railroads, airline and airports, sea ports, pension funds, hospitals, public highways, water boards, wildlife, universities, housing schemes, agriculture, livestock trade and micro- and small-enterprises among others. These State organisations are valuable means to ‘rebuild the ship of State’, plank by plank, while it remains steady and afloat.”
The proliferation of State corporations are driven by the fact that they have been recognised as mechanisms, which allows for more autonomy, business like effectiveness, efficiency and agile strategic management than is thought to be available from government bureaucrats.
Public authorities or enterprises represent a kind of managerial capitalism approach, where managers of State enterprises vigorously pursue the interests of the stakeholders, the Kenyan public, in a manner which is effective, revenue- producing and self-sustaining.
The national goals to which State enterprises, and corporations or even commissions are expected to play critical roles are, full employment, economic productivity growth, security and stability. Yet, careful reviews of the past performance of Kenya’s State corporations and enterprises show that whereas some often perform very well, majority of them have crisis with their finances, key stakeholders and effective, sustainable delivery of their mandates, thereby making them a burden on the National Treasury.
For instance, what has happened to Kenya Meat Commission (KMC)? KMC was and still is a State enterprise with great potential, but never gained its foothold. The equivalent of KMC in Zambia is Zambeef.
Zambeef makes annual profit of about Sh300 million. In 1996, Kenya National Transport Company (Kenatco), unable to repay a loan of Sh17 million from National Bank of Kenya, was put under receivership. The loan has grown to Sh1.2 billion. People ask why? Apparently, for the past 24 years, it had hopes of rescue based on a post-dated cheque drawn on a bank above the clouds.
Government Employees and the State Officers Pension Fund have been described as “a time bomb”. The pension bill is expected to rise to more than Sh100 billion annually. This is not sustainable. Buildings cannot be held together by the weight of their roofs rather than by the strength of the foundations.
We could borrow a leaf from South Africa where the value of Government Employees Pension Fund is more than $180billion. Despite all these challenges, the State corporations and enterprises can be engineered to become the pride of the nation, super achievers.
There are two sides to the progressive improvements of organisations, the external and the internal. Reinventing a new strategic vision for State corporations or enterprises is no different. The logic of nature and the reality power of wisdom complement one another.
Leaders of State corporations and enterprises are expected to be high class, agile professionals, knowledge workers, who can manage well complexity, change, and the political environment and service delivery systems.
They are expected to be good in empowering their staff, clarifying and balancing among goals and conducting strategic planning. Only can the country overcome the challenges of what Prof Ali Mazrui described as ‘the pathology of mal-administration, technical backwardness and poverty of ideas.’
In short, the country’s corporations and enterprises have no choice, but to deliver their assigned mandates, results effectively for the nation to achieve its goals, Vision 2030 and the President’s Big Four Agenda.
The Ministry of Public Service and Gender should lead the way in this regard. It should organise a summit for all State corporations, enterprises, authorities and commissions to map out the best ways forward to make them super achievers of their mandates. The country’s promise and goals deserve nothing less.
With deep pockets and international networks, they are an asset to any political campaign — the ultimate power brokers.
The wealthy businessmen reportedly bankroll campaigns for top presidential contenders and other candidates for various seats. However, most of them prefer to pull the strings away from the public eye.
The secrecy is sometimes because some hedge their bets with different political camps, so that whichever side wins, they identify with the victors.
However, others have openly declared support, and are actively involved in campaigns by hosting delegations to sell their preferred candidates.
Every region has these tycoons. In places such as Mt Kenya, they have formed an influential lobby that manipulates the political direction.
The Council of Eminent Persons, chaired by the wealthy Mr Joe Kibe, draws membership from billionaires, particularly from Murang’a County.
Members of the council include Dr Nyamu Njoka, who is the secretary, former Equity Bank chairman Peter Munga, the coordinator, Royal Media Services chairman Samuel Macharia, and former Cabinet minister Maina Wanjigi.
Billionaire Chris Kirubi has been among the wealthy businessmen, who have had a role in President Kenyatta’s campaigns.
Wealthy businessman Jimi Wanjigi has had key roles in Jubilee’s campaigns in 2013 and thereafter, in Mr Odinga’s presidential run under the National Super Alliance (NASA) in 2017.
In Ukambani, tycoon Peter Muthoka, who backed the President’s campaigns as well as the Jubilee parliamentary and civic candidates in 2017, is emerging as the region’s power broker.
Mr Muthoka, who runs Acceler Global Logistics, one of Kenya’s largest transport and logistics firms, is caught up in a supremacy tussle with gemstone dealer Johnstone Muthama.
Mr Muthama, a former Machakos Senator, for long financed the Wiper Party and backed the opposition NASA coalition in 2017, but has since had a falling-out with Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka.
Mr Muthama is now campaigning for Deputy President William Ruto.
In Coast, tycoon Mohammed Jaffer, owner of Grain Bulk Handlers Ltd, has in the past been mentioned as among the financiers of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s presidential campaigns.
The trader has never sought a political seat, but his influence in the region’s politics is known, as is that of Mr Abubakar Joho.
Such is the influence of Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s elder brother that he is nicknamed “Alpha”.
Mombasa billionaire Suleiman Shahbal, who unsuccessfully vied for the Governor’s seat in the past two elections, is also a key player.
Another influential figure is Mombasa Cement Company owner Hasmukh Patel.
In the Rift Valley, prominent figures in former President Moi’s government, wealthy hoteliers, and tycoons such as David Lagat, the founder of the DL Group of companies, as well as Mr. Bundotich Zedekiah alias Buzeki, reportedly hold sway.
They include the likes of Mr. Sam Mburu (alias Kiongozi), a close ally of the DP, Mr. Maina Waweru, and Mr. Joseph Muya, who owns hotels in Nakuru.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s elder brother Abubakar Joho and tycoons Mohammed Jaffer, Suleiman Shahbal, and Hasmukh Patel are among the personalities reported to influence the region’s politics behind the scenes.
Mr. Jaffer, the owner of Grain Bulk Handlers Ltd, has been linked to political activities by ODM party leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto, and former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar.
The Nation is aware that Mr. Jaffer sponsored Mr Odinga in his 2013 presidential bid before they had a falling-out. He supported Mr Omar in his 2017 run for Governor, which he lost to Mr John.
The billionaire, who is the country’s largest provider of grain bulk cargo handling, is currently close to President Kenyatta.
“Politics and business thrive together. When he finances someone, there must be some future interest,” said a close associate of Mr Jaffer, who also enjoys influence in Lamu County politics.
For his financial and political muscle, Mr Abubakar Joho is nicknamed “Alpha”.
Fondly referred to as Abu, the older Joho has immense clout in Mombasa — from ward to County level politics.
“He has the power that is respected by all and sundry in the region,” said a former employee at the County Government of Mombasa.
In 2017, he hand-picked current County Speaker Aharub Khatri for the seat. He was unopposed.
Mr Joho also sponsored his relative, Mr Said Abdallah alias Saido, for the Nyali parliamentary seat, but he lost to Independent candidate Mohammed Ali.
“I’m being fought by Abu, but I stand with God. There are forces who are forcing me out, but I have stood my ground and I will fight my way in,” said Mr Ali at the height of the election campaigns.
Another person moving things behind the scenes is Mr Hasmukh Patel, the owner of Mombasa Cement Company.
“There is an important philanthropist. It will be unfair if I do not recognise him for the work he has done. This is Mr Hasmukh of Mombasa Cement,” Mr Joho once said of Mr Patel at a function attended by President Kenyatta in Mombasa.
The Governor was referring to Mr Patel’s contribution to the Sh700 million transformation of Kibarani from a filthy dumpsite to a beautiful recreational park.
At one time, Mr Patel donated more than 50 lorries for garbage collection.
Another individual reported to pull strings is Mr Idris Abdirahman, who once served in the Prime Minister’s office as political adviser.
The retired major, who has also served in Mr Joho’s County government in different positions, including as the Governor’s political adviser, has positioned himself among those who drive the regional politics.
Reports indicate that it’s Mr Abdirahman who brought Dr William Kingi to join Mr Joho as his running mate after the Governor fell out with Hazel Katana, who served as deputy in the first term.
Now, as Mr Joho’s term comes to an end, Mr Abdirahman is reported to have brokered a deal between the Governor and his rival Mr Shahbal who plans to succeed him.
Mr Abdirahman is believed to have planned several meetings between Mr Shahbal and Mr Odinga.
After the National COVID-19 Conference was held, it must see its role as articulating and recommending a comprehensive post-corona rejuvenation programme for Kenya.
This is informed by the fact that Kenya seems to have surmounted the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, eight months after the first case landed in March 2020. It is time to look towards the future.
The corona pandemic has impacted all aspects of Kenya’s body politic immensely. From an economic, social or psychological standpoint, nothing has been spared. That is why the National COVID-19 Conference was to see its role as being beyond mere “economic recovery,” or “reopening of the economy.”
On the economic front, the key challenge is the resuscitation of businesses that closed or are struggling due to coronavirus. The country must work out ways in which businesses get support to jumpstart. Only through reviving businesses will the country reinstate people’s jobs and livelihoods. This is a quick win.
From a psychological perspective, the country needs to heal. The corona pandemic has created huge mental stresses in people. It has afflicted all alike, whether adults or children, due to huge anxieties over the future. For once, the country needs to think outside the box, and the National COVID-19 Conference has led the way.
Corona has traumatised Kenyans. Job losses, gender-based violence, severe anxiety as a result of business collapse and job losses, hopelessness and resignation, all these have afflicted Kenyans. A programme of healing the nation must be put in place to assist people reset back to normal psychologically.
A national network of counsellors, within reach of all Kenyans who need it, needs to be instituted immediately under the Ministry of Health. With many people in “their right frame of mind,” so to speak, recovery of the country will go much faster.
Support systems must also be set up for the lives shattered during the corona pandemic. These include children who were abused, women who suffered domestic violence, and victims of police over exuberance in enforcing the curfews among others.
Thousands of schoolgirls have been impregnated during the pandemic as schools have remained closed. For many of these girls, their lives are destroyed, as they will not return to school. Worse, they will now enter into a vicious cycle of poverty as young mothers who will struggle to make ends meet, bring up their children in poverty so that they also never get a proper education and the cycle continues.
Because of the corona restrictions, many of the victims were unable to find any support systems. The Government must combine with religious leaders and civil society organisations to assist these girls not only to raise these children, but also to go back and finish school. The same goes for many schoolboys who have fallen into drugs and crime.
The National Emergency Response on Coronavirus (NERC) must, of course, tell the country the measures they have put in place to ensure that the country is not hit by a second wave. Countries across Europe, and others like Israel, have just imposed the draconian restrictions they had when the first wave hit, having reversed all their gains in the fight. Kenya must avoid a second wave at all costs.
Human issues are what the National COVID-19 Conference must be about. The work of combating the pandemic seems to be in capable hands with the NERC, and it is unlikely that there is anything on that front that stakeholders at the conference can add.
Their real value addition will be mapping and tackling the humanitarian crisis that the pandemic has created.