By Mourice Seretta
Stakeholders in the entertainment industry have asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to consider lifting the curfew and reducing the restrictions on their business to enable them get back to full productivity.
The stakeholders, consisting of restaurant operators, taxi operators and fresh produce suppliers, said the effect of measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 have badly affected their businesses and caused economic damage.
Speaking at a press conference in Nairobi, they lamented that even as they adhere to the measures, they are dismayed to see transporters, leaders and elected representatives breaking them with reckless abandon, and getting away with it.
“We would like to appeal to His Excellency the President to consider our plight and lift the restrictions on operating hours or reduce the curfew hours, if not do away with it altogether. If we continue operating in the current circumstances, our various sectors will continue on a dangerous downhill trend that is likely to result in more suffering and joblessness,” said Mike Muthamia, a board member at the Pubs, Entertainment.
The restaurant operators said more than 30% of their colleagues have had to close their establishments as a result of the pandemic.
“That’s about 16,000 businesses that have collapsed, and given that every restaurant employs at least 10 people, that’s about 160,000 people losing their livelihoods,” said Frank Mbogo, the chairman of the Nairobi chapter of the Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurants Association of Kenya.
With bars and restaurants working one shift instead of the usual two, he said, restaurant operators have been forced to reduce their staff by half, which means that close to 190,000 workers are out of jobs.
More than one million Kenyans have been affected by the closure as each worker is estimated to have five dependents.
The entertainment industry supports an entire chain of other sectors, such as taxi operators, bodaboda operators and fresh produce suppliers, and the closure of an establishment means that a lot more people suffer.
Christopher Tinega, who represents taxi operators in the Kilimani area of Nairobi, said a lot of his counterparts have been driven into poverty because of the virtual death of the business, which depends on transporting customers at night.
“We have been reduced to working one shift, where we are used to two. Most of the cars we have been taken on loan and when we are unable to operate at night, it means that we are unable to pay our lenders, and many cars have been taken back,” said Mr Tinega.
He said the business is dependent on others operating and the restrictions on operating hours for entertainment spots have had a dire effect on them.
“I request the President to lift the restrictions and allow the economy to operate 24 hours. We are now used to the measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 and we are ready and willing to abide by them,” he said.Nderitu Macharia, a farmer and fresh produce supplier, said having less patrons in bars has hurt their business and made it hard for them to make ends meet.