NAIROBI — Jessica Andere, a trader in western Kenyan county of Kakamega was a happy businesswoman on Friday when she visited an open-air market for the first time in three months and sold clothes — a business she has done for years.
The resumption of trade at the market known as Malava and others in western Kenya followed the lifting of restrictions by the local county government, which had barred congregation at the facilities to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“The market is full; people are back in business as we take precautions. They started over two weeks ago though for me it is the first time I am attending because I had to gather new stock,” Andere said.
For the three months that restrictions were in place, small scale traders that include those who run eateries, wholesale and retail shops and sell livestock, suffered as their sources of livelihoods were curtailed.
Besides Kakamega, at least 15 other Kenyan counties had shut down their major markets in the COVID-19 fight.
But business is brisk once again in the rural counties across Kenya, flourishing as the local governments lift restrictions to save livelihoods even as COVID-19 cases surge at an alarming level.
Kenya’s infections hit 20,636 on Friday after 723 more people tested positive for the disease, according to Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe.
In lifting the restrictions, the county governments are taking cue from the national government, which on July 7 lifted a partial lockdown that had restricted movement in and out of Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa.
“Once I come to the market, I am assured of going back home with at least 1,000 shillings (about 10 U.S. dollars), which is better than nothing,” said Andere, who visits various markets in the region every day of the week to sell clothes.
As many other traders in rural areas who sell new and second-hand clothes and other items, she sources them from Nairobi, in particular the open-air Gikomba market and in Eastleigh, a commercial hub on the outskirts of the capital.
The opening-up of the country has come as a major boost to the businesses in the rural areas as traders can source their wares from the capital unhindered.
This reopening of markets in rural areas has spiral effects on other businesses that include hotels and eateries and motorbike taxis.
Caroline Karimi, an avocado farmer in Murang’a County, said that with the selling points reopened in the region, market for the produce has increased, with traders visiting villages to collect the fruits.
Ernest Manuyo, a business lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi, said that resumption of rural businesses would help protect livelihoods as the country battles COVID-19.
“With no industries in rural areas, most residents rely on small businesses that include selling their agricultural produce at markets for survival. The markets are thus crucial. The county governments also collect revenues from the markets thus opening them is a huge boost to rural economies,” said Manuyo.