The widespread closing of small enterprises in Kenya and other parts of the world due to COVID-19 has been unprecedented. The pandemic, which started a year ago, has seen factories, stores and other businesses close due to policy measures, health concerns and other factors.
While the Kenya government has partially opened the economy, it is obvious that the virus’s effects will linger around for a while. The outcome is that some businesses will likely never bounce back, and those that are actively running are yet to hit full operation as was the case before coronavirus.
Organizations such as Coca-Cola have recognized the need to give the affected business a boost that could see them stay afloat. The beverage company partnered with the likes of TRM, as well as lender ABSA to provide financial aid to the affected groups.
In the last couple of weeks, the Kenya Coca-Cola Team visited the Coast to reach out to affected businesses, some of which have successfully continued to grow amid the pandemic.
Yasmin Kamir , for instance, runs Eriza Investment Limited that is located in Ukunda. According to her narration, she started her business career at a hardware store, and noticed that the demand for soda was high. At that time, she secured 100 bottles through a loan, and made the business an extra source of income. Yasmin says that she collected KES 10 in profits from each bottle sold, and employed 6 workers.
The business has been growing over the last 7 years, and currently, she is one of the major distributors at Ukunda and Diani, as well as Mwatate and Samburu. At the moment, she has 50 employees, and has empowered many women in the process.
Coastal Bottlers has also been instrumental in helping her expand the business. The distributor helped her with a loan for expansion and another to track sales. Yasmin says that all was well until the pandemic started. For 5 months, the volume of sales stalled because shops, nightclubs and restaurants were closed. Nevertheless, the coastal bottlers were lenient as they allowed the distribution center to reduce the number of tracks in order to cut costs incurred such as fuel expenses. The bottlers also issued products in credit form and accepted payments in installments.
Other businesses that also reported low sales during the pandemic include Karanja CBL shop, which is run by Elias Karanja He is one of the major distributors, and has been selling Coca-Cola products for nearly two decades.
Salim Mohamed of the Ahmed Salim Proprietor Dishes in Kikambala reports the same business constraints brought forth by the pandemic. His hotel, which employs 20 workers, has been seeing less and less customers.
David Yegon, whose West Mainland Distributor serves the Changamwe area and other parts of the Island, has been a Coca-Cola partner for the last 18 years. He started the company with two trucks, but business successes have grown the fleet to 20. While the pandemic hit other businesses badly, he says his enterprise was not affected as much thanks to the nature of the business (consumer industry).
The cases laud Coca-Cola involvement in their plight with access to credit and safety products such as sanitizers and masks to their establishments.
The interviews with the mentioned groups show that most major industries faced large drops in the number of active business owners with a couple of exceptions. Construction, restaurants, hotels, transportation, and personal/laundry services all faced large declines in the number of active business owners due to COVID-19.
Overall, the overall estimates of impacts of COVID-19 on small businesses from the over the months indicate that losses were spread across demographic groups and types of business – no group was immune to negative impacts of social distancing policy mandates and demand shifts. But the activities also reveal a partial bounce back for all groups thanks to efforts made by organizations such as Coca-Cola. Although there is no way to know at this time if these business closures will be permanent each month of inactivity has an impact on the revenues, profits, and employees of these businesses.