The Coronavirus outbreak was first reported in Nairobi, Kenya on 13th March 2020. Since then the country has reported over 98,000 confirmed cases from over one million tests, with over 1,700 deaths and about 81,000 recoveries as of 12th January 2021. As the cases continue to increase, more anxiety is being witnessed in the business community as the impacts arising from disruptions in global value-chains and massive loss of exports markets (horticulture, tea, coffee, fruits, etc.) and importation of crucial products (consumer and industrial products) from the affected regions as well as travel restrictions translate into job losses in allied sectors.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) is the apex body of the Private Sector in Kenya, consisting of individual corporate members as well as the Business Member Organizations (BMOs), including the Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs). KEPSA has been at the forefront of discerning the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the private sector and engaging the government to conjure appropriate response measures. These include undertaking assessments, engaging the government through National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus (NERCC), presenting strategic recommendations through the 11th Presidential Roundtable, setting up a KEPSA Covid-19 24-hour call centre, providing monthly updates of actions by private sector actors, building the capacity of private sector personnel, among others. Many interventions recommended by KEPSA have proved helpful to businesses and the economy and have been implemented by the government.
Upon confirmation of COVID-19 in the country, the Government of Kenya set out wide-range mitigation measures to contain the spread of the virus, key among them was the setting up the National Emergency Response Committee, led by the Ministry of Health. In support of the raft of measures set up by the Government, KEPSA undertook numerous steps to assist the private sector to respond and curb the spread of the virus. In March 2020, KEPSA conducted a rapid assessment on the impact of Coronavirus on businesses as the effect of the pandemic began to be felt across the globe. The survey covered businesses across 16 sectors of the economy, culminating in the development of the KEPSA Economic Management Framework for Covid-19 response. On average, 61 percent of the businesses reported negative business effects due to Covid-19 outbreak. The report also outlined major channels through which businesses have been impacted.
The Private Sector response towards Covid-19 and business continuity measures are articulated in the report titled, Economic Management Framework for Covid-19 Response. The framework focuses on Maintaining jobs and livelihoods; Prioritizing the health and safety of employees, communities, and healthcare workers; Protecting SMEs; Ensuring business and supply chain continuity; Mobilizing private sector capabilities and resources; Maintaining the highest ethical standards; avoiding moral hazard traps such as price spikes or producing or distributing lower quality products; Disseminating clear and accurate information frequently; and Promoting social stability. In a second survey conducted in April 2020, in which 2,466 businesses participated (75% were micro and small enterprises), the total number of jobs at risk was nearly 6million. Many of the businesses reported that they are facing operational challenges related to soaring costs and reduced revenues due to decreased economic activities.
In further response and support to its members, KEPSA has set up an online portal (www.COVID-19.ke) and a 24-Hr Call Centre, a toll-free number (1196), which had recorded over 10,000 calls by end of December 2020; developed an engagement mechanism through weekly webinars, mobilized its members to donate cash, food, soap and other detergents, thermometers, ventilators and PPEs; supported logistics for distribution of donated items; supported communications through advertisements; as well as building the capacity of businesses to enhance e-commerce and web-based training sessions through a partnership with Jumia.
On the social front, KEPSA has been pursuing numerous partnerships to help respond to the needs of businesses and membership organizations, to ensure that the businesses keep running during this period of the pandemic as well as after. Among these is a proposal to establish business recovery hubs at both County and National levels to offer services such as debt restructuring, HR and labour laws advisory, and operational efficiency. Notable during this period has been the rise in sexual, and gender-based violence such as rape, sexual assault and defilement. KEPSA is also exploring partnership aimed at providing psycho-social support as well as other deliberate initiatives targeting Women/youth-owned MSMEs. KEPSA would want to enhance awareness by advocating for the establishment of half-way centres, hotlines, mediation centres for SGBV cases.
In partnership with UNDP, KEPSA is implementing the project ‘Supporting an Inclusive and Multi-Sectoral Response to Covid-19 and Addressing its Socio-Economic Impact in Kenya’. Specifically, the project aims to enhance the work that KEPSA has been doing through the sub-committee on disaster risk management to develop a return to work protocols and promote awareness and compliance with government guidelines among KEPSA members. KEPSA’s mandate includes partnering with government and other stakeholders on policy and strategy on economic development and creating a conducive business environment for both foreign and local businesses to invest and be sustainable in order to create jobs and wealth.
COVID-19 PROTOCOLS WORKSHOP FOR BUSINESS OPERATORS IN TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY SECTOR – MOMBASA
The UNDP global response on Covid-19 targeting MSMEs is inspired by UN Secretary General’s appeal that points the world to ‘… above all… focus on people – women, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and on vulnerable groups who are already at risk.’ UNDP’s programme offers for Covid-19 is anchored in its development approach and in supporting country-level preparedness and response to immediate needs in line with the national contingency plan. It also seeks to seize the opportunity to support recovery efforts for the medium to longer-term based on a 3×3 Covid-19 integrated policy and programmatic offer.
The UNDP 3×3 programme and policy offer entails:
- supporting countries to strengthen their health systems to respond to Covid-19 which includes the procurement of health products and medical supplies, and supporting health infrastructure
- setting up a Whole-of-Society response bringing all local and national authorities, civil society and private sector around the table
- addressing the socio-economic and human rights impacts of Covid-19 and safeguarding progress towards achieving the SDGs
UNDP Kenya received a grant from the Japanese Supplementary Budget (JSB) for the project, ‘Supporting an Inclusive and Multi-Sectoral Response to Covid-19 and Addressing its Socio-Economic Impact in Kenya.’ The project is premised on UNDP Global office and is aimed at supporting the country to mobilize an effective, multi-sectoral, equitable, inclusive, human rights-focused crisis response to Covid-19. In line with this goal, the project will support civil society organizations and the private sector (including business networks and MSMEs) in the response to Covid-19, and build strategic engagements for disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness, response and recovery for Covid-19 among the private sector.