Has your regular visiting pattern to personal care specialists such as your barber, hairdresser, massage therapist, dental hygienist and cosmetologist changed as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The answer is most certainly yes. It has been 18 months since the first reported case in Kenya. Social distancing, which has become the norm to counter the menace has resulted in poor demand and dampened the business environment.
Some firms have been affected more than others, however no business has remained unharmed. A crisis of demand is still brewing in Kenya and around the globe.
There has been increased disruption in global value chains and manufacturing. Economies of scale have been hit as has the ability of producers to meet capacity.
The ripple effect includes negative demand for most consumer durables. As per recent numbers released by the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, out of a workforce of approximately 17.4 million, 738,000 jobs were shed during the year 2020, with informal workers including small traders and artisans being worst affected. These numbers could now be larger.
The Kenyan tourism industry, which is usually the greatest foreign exchange earner for the nation, faced most damage due to lockdowns and a sharp drop in tourists partly due to travel restrictions placed worldwide.
Visitor numbers fell 70 per cent year-on-year as international coronavirus travel restrictions hit the industry. Many hotels, restaurants and bars have had to close shop.
Lack of revenue
Many professions including physical therapists, hair stylists, cosmetologists, dental hygienists, restaurateurs, and artisans have been most affected. There is a lack of revenue for small and specialised traders who have no means to pay expenses related to the operation of their workspaces. Most of the businesses still have monthly fixed costs to pay and retaining trained and skilled staff is a challenge due to a sharp decline in revenues.
Businesses and professions requiring face-to-face interaction continue to suffer. Many schools have resumed physical tutoring with strict adherence to regulations issued by the Ministry of Health, however, learning keeps fluctuating from physical to virtual, owing to the variants of the pandemic requiring home-study to maintain health safety.
High school teachers can deliver lectures via web based applications, the teaching quality, however, is lower in comparison to interactive sessions in classrooms where there is less electrical/mechanical and internet disruption, the teacher can study the body language of students and demand attention.
Similarly investment advisors, stock brokers and bank branch managers in financial services continue to liaise with clients through online and telephone banking, although, in some cases their ability to sell new products is constrained.
Supplementary services deemed as nonessential, have been affected greatly and in some countries suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Industries, which are less likely to prosper via home-based labour remain exposed to additional job losses.
These include lodging and food services, notwithstanding home deliveries as well as retail trade where worker layoffs in restaurants and department stores are becoming increasingly commonplace.
Most hairdressers, remedial therapists and individuals practicing similar professions report that though they have had a decline in demand for their services, they are nevertheless staying in touch with their clients.
Individuals in face-to-face jobs or professions requiring personal meetings and communication have a skill set which most professions may lack. A massage therapist’s job involves talking to clients, active listening, building rapport and a relationship with the client through professional customer service, excellent time management skills and compassion, together with vast knowledge and experience relating remedial treatment.
For those affected most by social distancing, it is no longer enough to have simply passion. In some cases, individuals would look for alternate means to earn a living.
Many are creatively hosting online classes, including on some topics that are not necessarily specific to their profession, and more focused on wellness themes, however, this is a short-term strategy and does not generate the desired revenue. Most of the professions deemed non-essential require individuals to have a variety of skills.
Individuals with such vast skill sets can easily transition into alternate professions where their communication skills come in handy. Some clients are willing to take the risk and resume their previous regiments, most are unwilling to take chances.
Since the onset of the pandemic many city dwellers who have families in the rural areas and have lost their sources of income due to the prolonged effect of this pandemic on their livelihood, whilst having little savings have shifted to the rural homesteads where they can depend on decent meals owing to the farming they would do.
During these times, it is most alarming and unfortunate that the residents of Kenya expect the costs of goods, electricity and transport to increase as a sharp rise in fuel prices was announced in early September. Mankind, during the last two years has been confronted with unexpected challenges and has mostly risen to them. One can only wish that we all continue to evolve.
Ritesh Barot is a business and financial analyst, humanitarian, conservationist, occasional artist, recipient of OGW honor. [email protected]