Kenya’s economy on path to recovery

What you need to know:

  • Our healthcare system is more prepared to contain the spread of the virus

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government was confronted with a difficult task: it had to choose between guaranteeing the health and safety of our citizens and maintaining the county’s economic growth. Unfortunately, neither of these goals could be attained in full simultaneously.

 A balancing act was required. President Uhuru Kenyatta to strike the perfect and delicate balance in pursuing both. So far, he has succeeded. Our healthcare system is now more prepared than ever to contain the spread of the virus while key sectors of our economy are registering growth.

Besides peoples’ fear of catching or unwittingly spreading the virus, many Kenyans quickly understood that the deterioration of our economic safety net is posing a threat to our wellbeing. When the government introduced the first round of restrictions on movement to contain the spread of the virus in March, tourism and transport sector professionals suddenly found themselves out of job. Looking back, we now know that it was absolutely necessary to shut down our borders and limit our movement within the country in order to curb the first wave of the outbreak.

The first round of restrictive policies gave our healthcare system time to prepare for later stages in our response to Covid-19. With the mandatory dusk-to-dawn curfew, the closing of public spaces and social distancing measures, we effectively avoided the worst-case scenario of an explosive outbreak, similar to what Italy, Spain and the United States experienced. Although the number of newly registered active cases gradually grew over the subsequent weeks, numbers registered have been relatively low compared to our population. Recorded growth also has a lot to do with our government’s continuing efforts to increase testing capacity.

More important than the recent spike in new cases of infection is the even larger rate of recovery in Kenya. This success is related to the government’s dedication to building our healthcare system.

Not only did the government introduce a Covid-19- emergency package worth Sh40 billion, but it has been on the lookout for international partnerships to bolster Kenya’s response to the virus. Such advanced planning is why Kenya received an additional Sh79 billion loan from the IMF to fight the pandemic and how the UN came to partner with the Nairobi Hospital to build a Sh1 billion Covid-19 treatment and research facility.

The increasing quality of our healthcare system contributed to the fact that Kenya’s case-fatality ratio has been kept at a relatively low 1.6 per cent. This means that despite the fact that everyday citizens perceive a crisis, statistics show that comparatively fewer people get the virus in Kenya than in the East African or even European countries, and more importantly, many of those who become infected, recover.

Of course, initial lockdown measures meant that our economy took a significant blow. Many of us were prevented from working while international business essentially came to a full stop. Our GDP growth rates fell lower and lower. Those of us who were the most affected by the slow-down of business activities became heavily exposed to unexpected financial risk.

This is why after careful consideration and the simultaneous introduction of further health and safety measures, President Uhuru Kenyatta decided to partially reopen the country. After all, none of the restrictions on movement that protect our health will guarantee our overall well-being if we cannot put food on our tables.

The first set of ‘restriction easing’ that Uhuru sanctioned in Nairobi, Mombasa, as well as Mandera and Kilifi counties aimed to protect the most economically vulnerable segments of our society and indirectly served as a first wave of “home-grown” stimulus to our economy.

Already two weeks after the partial opening up, our hotel industry is making a comeback. As the CEO of the Kenya Association of Hoteliers reported, domestic tourism activities have gone up 20 percent as people can yet again move around Kenya.

Tourism, one of the cornerstones of our country’s economy, is expected to experience an even greater pace of recovery after the resumption of international flights on August 1. British Airways, KLM, Air France and Qatar Airways are among the few companies who will service Kenya as part of this scheme. The role of France and Britain is especially important as they are the primary trading partners of Kenya, while their tourists make up the largest group of customers that our hospitality sector caters to each year.

While we are far from decisively eradicating the coronavirus, President Kenyatta’s balancing act between healthcare and comprehensive economic policy has ensured that the overall well-being of our nation will be protected.

Mr Kihoro is a Data and Research expert. [email protected]