Let’s not be distracted by politics from rocky Covid-19 recovery path


What you need to know:

  • Kenya’s economy is shrinking by the day and productive activity has slowed to a snail’s pace.
  • The relationship between the formal and informal economies is symbiotic.

I sometimes feel our political class, both current and aspiring, live too much in a world of their own. Covid-19 has metaphorically transported us to another more tumultuous planet where our old world has been literally torn apart. Change is with us and is going to be brutal and irrevocable.

Life today is much, much different from, say, the start of this year. And it’s to going to be even more different, unpredictable and certainly tougher as we move into 2021.

The main reason for this is that dealing with the pandemic and its onslaught of arrows is very much a work in progress. This is a new and virulent virus and we are learning daily how to cope, adapt and even combat it.

Now back to the point in the first paragraph.

Political activity and discourse has gone into overdrive but not necessarily over Covid-19; it’s largely political sparring and jockeying. There is discourse about devolution and its pros and cons.


The kernel of the debate is, to put it kindly, about resources and their allocation and distribution. But more bluntly, it’s about how to get more resources for the counties. And it’s an intractable conundrum as there isn’t enough for the national government, let alone counties. It’s akin to squeezing juice out of a dry orange.

If it’s not devolution, it is 2022 and the various succession scenarios. Of course, this is both an intriguing and important subject full of many twists and turns. Indeed, the run-up to the next presidential election is in full swing – even with over two years to go.

Reading the newspapers and listening to the assorted media recently, one could mistakenly think Covid-19 is now on the back burner. This isn’t helped by the way many of us cut ourselves off from bad news. After all, it is often much more comfortable to shy away from it.

As the poet T.S. Eliot said, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

Multiple onslaughts

The reality is, Covid-19 and its multiple onslaughts affects every person and entity in many ways and any smart or aspiring politician should prioritise the repairing of the fallout. The country’s work is cut out for it in the foreseeable future. A cyclone is ravaging Kenya and, indeed, every Kenyan and has some way to go. Remember, this is not the virus per se but the economic and social ravages.

Kenya’s economy is shrinking by the day and productive activity has slowed to a snail’s pace. I say ‘productive’ because, for example, travelling to and from work is more of an exercise in motion than actual productivity.

Estimates of the economic growth for the country keep getting reduced and whatever figure we land up with will be negligible – assuming it is still positive, not negative.

The name of the game is downsizing, retrenching, pay cuts in the formal sector and giving better value for the less money around. This is pushing more people into an already overflowing informal economy with less opportunities by the day.

Symbiotic relationship

The relationship between the formal and informal economies is symbiotic. An informal economy thrives on the back of a lively and growing formal one. The catch here is, the informal sector is a lot more socially vulnerable and fragile, which can lead to bouts of social volatility discord and even unrest.

I hope I am wrong but I think we are a lot closer to the edge than we think we are. Let’s all spend much more time looking at how we pull our country and people out of the proverbial ditch in a dedicated way.

The overall situation is getting worse by the day and, while easing of some of the restrictions may have a positive effect, that alone will not get this country back on its feet.

I make a special plea to all in the political arena to articulate and concentrate on these core issues constructively. These are the dominant concerns of much of the voting constituency; this is smart politics as well.

Mr Shaw is an economic and public policy analyst:[email protected]