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By Simon Oyeng' | July 19th 2020
Francis Elevuna, a hotelier, was optimistic that closure of varsities to curb spread of coronavirus would not last. He was wrong.
Mr Elevuna, 32, has for the last six years operated a restaurant near Masinde Muliro University. Most of his clients were students and lecturers. He used to serve at least 300 clients daily.
“After the presidential decree on closure of institutions, things changed. I began making losses. I tried to hold on, but later I closed,” he says.
The business took a turn for the worse in April, as he would make a paltry Sh400 daily, from Sh9,000 he used to get.
Elevuna has since sent home four staff. “When you make such huge losses, there is no need of holding on. The uncertainty on the opening date of the university also influenced this.”
The father of two shifted to farming. He remains optimistic that he will pick from where he left if universities reopen.
“The closure has locked the flow of money for us. When students are in session the whole town is active. The president should reconsider his stance on the issue. Yes, there are questions on safety, but students are adults and they can take care of themselves,” he adds.
A few metres from his restaurant, another food joint, Alpha, also temporarily shut doors. Victor Ingosi, 22, a fruit vendor, says: “The business is poor. Sometimes you return with nothing. I spend my evenings doing boda boda business,” says Ingosi.
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Before universities closed he could make Sh4,000 a day from sales of fruits, but currently he gets a paltry Sh150.
“We plead with the president to open schools. Fighting the virus is a personal responsibility. Each student will take it upon themselves to stay safe,” he says.
Anyanzwa John, 53, who owns hostels near the university, fears the rising cases of Covid-19 could further push him to misery. Mr Anyanzwa’s hostel accommodates 60 students.
He quit a sales job to invest in real estate, and returns were good, until Covid-19 struck. In a semester that runs between three to four months he would make Sh600,000.
Since March, most small-scale enterprises have also been struggling to pay rent.
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