Return of mass action spooks business activity in key towns


Azimio la Umoja convoy and supporters sneaks in Nairobi CBD as police water tank spray water in push to avoid entrance to the city centre. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Businesses across the country yesterday incurred huge losses as a result of anti-government protests.

The transport sector, manufacturing, retail, and services sector were hardest hit by the disruption, many of which remained shut or experienced slow customer traffic.

Many outlets in Nairobi’s central business district (CBD) remained closed while matatu operators stayed away for that the demos would turn chaotic.

The impact of the demonstrations, however, was seen affecting other industries too.

The protests, according to opposition chief Raila Odinga, are meant to pile pressure on the Kenya Kwanza administration to address the rising cost of living crisis and the disputed last August presidential polls.

The start of implementation of the Finance Act 2023 has emboldened the opposition which noted that some of the clauses including the hike in taxes on fuel would make the already high cost of living worse.

Other than the higher prices of fuel that is expected to see the cost of most essential goods and services rise, the government is also implementing the affordable housing levy that many say will see a reduction in the disposable income of many Kenyans.

“We are tired,” said Mr Odinga in reference to the myriad issues that Azimio is protesting against when he addressed the demonstrators at Nairobi’s Kamukunji grounds, even as he told his supporters to refrain from disrupting businesses and destruction of property.

“Everything that we will do will be peaceful… we have told the police that we do not want chaos.”

The return of mass action has sent jitters through the business community, which worries about the impact on their operations.

A police officer hurls a stone at Saba Saba protestors in Kisii on July 7, 2023. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Traders fear any sustained unrest that will disrupt business activities would cast a dark cloud over their operations and the local economy, which is already facing several local and external shocks.

Businesses and traders in some cities and towns, including Nairobi, were on Friday early morning and Thursday evening protectively moving away valuable goods from their shops, according to a spot check by The Standard.

Police yesterday lobbed tear gas and used water cannons to break up protests.

Some businesses were vandalised, according to police, incurring heavy losses.

The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), earlier put the losses at Sh3 billion per day on usual protest days, losses emanating from the destruction as well as lost revenue as businesses remained shut.

Escalated unrest could also undercut one of Kenya’s key foreign revenue generators - tourism, players said.

Analysts yesterday also forecast political uncertainty could jolt investors at the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE).

Any political jitters linked to the sell-off of shares would pull down the NSE to new lows. 

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