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What are the new hustlers selling?

By XN Iraki | June 3rd 2020

The story of cars turned into kiosks is far from over. Let’s spice it it up with some economics. What are the new entrepreneurs better christened ‘new hustlers’ selling?

 A casual observation shows most are selling foodstuffs. That should not surprise us. When the economy is this bad, we focus on the basics, starting with food, the rest can wait. Further, the demand for food does not go down because the economy is doing badly, we still eat. To appear learned, we say demand for food is inelastic, it’s does not significantly change with the rise or fall in prices. The new car kiosk owners know that fact. This is the time for necessities not luxuries. That food is not just any foodstuff, they are focussing on fruits and sources of vitamins, said to boost immunity against Covid-19.

Note carefully where the “new markets” are located, near affluent suburbs, where the upper and middle class live. The new entrepreneurs, sorry hustlers, know two things. One, the affluent fear visiting the traditionally crowded markets because of Covid-19.  They are banking on this fear to bring food and related products to the customers near their homes.

The hustlers in the informal and crowded settlements think Covid-19 is a disease for the rich, the jet set group. For them, life goes on, there are other bigger worries from rent to feeding kids who should be in school. For the middle and upper class, Covid-19 is real and all measures must be taken including wearing expensive masks.

The new entrepreneurs know something else, foodstuffs are not like electronics, easily ordered online. You need to see the product before buying. One could raise a few questions on these “mobile kiosks.” One is the sourcing. Are the foodstuffs sourced from the old markets or are there new suppliers? Most likely from the old sources. But we can’t rule out new sources with the good rains. Old sources would make the products pricier. Luckily, the number of car kiosks means more competition and reasonable prices.

One more question and out of curiosity; if food is a necessity, why are high end hotels, several stars closing?

Food is not their key focus, it’s entertainment, their clientele go there for meetings, networking and a bit of show off with drinks, a major source of profits for these establishments. 

The fast food restaurants, take away (to go in USA ) are suffering for the same reason; customers frequent them to meet friends or rest. The city of Nairobi has nowhere to rest except in hotels which welcome you with a big sign “No idling.”  

Next time you visit the car kiosks, find out what they are selling. That might give you good insights into the economic ravages of Covid-19. Finally, Kenyans should be thankful, Covid-19 came when the rains are good and food is plenty.  

Covid 19 Time Series


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