Clearly, coronavirus has opened our business eyes; let’s not close them
Last week I drove my Vitz past Windsor Golf and Country club. The ‘mobile shopkeepers’ who once used their car boots as shelves for their eggs, sukuma wiki, clothes, and other wares are gone. Where to?
They had made that road a ‘mall’ when the economy was closed courtesy of Covid-19. There were other roadside malls in other parts of the city and country. When the economy was opened, they either left voluntarily or were ejected. But wait a minute.
Take a walk on Taarifa road in Parklands, Nairobi on a Sunday. The road is a mall with small-scale vendors selling mostly vegetables to mainly Asian buyers.
In the privacy of my thoughts, I thought Taarifa road was the model to follow after Covid-19. The city fathers should have used the Covid-19 to identify the most lucrative locations for once-a-week markets, beyond the traditional fresh produce markets.
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The demand for the products the ‘car shop’ owners sold did not end with the opening up of the economy. Lots of new entrepreneurs discovered their talent with Covid-19 after lay-offs. They should be allowed to prefect their businesses. We could even get a Walmart from there.
I am sad because we never learn from tragedies like Covid-19. It brought out the entrepreneurs in us, out of necessity. Men and women who never thought one day they would sell something either physically or online found themselves doing just that. Covid-19 forced us to become experimenters.
Long after Covid-19 runs its course, we should implement lessons from it. One, there is an entrepreneur in each of us, who lacks an opportunity. Covid-19 was such a rare opportunity. Why are we squandering it?
The city fathers and mothers should designate a market day each week when selected streets are cordoned off as markets. Please visit Taarifa road on a Sunday. One just needs to registrar and pay something to ‘kanju’ to participate in the market. We can’t all fit in the highly romanticised online shops.
Such street markets will also serve as outings, entertainment and an opportunity to know new people. More importantly, the ‘markets’ will allow Kenya’s elite and pseudo-elites to go beyond the textbooks and face the realities of modern economy away from the glaring screen of their computers or phones.