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The revelations of a drive through a ghost city

By XN Iraki | June 16th 2021

Traffic police officers mount roadblock along Langata road in Nairobi as they implement the curfew directive.[Boniface Okendo, standard]

On Monday last week, I was on Mombasa Road at 10pm for a TV interview. I left there at 10.30pm, half an hour after curfew. Tell you what? I had such great fun driving on an empty highway that as I got into town, instead of driving into Uhuru Highway that would take me home, I made a detour into Haile Selassie Avenue which took me to Moi Avenue and back to Uhuru Highway. I used only roads named after ‘big people’. Next time, should I have the privilege of being a lone soul on the road, I will make sure to drive into Kenyatta Avenue. 

 But as much as I was enjoying the silence, It felt strange seeing Nairobi without its human and vehicular traffic. The absence of hawkers selling their wares, many people rushing past with purpose in their step while others casually scrolling by as though time was not a construct that limited them, made it look like a ghost town. Where were the sex workers known to inhabit the streets in night? Everyone was gone. And it now became so clear how much Covid-19 had precipitated an economic disaster. It has laid desolate a city at night; a city where nightfall saw the exchange of so much currency.

The only sign of life were the bright sparks falling on the wayside from the welding on the expressway under construction. The contractors are working to finish the road earlier by working at night. Should the rest of us not be working at night too? Surely, men and women are not very productive at home, at least economically they aren’t.  

But how will we recover the lost income from the lockdown? This late-night trip convinced me that for our own good, the government ought to accelerate vaccination.  Fewer than two per cent of Kenyans have received the first jab. Lots of Kenyans are suffering without a voice as their fortunes dwindle and there is nothing they can do to change the situation.  We often forget that every Covid -19 wave is accompanied by a wave of poverty and job losses. The sooner we return to normal, the better for us all.  

Some effects of Covid-19 are being felt anew this year. Some businesses were not closed immediately Covid-19 came ashore; they struggled till the owners could not hold on anymore.

Beyond vaccination, we need to stimulate the economy into vibrancy. The late-night ride convinced me that another stimulus package would be in order. I doubt that the package in the Budget is enough.  However, the best economic stimulus has often gone unrecognised, it’s the resilience of the Kenyan people, particularly hustlers.


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