x Eve Woman Wellness Readers Lounge Leisure and Travel My Man Bridal Health Relationships Parenting About Us Digital News Videos Opinions Cartoons Education E-Paper Lifestyle & Entertainment Nairobian Entertainment Eve Woman Travelog TV Stations KTN Home KTN News BTV KTN Farmers TV Radio Stations Radio Maisha Spice FM Vybez Radio Enterprise BULK SMS E-Learning Digger Classified The Standard Group Corporate Contact Us Rate Card Vacancies DCX O.M Portal Corporate Email RMS
Login ×
BTV
VAS
DCX
RMS

Coronavirus lockdown: Saving lives, but ruining livelihoods in Africa

Readers Lounge - By Reuters | April 7th 2020 at 02:51:54 GMT +0300
Kemi Adepoju dressmaker in Lagos, Nigeria (Photo: Reuters/Seun Sanni)

In a dark ground-floor room in Lagos, Nigeria, dressmaker Kemi Adepoju gazes at a pile of dresses she has made but which cannot be collected due to the lockdown in force to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

“This lockdown came upon us suddenly. I used all my money to buy fabric. If I had known, I would have ... used it to buy food instead,” said the mother-of-two, who runs her business from a room she rents in the Iwaya suburb of Nigeria’s largest city.

Like millions in Africa, Adepoju works in the informal sector, which accounts for more than 85% of employment across the continent and will be largely bypassed by meagre economic support measures that cash-strapped governments are rolling out.

The International Monetary Fund said in a blog on the outbreak’s impact on Africa last month that “social distancing” was not realistic for the most vulnerable, and the notion of working from home was only possible for the few.

“The very measures that are crucial to slowing the spread of the virus will have a direct cost on local economies,” it said. “The disruption to people’s daily lives means less paid work, less income, less spending, and fewer jobs.”

Lockdowns, initially slated to last 14 days, began in Lagos and the capital, Abuja, on March 30.

The government of Africa’s most populous country has announced a repayment moratorium for government loans made to small businesses ranging from market traders to farmers, and has said it will offer similar relief to large companies.

  1. READ MORE
  2. 1. The origins of COVID-19
  3. 2. Woman dubbed world's first Covid patient who vanished from Wuhan a year ago still missing
  4. 3. Poverty, desperation: Pain of teen mothers
  5. 4. Flight attendant shares tips for a comfortable flight when wearing a face mask

Money ‘won’t trickle down’

Muda Yusuf, director general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, said the self-employed in cities would not benefit from these measures because they are aimed mainly at rural areas and no relief has been offered on commercial loan repayments.

“These measures are not likely to trickle down to people in the informal sector,” he said.

Kemi is a mother of two and says the lockdown came as a surprise (Photo: Reuters/Seun Sanni)

The government says it has begun making cash transfers to the country’s poorest households, but many hawkers and other informal traders do not have bank or mobile money accounts to pay into even if they were eligible.

Some 60% of Nigerians do not have a bank account, according to the World Bank.

There is a danger that government support will not reach those who need it most, said Tunde Ajileye, a partner at risk consultancy SBM Intelligence.

“Until people can be found and tracked centrally and matched to their financial records, operations like these will at best be informed guesswork and fraught with corruption,” he said.

The coronavirus crisis has piled more pressure on the Nigerian government’s finances at a time when it was already struggling with a slump in the price of oil, the mainstay of the economy.

Defying the lockdown

Even South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy, has not been able to promise a massive fiscal stimulus to cushion the coronavirus blow, with the economy already in recession and unemployment hovering around 30%.

It has announced tax relief for small businesses worth 500 rand ($26.50) per month for each worker for four months, and will permit businesses with revenue of 50 million rand ($2.66 million) or less to delay paying 20% of their employee tax liabilities over four months.

But no support has been offered so far to the informal economy, which provides employment to 25-30% of South African workers, according to the World Bank.

Tijanni Bilikisu is a food vendor in Abuja, Nigeria (Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

For many, all they can do is hunker down for a 21-day national lockdown to end, and hope business will pick up again.

“I work in a public space, which puts me at risk,” said Natasha Mbayo, a hairdresser in Johannesburg’s inner city. “Once everything is fine, I can get back to earning money.”

Others are defying the lockdown to survive.

“I know I am not supposed to be sitting here selling, but I don’t have a choice,” said 69-year-old Lucy Malimele, who was selling spinach at a quieter-than-usual market in the crowded township of Soweto one day last week.

“If I didn’t come, I would not have had money for these two loaves of bread.”

Malimele has sold fruit and vegetables at the Kliptown market since 1983, relying on the trade to feed her family, including eight grandchildren.

“These kids don’t have parents, but I can’t just leave them. I have to make a plan to feed them,” said Malimele, who on a good day before the lockdown could earn up to 300 rand ($16.00).

“I can’t tell whether the government is wrong or right to do this, but it seems like only those who have money will survive.”

Minutes later, police and soldiers arrived at the market and gave vendors five minutes to disperse or face arrest. Malimele stuffed her spinach into a large canvas bag and dragged it away.

Top Stories

Heavily pregnant Kelly Rowland breaks sweat in intensive workout days ahead of birth
Pregnancy - By Mirror


Melania's last days in the White House 'as she snubbed staff'
Entertainment - By Mirror


Melania and Donald Trump 'slept in separate rooms' in the White House during presidency
Entertainment - By Mirror


Larry King's wild love life with eight marriages, long-lost son and divorce at 85
Entertainment - By Mirror


'I’m humiliated after hubby moved in with family friend after long-term affair'
Marriage Advice - By Mirror


Six things to stop buying to live a minimalist life
Managing Your Money - By Esther Muchene


Meet US Vice President Kamala Harris' adorable great-nieces who have gone viral
Entertainment - By Mirror


Kamala Harris husband quit his job to be second gentleman
Entertainment - By Derrick Oluoch


4 ways to break a soul tie
Relationships - By Jennifer Karina


Dry-humping can get you pregnant...even with your clothes on
Health - By Daily Mail


Latest Stories

Farewell Mama Hannah: Matriarch praised as the force behind her husband and son’s political success
Readers Lounge - By EveWoman


Confessions: In our family, Christmas is nothing but a season for bickering
Readers Lounge - By Hilda Boke Mahare


Hospitals to get gender violence recovery centres for attack victims
Readers Lounge - By Jeckonia Otieno


Baby Drago’s Diary: Things go too fast on 'fast cation'
Readers Lounge - By Baby Drago


Confessions: My mum was Sh212.9 billion cocaine kingpin grandmother with gold-plated sub-machine gun
Readers Lounge - By Mirror


BBI report: More gains for women on elective posts
Readers Lounge - By Wilfred Ayaga


BBI report: Radical changes to student admissions, teacher hiring
Readers Lounge - By Augustine Oduor


Murder charge that could kill Aisha Jumwa’s political aspirations
Readers Lounge - By Joackim Bwana


Back to school: Hitches as school tests start
Readers Lounge - By The Standard Team


From role models to sex workers: Why child labour is rising in Kenya
Readers Lounge - By Tom Odula and Associated Press


Stay Ahead!

Access premium content only available
to our subscribers.

Or Login With Your Standard Account
Support independent journalism

Please enter your email address to continue

Support independent journalism
×
Create An Account
Support independent journalism
I have an account Log in
Reset Password
Support independent journalism
Log in