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Nairobi traders say they lost Sh2b in demos

 Haki Africa's Hussein Khalid talks to activist Boniface Mwangi (in a police car) outside Milimani Law Courts on June 19, 2024. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Traders in Nairobi’s Central Business District said they lost up to Sh2 billion during the Tuesday protests in the city.

On Wednesday, the traders were counting losses following day-long protests that led to the closure of their premises.

They blamed the police for the losses arguing the protests did not need force to quell.

“We estimate the loss is about Sh2 billion and even the Nairobi County government experienced it through poor collection of parking fees,” said Nairobi Central Business District Community Chairman Wilfred Kamau.

He said that future protests should be designated to particular areas so that they do not interfere with other people’s activities.

“The protestors should target their respective MPs offices and air their grievances. This will ensure that our businesses are not disrupted,” said Kamau.

Fridah Nduki, the owner of a small grocery store in the city centre, was one of the many traders caught in the crossfire.

“Demonstrators took advantage of the situation to break into shops,” she said.

The Finance Bill aimed to raise government revenues through a raft of new tax measures, including a 2.5 per cent annual Motor Vehicle Tax, 16 per cent VAT on bread, an Eco levy on locally manufactured goods, and excise duty on locally assembled motorcycles.

The government has since dropped several of the contentious proposals, including the vehicle tax, VAT on bread, Eco levy, and motorcycle excise duty.

However, many traders argue the damage has already been done, with the protests exacerbating the economic burden that has dampened consumer spending power.

“Even with the revisions, the Bill will affect my customers, reducing my sales,” Nduki said, highlighting the Bill’s indirect toll on small businesses.

Joseph Otieno, another trader, recounted a different challenge arising from the chaos: a breach of trust with his employer, who accused him of colluding with protestors described as his “goon friends”.

Otieno challenged the government’s confrontational approach, arguing it has only compounded businesses’ losses.

“The government needs to find better alternatives to tackling protesters than chasing them in running battles that disrupt economic activities,” he urged. 

As Nairobi returns to normalcy, the lasting impacts of the Finance Bill tumult remain uncertain. Tuesday’s events have laid bare deep-seated frustrations with economic and governance policies while raising doubts about the government’s ability to navigate fiscal challenges without inflaming public anger.

Businesses now await a resolution that can restore stability and spur economic growth without further straining the livelihoods of ordinary Kenyans.

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