It has been a difficult year and as the sun sets on 2020, it is easy to overlook the positives that have happened in the middle of one of the worst times in human history. But there have been silver linings in the dark cloud of a difficult year.
One of the most notable positives has been the acceleration of digital payments system in the country. Although Kenya has always been miles ahead of the world with regard to mobile payments system, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the use of various mobile platforms to slow down the spread of the virus by minimising handling of hard currencies.
The expansion of this space also led to a boom in online businesses with traditional enterprises that had long shunned digital revolution getting on board.
It was also this year that saw employers embrace virtual offices has saved many companies much-needed revenues that they have instead used to keep salaried staff on payroll.
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A recent survey by real estate manager Knight Frank showed that 85 per cent of respondents believe a home office setting is now more important when choosing a property to buy.
The pandemic has no doubt come with accelerated use of technology as face-to-face interactions reduced and video conferencing became part of everyday life.
At the Judiciary, Justice Philomena Mwilu, the second in command to judiciary’s leadership rose to become the first female Chief Justice, albeit in acting capacity, pending recruitment of CJ David Maraga’s successor.
Despite the ups and downs, including an attempt to remove her from the Judiciary and a petition to stop her from succeeding the CJ, Justice Mwilu has weathered the storm and will enter into the new year as the head of the third arm of government.
There was also some good news from the agriculture sector this year.
Tea farmers got an early Christmas gift after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed Tea Bill, 2018, into law. The new law is a major win for the sector as it spells out radical reforms that will, among others, ensure prompt payment to farmers.
In the second quarter of 2020 (April to June), Kenya fell into economic recession to levels never seen in nearly 60 years
Agriculture, Kenya’s backbone, turned out to be a savior with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) saying that the sector cushioned Kenya from an “even deeper slump.”
Although it has been a tough year for the entertainment industry, with album launches put off and movie premiers being low-key affairs, artistes have been able to reach more fans through virtual concerts, a positive that Covid-19 has gifted the sector.
New showbiz stars born during the pandemic include Elsa Majimboa, a 19-year-old journalism student who became an international Instagram sensation for her crisp-chewing signature act and provocative straight-talking shows.
Others like Azziad Nasenya, 20, was branded the Kenyan Tik Tok queen since recording herself taking the Utawezana dance challenge posed by Mejja and Femi One early this year. She became a social media hit through her videos through which she has been entertaining millions during the Covid-19 pandemic, landing major advertising and TV deals.
Mbogi Genje, a group of young rappers capitalised on the Covid-19 showbiz lull to release new material online. The virtually unknown group with songs like Kidungi, Full Degree and Ngumi Mbwegze soon gained a large following.
The sports scene in the country has been in the doldrums for years but this year saw the reopening of Nyayo National Stadium on September 26, after almost 41 months of renovation.
Though the completion of the second-largest sporting facility (30,000 seater) in the country is a reprieve to many sports enthusiasts, there is still a lot of work to be done for it to reach international standards.
Despite disruptions caused by Covid-19 pandemic, Kenya's world stars beat huge odds to compete in games inside Nyayo Stadium.
Then came the Kip Keino Classic meet, which was the first senior track and field contest to be held in Kenya and which offered exciting tales for global athletics enthusiasts.
Comebacks from maternity and injuries marked the one-day showpiece inside Nyayo Stadium, with world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri raring to step up to road running after 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
It was Africa's only track and field meet in the second-tier competition in World Athletics calendar.
At the 23rd World Half Marathon Championships in Poland, Kenya battled rivals Ethiopia once again, with Peres Jepchirchir breaking her own women-only world record in 21km race.
And just last month, World Half Marathon silver medalist Kibiwott Kandie set a world record in 21km race, which saw the Covid-19 disrupted season register two world 21km records.
Then the big news when World Athletics named Timothy Cheruiyot, Hellen Obiri, Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei among 20 nominees for 2020 Men and Female World Athletes of the Year awards.
It is during the Covid-19 pandemic that the country’s innovation potential came into full fruition.
With the pandemic having stretched to the limit resources in the health sector, ventilators which are key in aiding breathing for severe Covid-19 cases were in scarcity. A group of 16 students from Kenyatta University came up with Tiba-Vent, a locally made ventilator. It was an affordable option to importation. A ventilator retails at about Sh2.5 million.
Apart from the ventilators, Kitui County Textile Centre led the nation in stitching personal protective equipment like surgical masks.
Shortage in supply and high demand of sanitisers also led to companies, led by Kenya Medical Research Institute, to diversify. Innovators also developed hands-free washing points.