How the pandemic has affected the informal sector

According to World Bank, the informal sector provides employment for thousands of women, youth, and jobless graduates. As of 2019, roughly 768,000 jobs were created against an estimated 800,000 graduates from tertiary institutions entering the job market.

A potter displays her earthenware. Pottery is one among many industries in the informal sector that have suffered significant losses since the COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions were set up.

Kenya has one of the biggest informal labor markets in Africa, this is attributed to an inability of the formal sector to absorb the huge number of job seekers.

The curfew restrictions and lockdowns worldwide are negatively impacting the informal sector. In the country operating hours for its citizens span from 4 am -9 pm in some regions; while counties that suffer the highest infection rates between the months of January to March have strict operating timelines between 4 am-8 pm.

14.2 million Kenyans depend on the informal sector to meet their daily needs. The closure of county borders, in-travel restrictions have disrupted the informal sector supply chains by constraining production, marketing, and distribution of goods and services. Consequently, many workers have complained of the implications on their livelihoods and purchase of goods and services. With hotels required to sell only takeaway meals, the number of clients walking in for purchases has forced most hoteliers to reduce the number of their staff as they rarely make enough to sustain the monthly expenses.

One Uber driver lamented on a public Facebook page how life has since become unbearable after the president imposed travel restrictions. Most of his clientele composed of tourists, travelers going to and from the airport. He had 3 months due rent and barely knows how he will get his next meal. He is forced to drive around with his son since he cannot afford the fee for daycare. This is the situation of most people in the informal sector. The dire situation led to Kenyans on Twitter starting the hashtag #unlockourcountry to point out the effects of the lockdown.

Without a doubt, the COVID -19 restrictions and measures put in place have constrained livelihoods of millions of people across Sub-Saharan and Southern Africa. The informal sector still remains as the largest contributor to economic growth in many African countries through creation of employment opportunities and production of goods and services promoting trade.

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