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Tough times as Kenyans sell household items to survive

By Mathew Ndungu
Wednesday, June 10th, 2020
ABOVE: Buyers load a second-hand bed onto a motorbike at Witeithie area, Kiambu county. BELOW: Piled second-hand furniture at a stall in the locality. Residents are disposing of household items to raise money for basic needs. Photo/PD/Mathew Ndung’u
In summary

Mathew Ndung’u

With Kenya having gone through tough economic times, dampening its economic outlook even before the onset of Covid-19 and to that effect the lockdown that stalled most economic activities, Kenyans have been left with the burden for survival. 

Previously, locust invasion, poor pricing of Kenya’s main cash crops among them tea and coffee were slowing its economic growth.

But as the global pandemic continues to play out in the country, further making the economic growth projection remain highly uncertain, most Kenyans have been left grappling with the reeling effects of the contagious virus.

Accumulated rent arrears and intolerable hunger have forced hundreds to dispose of their household items and appliances at throw away prices to survive the sustained economic downturn.

At Witeithie in Juja, Kiambu, stalls selling second-hand items in the informal settlement have continued to pile electronics and used furniture as more people continue to sell various items at discounted rates to meet their daily needs.

Residents said life took a wrong path after the country recorded its first case of the virus forcing the economy to nosedive.

Rent payments

According to most residents, who were working as casual labourers at construction sites before they were closed down, it is no longer bearable to live in the current state as they cannot meet their needs such as payment of rents, provision of food and proper clothing.

Piled second-hand furniture at a stall in the locality. Residents are disposing of household items to raise money for basic needs. Photo/PD/Mathew Ndung’u

Monica Wangui, a mother who sold her bed at a reduced price to add the little money she was remaining with to pay rent, lamented that most businesses in the area had collapsed as a result of the virus.

According to her, even food-selling stall owners have started throwing away food items since they are not moving at all because residents’ purchasing power has reduced.

“Things are worst especially for women bringing up young children. We have lost hope and in turn are selling anything that would give us a lifeline – everything including gas, beds and even electronics,” said Wangui.

Grace Mbugua, a green grocer, said the situation has been worsened by water scarcity forcing them to trade anything around them for relief.

“We are forced to sell our house items to even purchase water since we go for weeks with dry taps.

We are also forced by Covid-19 to purchase masks yet we are not making any money.

This disease has deteriorated our way of life and it’s time something is done to salvage us,” said Mbugua.

Bar owners

As residents wallow in poverty, it is a peak season for second-hand items sellers who continue to attract the most purchases at cut-rate prices.

According to the entrepreneurs, led by Joseph Kimata, John Murigi and Bernard Mwangi, even restaurant and bar owners have shut businesses and sold their furniture to them to survive the prevailing downturn.

“Our purchases have soared but there are no buyers and so we have been left to mount the acquired items in our stalls,” Murigi said.

As Kenyans continue to brave the 30-day extension of the dusk-to-dawn curfew, supposed to last between 9pm and 4am, among other strict measures as announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta, residents from the sprawling village are calling on the government and well-wishers to intervene and unshackle them from poverty.

Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to decelerate substantially as the year nears a close due to the negative impact of the pandemic.

The latest World Bank Kenya Economic Update predicts growth of 1.5 per cent in 2020 in the baseline scenario, with a possible downside scenario of a contraction to one per cent, if Covid-19 related troubles in economic activity last longer.

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