What you need to know:
- Food kiosks are especially popular, with those who cannot afford to rent space selling vegetables and fruits from the boots of their cars.
- As is normal nowadays, we found ourselves talking about Covid-19 and how it had disrupted our lives.
I’ve noticed something interesting where I live in the past month. There are more businesses coming up, making the local shopping centre more vibrant than it has ever been. Food kiosks are especially popular, with those who cannot afford to rent space selling vegetables and fruits from the boots of their cars – there’s also a man who has been selling chicken by the roadside from his Toyota Sienta, which he has fitted with bird cages in place of the back seats.
From what I have seen, he does brisk business, especially on weekends.
I gather that many of the people doing business from the boots of their cars are individuals who either lost jobs when Covid-19 hit, or those whose businesses went under.
It makes sense that most would turn to the food business, after all, Covid-19 and its devastating economic impact or not, people have to eat at the end of the day.
The other business that seems to be popular, at least in this area, is the construction business, if the many yards springing up that are selling construction material, from sand to cement and pipes as well as gates, is anything to go by.
This pandemic has made entrepreneurs of people who never thought that they could run a business, people who have been employed all their lives, but since there are no jobs to report to every morning, they have had to look for alternative sources of income to feed their families.
Two weeks ago, I took a cab and got chatting with the driver. As is normal nowadays, we found ourselves talking about Covid-19 and how it had disrupted our lives. He told me he lost his job three months ago.
He worked in a company that distributed alcohol, and before he was laid off, he led a team of 20. One day, his employer called him and his colleagues and informed them that he was closing shop since the business was making losses and was therefore no longer sustainable.
He and his young family had relocated to Nairobi from Western Kenya two years ago, and the thought of packing up and returning upcountry did not appeal to him especially since the prospects there looked dimmer. He therefore decided to dig his heels in and look for an alternative source of income.
Eventually, he settled on the taxi business, but since he didn’t have a car, he leased one from a friend and registered with one of the taxi hailing companies operating in the country.
He told me that though he didn’t earn much since he split his earnings three ways – the company’s cut, the car owner’s cut and his cut, at least his family did not sleep hungry.
He was also thankful that schools are closed, otherwise he would not be able to afford school fees and other needs his son may require in class.
Stories of resilience
There are many other stories of resilience like his. This pandemic has been hard for many, and even harder for the majority, but in the process, the instinct to survive has inspired people to be innovative, to look beyond what they know how to do and find alternative ways to earn a living after the taps they earned their daily bread from before Covid-19 ran dry.
The innovation is endless, people have, for instance, realised that they can plant sukuma wiki and onions on their tiny balconies on the fifth floor, putting to use the money that could have gone towards buying vegetables to other needs.
Not only this, people are coming to the realisation that they can make a business out of a hobby, that pastime they indulged in during their spare time. Crises, it seems, though trying, have a way of opening one’s eyes to the possibilities out there.
The writer is Editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation [email protected]