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Essentials at minimal to cope in hard times

Thursday October 31 2019

Mombasa traders

Women sell fish in Bamburi, Mombasa County. Most small-scale traders in the county are unable to rent shopping stalls due to financial constraints. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ANTHONY KITIMO
By ANTHONY KITIMO
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As debate on the high cost of living continues, millions of Kenyans are being forced to cut down on essentials like food, health and transport to survive.

Mr Ahmed Ali, who has been operating a vehicle spare shop in Changamwe, Mombasa County was forced to closed down his shop two months ago affecting his daily purchasing power and he had to improvise a new means of surviving.

For the past one month, he has not bought a new cloth to his family of three as inflation is reported to be on the rise according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS.

INFLATION

“Inflation has been on the high side for the past three years but the recent government policies including removing trucks on the road by introducing Standard Gauge Railway has negatively affected my purchasing power since there are no customers to buy spare parts,” said Mr Ali who has been running a renowned vehicle spare part shop in the area for the past 12 years.

He added: “The hard economy has also affected my social life and my children have found it hard time to cope with the situation.”

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Mr Ali has been forced to transfer his three children from a private school to Migadini Primary School which is a public school since he cannot afford private school fees which was Sh35,000 per term per pupil.

“We used to give Sh150 to our children for lunch but my wife has been forced to cook and supply my children with food as a means to cut on cost. We are currently depending on our café in Majengo for survival,” he added.

Mr Ali is one of the thousands of Kenyans who have resorted to alternative means of survival driven by rising food prices and inflation which has leapt to more than 6.6 per cent mark.

SLOW GROWTH

The weakening shilling and a slow growth in wages is increasingly eroding purchasing power of Kenyans.

Ms Khadija Mwanaisha, who supplies vegetables said purchasing patterns for Mombasa residents have changed and they buy more of Sukuma wiki than mchicha (amaranth) and spinach.

“I used to supply at least 200 kilogrammes to various groceries of amaranth and spinach which are now regarded by many as 'vegetables for the rich' since majority are now buying sukuma wiki which is a bit cheaper. I no longer supply peas as they are rarely bought,” said Ms Mwanaisha.

Ms Mwanaisha says the residents purchasing power has directly affected her shopping basket in the supermarket.

She says she used to buy goods at an average cost of Sh1,200 after every two days but she has been forced to cut down on what used to be basic but now 'luxurious goods' due to the state of economy.

“My two children aged five and nine years used to accompany me but nowadays I go alone since they influence my impulse buying. I have been forced to suspend buying of bread daily for breakfast. I have coached my children to eat food left overnight for their breakfast," she says.

CHEAPER HOUSE

Ms Mwanaisha said due to current hard economic situation, she is contemplating moving to a cheaper house as her income has reduced from her low sales.

"A year ago, I used to make more than Sh55,000 a month thanks to huge demand for my groceries but the situation has changed. I make about Sh30,000 which I spend Sh12,000 for a two-room house as rent and the rest for transport and other needs. With the situation, I have to improvise other means of surviving such as moving to a cheaper house,” she said.

As the country is currently experiencing high taxation through the recent introduction of Value Added Tax on a number of goods such as cigarettes, wines and spirits, youth have turned to low priced alcohol as they cannot survive without to satisfy their urge for a drink.

“I have to take a drink but I cannot afford a beer hence I have no otherwise but to find alternative,” said a youth who sought anonymity.

He added: “My purchasing power has also been affected after I was barred from accessing mobile loans facilities after I defaulted in paying my KCB Mpesa loan. I used to get a total of Sh13,000 from online loan facilities but I am now blacklisted as defaulter.”