By Julius Musungu
Thousands of residents residing in the Kitengela, Athi River, Syokimau are facing difficult moments following the closure of big companies located in the region that mostly deal with manufacturing, transport and hospitality, them being the most affected sectors following the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic.
The region is host to companies such as London Distillers, Mombasa Cement, Simba Cement, Athi River Mining, Devki steel mills and these companies are just in the Athi River region.
In Kitengela, thousands of youthful workers have been forced to look for alternative jobs as the Export Processing Zone located in the town and that employs close to over 50,000 workers has seen most of the companies close down leaving a lot of youth with no alternative to their income.
According to Edna Chelagat, a Resident of Kitengela who worked at the Garment company Hela intimates is experiencing difficult moments after being given the month’s salary and subsequently sacked from the company together with hundreds of her colleagues.
“You know most of our raw materials come from China and since the outbreak of CoronaVirus most of the products have been unable to reach Kenya thus paralyzing the company leaving the management with no option but to send us away with only a month’s pay and at this moment I am facing a very difficult moment as I have no means” Jerop told KitengelaBiznet.
Thousands of workers who work at the EPZA complex that basically depends on exports to mainly European countries have been left without an alternative as they have been sent on leave or have been retained on half salary. Many of the workers who are usually used to the hustle and bustle of the industries now just wake up early in the morning and stare forlornly at each other unsure of what to do.
Kitengela has been hardly hit especially since the thousands of workers who work at the vast flower farms have been forced to stay at home without pay considering that the farms pay a casual income. Many of the laborers have resorted to returning back to their rural homes while others are languishing after the lockdown was imposed on travelling out of Nairobi.
A spot check by Kitengela Biznet and its environs paints a grim picture of the situation in Kitengela, hundreds of Bar operators are now without jobs considering the hundreds of Bars and restaurants that sell alcohol and the Juicy Nyama Choma.
Kitengela is particularly known for the abundance of fresh meat being the economic Hub of Kajiado county, the industry has been hard hit since the abattoir was temporarily closed before it resumed the services. Kitengela town is at the moment a dull reflection of itself considering that the Town was slowly becoming a 24-hour business hub. Most of the hotels and restaurants have sacked their staff and many have been sent on unpaid leave considering the casual nature that they all work in.
The resultant effect has seen a sharp increase in criminal activities. According to Noonkopir area resident James Mwangi there have been several cases of break-in reported at the many shops in the area.
“A marauding group of about 10 people have been moving around breaking shops ever since they learnt the pattern of police patrols during the curfew, they mainly target household items such as gas cookers as well as electronic shops as they attack during the time the curfew is still on” Mwangi said.
Arguably Mlolongo Town has been hard hit following the directive that all shops and hotels be closed, this is because the Town’s main economic backbone is the hotel industry offering accommodation to the thousands of truck drivers and passengers who ply the Mombasa-Nairobi highway. The effects of Corona virus have literally crippled the economy of this town.
However generally there has been loss of business across the country with the main reason given for the loss of jobs include reduced revenues, loss of business opportunities, loss of markets for goods and services, shortage of raw materials and restructuring due to hard economic times.
Many companies have already directed their workers to take pay cuts or have their staff sent on unpaid leave while others have said that they will have to lay off employees due to hits they have taken on their cash flow.
With a further 21 days of partial lock down announced by President Kenyatta the situation is bleak for many.
Reports indicate that 300000 workers in the tourism sectors are staring at job losses while another 50,000 workers in the horticulture industry have been sent on unpaid leave while another 90,000 have been affected.
The situation is difficult at the moment in Kitengela and its environs though there has been an air of relief for restaurants and eating points after the lifting of the temporal ban, however the situation is seemingly expected to get worse depending on how the virus spread is controlled.