Disputed presidential results stall business in Kenya

Thursday August 10 2017

A section of Moi Avenue in Nairobi remains

A section of Moi Avenue in Nairobi remains empty on August 9, 2017. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NMG 

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Economic activity came to a near standstill as Kenya grappled with an inconclusive outcome of Tuesday’s elections that opposition leader Raila Odinga said had been compromised.

Nairobi, the country’s capital and economic powerhouse, was deserted throughout, with thousands of business premises remaining under lock and key.

Kenya’s elections have always come with a measure apprehension, which heightened Wednesday after Mr Odinga questioned the credibility of the preliminary results showing him trailing President Uhuru Kenyatta by a wide margin.

The Northern Corridor — the country’s major highway and a key transport artery that moves goods from the Mombasa port to the hinterland and landlocked neighbours such as Uganda and Rwanda — had just a handful of trucks, highlighting slow activity on the often clogged stretch.

Officials in neighbouring Rwanda said they had reduced the economy’s risk exposure to Kenya by opting to use the Central Corridor that passes through Tanzania to the Dar es Salaam port. This portends massive loss of business for Kenya.

The resulting slowdown in economic activity is expected to further depress growth from last year’s 5.8 per cent.

Most manufacturers closed their premises – a majority of the workers having either travelled to their rural homes or chosen to stay at home as the situation unfolds.

Consumer goods manufacturer Bidco said it had shut down its factories for 24 hours and resumed operations Wednesday morning but most of its customers had chosen to stay away awaiting the outcome of the election before picking stocks.

“We resumed production today. But we are storing goods for our customers who are still awaiting the outcome of the election before we start distributing,” said Bidco chief executive Thiagarajan Ramamurthy, in what may add to inventory costs for the Thika-based firm.