Third wave of Covid-19 hits a battered Kenyan economy

Saturday March 13 2021
Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta gives his address to the nation on the health guidelines for the year on March 12, 2021. PHOTO | PSCU


Kenya is accepting that the cost of reducing loss of lives from the Covid-19 pandemic is woeful economic performance.

In his first address to the nation on the health guidelines for 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the country’s economy had grown 10 times slower than planned.

President Kenyatta presented data on Friday that shows Kenya’s economy, which had been projected to grow by 6.2 percent had only risen by 0.6 percent and lost Ksh560 billion ($5.6 billion) of GDP.

“This is the price we had to pay in 2020 for the bold decisions we made to contain this economic free fall,” he told the country in a televised address, adding, “The profit we made as a nation from this swift action was the prevention of an average of 2,000 deaths per day and one million infections by Christmas 2020. The opportunity cost of saving these lives was foregoing Ksh560 billion ($5.6 billion) of GDP in order to preserve life.”

President Kenyatta was referring to a series of restrictions imposed last year days after the first case of Covid-19 was reported in mid-March 2020. It included a ban on public gatherings, secession of movements from the capital Nairobi and surrounding counties as well as Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Mandera. There was also a ban on Night clubs and bars were also closed, but were later allowed limited operational times.

Since then, Kenya has lost 1,879 people to Covid-19 out of about 110,000 cases as well as thousands of lost jobs in the hospitality and service sectors.


President Kenyatta said the economic losses were painful, but reversible in future.

“The logic here, for the last one year, was that you can always revive the economy, but you can’t revive a lost life. If you take care of the people, they will revive the economy,” he said.

Comparatively, Kenya says its economy has, in fact grown within the “new reality” of Covid-19 as the global average has been -3.5 percent. Sub-Saharan economies on the other hand averaged 2.6 percent. Kenya’s economy is projected to grow at seven per cent this year, despite the pandemic and restrictions.

On Friday, the president extended the curfew by 60 days, banned political gatherings for 30 days and restricted gatherings at churches, funerals and weddings as well as compulsory burials to be conducted within 72 hours of reported death. Factory workers, construction sites and other essential service providers were, however, given exemptions to operate at night, supposedly to keep the production lines going.

President Kenyatta also said there will be stricter monitoring at the border points to prevent importation of new variants of the virus.

He said his government will continue to be guided by science, saying future decisions on managing the pandemic will depend on hard evidence.

“Empirical evidence over the past one year shows us that, when we escalate measures, levels of community infections and positivity rates go down.

“When we escalated measures in July 2020, the positivity rate fell from 13 percent in June to four percent in September. And when we relaxed the measures in September 2020, the positivity rate rose to its highest level in November 2020 at 19 percent.