An old adage says that when the going gets tough the tough
gets going. This holds true to women entrepreneurs in the informal sector
following the devastation Covid-19 wrecked on their businesses since the first
case of the pandemic was reported in Kenya in March 2020.
Many of them closed down completely as the pandemic cut off
their supply chain while the Government’s Covid-19 mitigation protocols
including the country’s lockdown hit hard on their customers’ purchasing power
This is not unique to Kenya. In Africa, even if the
continent has not faced the pandemic -related deaths and infections seen in
other regions of the world, has hit the informal business women hard.
“Women-led MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) have
been especially hard hit, with many reporting revenue losses of over 50%,
largely due to their smaller size, informality, and concentration in heavily
affected sectors,” the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private
sector-lending arm of the World Bank, says in a study released in March 2021.
The study, in which IFC sought to understand the impact of
the COVID-19 pandemic on women-led MSMEs in 13 African countries, is titled
Covid-19 and Women-Led MSMEs in Sub-Saharan Africa: Examining the Impact,
Responses, and Solutions.
The women entrepreneurs who braved the ravages of the
pandemic were forced to innovate for them to survive in the cutthroat
competition to recovery.
Ruth Moraa, a Mitumba (second hand) clothes business woman
at Daraja Mbili Market in Kisii Town, says that she has diversified her business into other activities.
“Sticking to a single business line could have seen me
go home,” she says.
Moraa has diversified her business from mitumba business
into selling vegetables, Tomatoes, potatoes, onions and fruits.
She says that she had to join a savings and credit
cooperative society (SACCO) where they are access affirmative funds.
Sarah Achieng, an Omena (fingerlings) and fish seller, says
that she has to venture into online/e-commerce by setting up a website where
she is advertising and selling her products.
“This is a new normal and with many of my clients
working from home I had to find a way of reaching them,” she says.