Spotlight on the impact of Covid in Kenya

Kenyans are a creative and artistic nation who hold family and community oriented culture in high regard. Kenya itself is a microcosm located in east Africa and is also the financial services hub for east and central African financial services with the Nairobi Stock Exchange ranked fourth in terms of the continents market capitalisation. Kenya has 69 languages, most Kenyan nationals speak more than one African language, and it holds an estimated 47 different communities. The country has a relatively young population with 73% of residents aged below 30 years of age as a result of rapid population growth.

The current education system has an emphasis on vocational subjects with free primary education being introduced since the early 2000s. This increased primary school enrollment exponentially. After independence, Kenya remained a member of the Commonwealth and its current constitution was adopted in 2010. Kenya’s largest sector is tea and coffee with the service industry also being a major economic driver, particularly tourism.

At the time of this post, Kenya has 34 495 Covid-19 cases, 20 211 recoveries and 581 deaths and marked seven months of Covid-19 in the same month. We set out to gain deeper insights into the current understanding of the virus amongst the people of Kenya and their current digital prioritisation of everyday social issues and access to information and technology.

Face to face CAPI interviews conducted with 134 respondents with each interview lasting approximately thirty minutes. The key data captured was participant demographics, their relationship with digital platforms, their current understanding of Coronavirus/Covid-19, how they receive information about the virus, in what language they receive it as well as their reactions to volunteering in their immediate community.

The majority of the participants interviewed in the survey speak 3 languages with Kiswahili being prevalent followed by Dholuo and English as either of their secondaries. The participants were cross population in age with the vast majority renting property and having a secondary or tertiary level of education. 53% of the participants are employed either full time, self employed or employed part-time and 25% of them are unemployed.

Just under two thirds of the people surveyed utilise 2 SIM cards and the majority keep their money in a bank, money wallet or both.

As far as Covid is concerned, nearly all of the participants feel that it poses a threat to them on some level and have abstained from public gatherings of 10 people or more and have only left home to purchase food, go to work or meet a friend.

Participants were mainly worried about the following in order of prevalence: Their community and how they will survive the pandemic; elderly relatives contracting Covid-19, how government lockdown will affect their family and their income; contracting Covid-19 and dying; children contracting Covid-19 and children missing school and education. Shortly after the government-imposed lockdowns and restrictions, violent policing of curfews occurred that disturbed the Kenyan people even more so than the threat of the virus itself in many cases.

Information about the Coronavirus is generally received from numerous sources with television being the most popular, followed by text messages, social media, friends and family, radio and the Internet. 85% of the participants received Covid-19 alerts from the Ministry of Health or local government messages about Covid-19 mainly in English and Kiswahili. A third of the participants in the survey are “unsure” or “not confident” about the information they’ve received from the government on the virus, which could be attributed to the police brutality and inconsistencies observed in the management of lockdown and regulations by their government.

Similarly job losses and lack of access to education are some of the most prevalent negative impacts of the government’s means of controlling the spread of Corona among Kenyans with food shortage, police brutality and crime also of concern.

Over 80% of the participants have received the government recommended vaccines in their life, but only 58% of them would be willing to receive the Covid-19 vaccine if it became available. Those who don’t want to be vaccinated, don’t trust the efficacy of the vaccine and its safety on their health.

Although the vast majority of the Kenyan people surveyed felt threatened by Coronavirus, 18% still volunteered within their communities either by handing out water or food stuffs, distributing masks or peer education about wearing masks and staying home.

The impact of Coronavirus in Kenya has affected far more than just the health sector in the country and numerous political, cultural, community and family issues have added to the dynamic created amongst the people. Companies, governments and NGOs should not expect to deploy a one size fits all approach to helping these communities square up against the imposing threat of this pandemic felt by the majority of the continent.

When planning on venturing a business or concept into an African country like Kenya, it is worth investing the time and planning into relevant research for focused insight into the diversity that the country offers to have a better understanding on what their specific needs and different concerns are, in order to have a lasting positive impact.

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