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 and movement.
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.