Regular readers of the Filing Room’s ‘Archiving Insights’ articles will know that our team of writers enjoy covering a broad range of subjects. The coronavirus known as COVID-19 has, however, stolen the focus of the world. There is little else that the globe’s varied peoples are talking about.

It is our hope that we will soon be able to bring Kenya’s archivists and businesspeople content that is informative, engaging and not centred on our current global pandemic. The virus is, however, an unprecedentedly influential phenomena, the effects of which will ripple across the globe for years to come.

Even pre-COVID-19, we found ourselves living in what pessimists sought to call the age of  misinformation. The falsities and exaggerated rumours abounding since the pandemic started have done little to renew our faith in our global information dispersal system. And yet it is information, sourced correctly and acted on accordingly, that will protect us from the worst of this virus.

We will leave it to public health and government officials to explain the healthcare ramifications of this virus. Instead, this article will explain some of the effects our current pandemic is likely to have on Kenyan business.

New Guidelines

The Kenyan government has recently announced new measures to combat the virus’ spread. All international flights will be suspended starting on the 25th of March. Any traveler who enters Kenya between then and now will be required to go through mandatory quarantine in a government designated facility.

Measures to keep people isolated from one another will also be increased. Religious gatherings have been suspended, bars are now forcibly closed and restaurants are limited to the sale of takeaways.

Furthermore, all those who are expected to self-quarantine (such as those who have recently entered the country) and are found not to be doing so will be forcibly quarantined by the Kenyan government. After quarantine, those of this category will be expected to cover the cost of their internment and will be charged under the Public Health Act.

Business and Economic Ramifications of the Coronavirus

With these new regulations designed to protect our citizens, Kenyan business will see some significant changes. Airlines and most other businesses connected to the services and tourism industries are going to be very obviously affected by the above listed emergency response measures.

Tourism and its connected services are hugely important to Kenya – 59.2% of Nairobi’s GDP is service related. In many ways, these industries are Kenya’s economic lifeblood. The revenue they generate permeates around the country and is what has allowed other businesses to grow and thrive.

If it suffers, Kenya suffers. Without tourism’s revenue we can expect industries such as consumer discretionary – Kenya’s famed jua kali craft goods are part of this industry -, household security, and internal travel (matatus and taxis) to see a downturn. With less money coming into the country there is less to spend on the activities, goods and services it provides.

Travel will be further affected by decreased movement as the country gears towards self-isolation measures.

Kenya’s manufacturing industry, which creates 14.8% of its GDP, is faced with uncertainty. If the virus takes a hold of the country and Kenya follows European and Asian examples with containment, then manufacturers will not be able to call upon a workforce, grinding production to a halt.

On the other hand, there are industries that stand to benefit from what these changes will do to consumers. With more and more people staying at home, power companies are expected to see an increase in the electricity they supply.

The entertainment industry looks set to witness a shift in focus. Cinemas and live shows are likely to be cancelled whilst at-home consumption of entertainment looks set to increase.

Horticulture, Kenya’s second biggest industry, provides a similarly complex case. Kenya provides much of the world with its coffee, tea, sugar, cashew nuts and flowers. Whilst flowers might be considered a luxury in these tumultuous times, tea and coffee consumption could rise as more and more people stay at home with limited distractions.

Crucially, however, the Mombasa tea auction, organized by the East Africa Tea Trade Association and the processing point for all East African tea trades with the rest of the World, was suspended yesterday, the 23rd of March. The auction was suspended amidst fears that key buyers were not present because of the Coronavirus.

Kenya exports much of its tea to countries such as Pakistan, Egypt and the UK. It is an industry that is worth 117 Billion shillings to the country. If the Mombasa tea auction fails to reopen soon, it will have keenly felt repercussions on the industry.

Archiving in the Era of Coronavirus

We, in the records management industry, are uniquely placed to see how business operation changes over this period.

Our industry is record keeping and as such we have some idea as to how many records are created. A business’ records are an indication of its activity and after this virus has run its course, our monthly growth figures might offer an, admittedly incomplete, picture as to how active our clients have been over this period.

It is our ardent hope that the clients that fuel our business thrive during this period. We all thrive in a growing economy and the revenues generated by it are what, pre-COVID-19, was propelling our country onward.