“Noone is buying my khangas” >> Security and Tourism #Mombasa

“Mum, I can sell a khanga to you for Ksh 250 (3 USD) only, but we can still negotiate.”

Now for someone who loves all things beautiful, I know that the price of khangas in Mombasa is usually double the price. What she was quoting was burning her pocket.

Margaret is a middle aged lady who works on the coastline of Mombasa and her business is in selling an assortment of beautiful khangas.


Majority of us are aware of how bad the tourism sector has been since rising insecurity plagued our country; this being exacerbated by travel advisories.

It’s a hot Tuesday afternoon and Margaret informs me that she has not sold a single khanga in over a week. How is she fending for herself? Even she can’t answer that but informs me that to cut on costs, she treks to her business location on foot. She estimates the distance as about 10kms one way.

“Things are really bad. You’d need to be here to understand how bad it is,” she tells me.

“Right now we are surviving because of German tourists who are still frequenting the place, but they still aren’t as many.” It is 21st October and on a usual year, this would be peak season and hotels would be buzzing with tourists.

“If I could move my business to Tanzania, I would; they are all there; but you know how difficult it is to do business as a Kenyan there, it is not easy.”

I nod in agreement.

“This fear of insecurity is crippling our business.”

“What is more worrying is that Kenyans do not have the capacity to go on holiday often. You’re hungry, I’m hungry, how then will we help each other?” Her statement reminds me of a comment once made that reiterated this; that despite Kenya being given status as a middle income country recently, her people do not eat GDP.

Where people cannot fend for themselves, there is no progress.

“We all need each other. If my brothers and sisters could afford my products and my brother’s products, then we would not depend as much on external tourists.”

“My friend here has not sold any wood carvings in two weeks,” she tells me, as she points to an older gentleman seated by a corner, looking drained by the scorching sun.

Undoubtedly, thousands of Kenyans have lost their jobs and sources of livelihood. This can be felt in every sector of the economy, from the young man selling dhow tours on the beach to the farmer selling cabbages at Marikiti market in Mombasa.

The government has been lobbying within the international community in a bid to avert travel advisories; however this is still not felt on the ground. Insecurity remains a key business risk in Kenya and this fact cannot be underscored; the people in Mombasa cannot afford another attack. As it were, economic growth has stagnated and it will take a while before the business environment returns to normal.

Unmistakably, terrorism threats remain real with Somalia being in the immediate geographic proximity and the existential fact that increasingly more youth are unemployed, idle and frustrated which creates fertile ground for recruitment.

It is reported that in 2013 alone, tourism directly contributed Kshs183.4 billion to the Kenyan economy, with 40 per cent of that going into coastal counties. This figure takes into account accommodation, food and beverage, entertainment and recreation, retail, and transport industries.

Government figures from the 2014 Economic Survey place total ‘tourism earnings’ in 2013 at Kshs 94 billion, which would place the impact of insecurity in the Coastal region at Kshs 15 billion per year, or Kshs 41.2 million per day.

One then can see that urgent and drastic measures need to be taken to curb cases of insecurity.

We would need to invest heavily, wisely and holistically in the other sectors of growth that have immense potential to boost employment. This would contribute to enhancing peace and stability. Be it the ICT sector or agricultural sector which requires more incentives in order to boost food security in not only the coastal region but the entire country. This country can not survive on the government creating jobs, make no mistake, that is not it’s role. What it needs is a vibrant private sector and it’s role is to ensure this and facilitate this.

A hungry man is an angry man and the reverse is true.

As reported, weak governance has exacerbated insecurity and the proliferation of small arms on our porous borders has cost us. We will come a long way in fighting this menace when we rid ourselves of corruption as well as have functional institutions.

A delegate highlighted at the recently convened African Union fifth annual retreat of special envoys, representatives and mediators that we should avoid the temptation to collapse freedom and democracy into security and stability. Screening a group of people in a stadium will not solve this problem.

Aristotle also over 2500 years ago stated that where there is inequality there will be instability.

The international agenda should  complement and not undercut the commitments that Kenya has for itself and focus on development in order to break the vicious cycle of instability.

Giving Margaret 350 Kshs, I get myself a beautiful khanga.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Steph Wanjiku
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 05:21:33

    Great piece Nyagz!

    Liked by 1 person


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