Kenyan Hustlers Raking Profits From Coronavirus

  • Stock photo of scientists in Wuhan China conducting tests to combat the Coronavirus outbreak.
    Stock photo of scientists in Wuhan China conducting tests to combat the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • A section of Kenyans in Nairobi's Kilimani neighbourhood are making a killing from exports to China due to the CoronaVirus (Covid-19) outbreak as reported by Quartz Africa.

    The publication reported that a typically quiet medical supply shop is frequented with customers of Chinese descent placing orders on face masks for export. Attendants at the shop prove the authenticity of the masks in a three-part, "burn, water and layer" test for the clients, all on camera.

    The video evidence is then sent via WeChat groups to buyers back in China.

    A medical officer uses a non-contact thermometer to test for symptoms of Coronavirus.
    A medical officer uses a non-contact thermometer to test for symptoms of Coronavirus.

    A 50 pack carton of face masks goes for around Ksh200 on a regular, but the price skyrocketed to Ksh1,000 as of the previous week with some orders reported at Ksh 1,500 a pack.

    According to the publication, the shop manager revealed that they had struggled to meet the demand. On Friday 14, the factory had increased working hours to 24-hour, 6 days a week shifts but ran out of cotton by Saturday 15. They were then forced to import more cotton material from Turkey to continue the production.

    The increasing demand has forced players in the trade to look to the likes of Tanzania to satisfy the demand. As the weeks progress, the demand for masks grows further.

    A Kenyan merchant who sought anonymity informed the publication that masks from neighbouring Tanzania were delivered through illicit border backroads to evade tariffs.

    Apart from the masks, the no contact thermometer guns have been met with increasing demand. An exporter revealed that though several were manufactured in the country, some had been imported from China and have since been exported back.

    The price for a thermometer gun hiked by 40 per cent, that is from Ksh 2500 to Ksh 3500.

    The deadly microbe was first reported in the Hebei Province capital of Wuhan, early January, and has claimed the lives of over 2000 people with in excess of 74,000 others infected.

    The battle to contain the virus has proved a tough task for the 1.4 billion population country, with the supply of gas masks and non-contact thermometers dwindling.

    China's government had stated that the country could only produce 20 million masks in a single day, which is half the required number. 

    This, therefore, generated a gap for enterprising middlemen to turn to Kenyans and the rest of Africa to cash in on the shortage.

    Photo of workers at a mask factory in Handan, China.
    Photo of workers at a mask factory in Handan, China.

    China's continued battle with the killer virus has caused a subsequent rise in market prices for medical supplies across the world.

    “Demand is up to 100 times higher than normal and prices are up to 20 times higher,” World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated when he addressed a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland earlier in the week.

    “This situation has been exacerbated by widespread and inappropriate use of [personal protective equipment] outside patient care. As a result, there are now depleted stockpiles and backlogs of four to six months. Global stocks of masks and respirators are now insufficient to meet the needs of WHO and our partners," he added.

    At the Nairobi shop where the thermometers were being prepped for export, a worker possed, "What will happen if corona comes to Kenya? There’s nothing left for us."