Tough Times Push Kenyans to Survive on Side Hustles

Janet is a journalist – and runs a wines and spirits joint in Nairobi’s Komarock’s estate. If you don’t find her at her desk in one of the leading media houses editing stories submitted by writers  then you will find her serving customers booze.

“My salary is not enough and that’s why I have a side hustle,” Janet told

Janed said: “Media does not pay that much as many would want to believe. I can tell you that journalists are often broke despite having what I would call a celebrity status. The pressure is too much – and many of my colleagues have side hustles just to top up the bills.”

Christ Obote who is a construction assistant in one of the construction companies runs a mini shop in the estate. If not at work – you will find him at the shop.

“It’s a small shop which we operate together with my wife Winnie. The returns are not really high given the pandemic – but we are able to top up whatever comes in as salary at the end of every month,” says Obote.

On her part, Anita sells second-hand clothes which she sells from the boot of her car.

“I sell mostly to my colleagues at work. At first I felt embarrassed, but with time I came to embrace it. I sell to people after building a rapport with them. It would be unprofessional to turn the office space into a clothes store. That’s why I leave the clothes and make up stuff in the boot of my car at the parking,” she says.

Asked why she does this yet she has a job, Anita says: “Life is very difficult especially now that we have the pandemic. I have to increase my income after my employer cut my salary by over 30 percent.”

A report released by the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics on September 1, 2020,  stated that the unemployment rate doubled to 10.4% as compared to 5.2% in March – when the pandemic was first reported. According to the report, over 1.7 million Kenyans have lost jobs since the pandemic.

This means that the few who are remaining in employment have been left with a huge burden of supporting individuals who have lost their jobs.

According to Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) the number of people in employment fell to 15.87 million between April and June compared to 17.59 million the previous quarter. Young people were the hardest hit by job cuts compared to their counterparts aged above 35 years in an economic setting that is plagued by a hiring freeze on the back of sluggish corporate earnings.

According to the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) – in a report made in September 2020 – a total of 604 firms in Kenya fired workers.

Economist Duncan Otieno told that most Kenyans have had to re-adjust their lives economically.

“It’s a difficult time for most Kenyans. That is why out of 10 Kenyans you meet today, 8 are planning on how to get into some form of business.

Duncan agrees that side hustle is the fad now especially for those employed because jobs have become unstable with employers sending workers home every so often due to a tough business environment.

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