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Africa hit by job losses as pandemic continues

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-08-05 21:06

A woman wears a protective face shield during food distribution, as South Africa starts to relax some aspects of a stringent nationwide coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, in Diepsloot near Johannesburg, South Africa, May 8, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Hotel and tourism sectors among those hardest hit by COVID-19

Five months since the coronavirus outbreak in Africa, the impact is clearly visible across the continent in the form of massive job losses, indefinite closure of businesses and increasing poverty rates.

The worst-hit sectors are education, tourism, hospitality, media, horticulture and transport.

While some of the businesses were already grappling with various challenges before the advent of coronavirus, the pandemic has worsened the situation, threatening their survival.

Due to restrictions on movement imposed by governments as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of coronavirus, many premier hotels have had no option but to close down and send their staff on unpaid leave. Others closed down permanently.

On Aug 3, the InterContinental Hotel announced it was considering a permanent closure of its branch in Kenya's capital Nairobi.

In a notice, the management told its employees that their positions would be declared redundant within 45 days. Hundreds of jobs would be lost due to the closure of the hotel, which opened in Kenya in the late 1960s.

"We write to inform you that InterContinental Hotels Corporation Limited Kenya is, for operational reasons, considering a permanent closure of InterContinental Nairobi and winding up its operations in Kenya," the hotel statement read.

The company joins a list of premier hotels hit hard by the coronavirus, with Serena Hotels, which operates upscale hotels and resorts in East Africa, southern Africa and South Asia, having sent its entire staff in Kenya on unpaid leave in June.

The Fairmont Hotels and Resorts also closed Fairmont the Norfolk, its branch in Nairobi, and the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, located in Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve.

In South Africa, Marriott International, a global hotel group, in June permanently shut the doors of three hotels, including the African Pride Mount Grace Country House and Spa in Magaliesburg, the Protea Hotel by Marriott Durban Edward, and the Protea Hotel by Marriott Hazyview, attributing the decision to the impact of coronavirus.

Publications shut

Due to lack of revenues, many media houses have reduced their staff across the continent. In South Africa, several magazines and newspapers were closed down because of the pandemic, which had led to the collapse of their circulation.

Media24, the print media division of the South African media company Naspers, closed several of its publications and restructured others as the coronavirus led to a decline in its advertising revenues.

The Associated Media Publishing, which brings out Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Women on Wheels, and House and Leisure, also closed down.

Caxton & CTP Publishers and Printers, a publisher and printer of books, magazines and newspapers in South Africa, closed its magazine division from May, affecting 10 publications.

In Kenya, leading media houses, including MediaMax Network, Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services and Radio Africa Group, among others, laid off dozens of staff while others were subjected to pay cuts, due to decreased advertising revenues.

Nigerian media outlets, including The Punch newspaper, The Nation, and Business Day slashed the staff salaries or dismissed others due to reduced revenues.

Private schools have also been affected by the coronavirus. The prestigious Bishop Bavin School, a South Africa-based school, which is run by the Anglican Church, closed its doors in June due to financial crisis.

Bedfordview and Edenvale News reported on June 12 that the school's combined deficit totaled $1.8 million.

Many private schools in Kenya have started to close down permanently, with more than 100 facing imminent closure due to huge bills occasioned by the pandemic, according to the Kenya Private Schools Association.

Peter Ndoro, CEO of the association, told Citizen TV that many private schools will not be able to reopen in January 2021.

Schools closing down

He said the private schools employ about 150,000 teachers, including an equal number of nonteaching staff.

In Uganda, some private schools are closing down with others opting out of education business. Najjera Progressive School, for instance, closed down permanently by the end of July, after 32 years of operation.

Andrew Timothy, the school director, said following a comprehensive analysis of the business viability, he was certain the school cannot survive the shutdown measures alongside other preexisting pressures, as reported by The Observer, Uganda's weekly newspaper.

According to the African Development Bank, Africa may lose 25-30 million jobs in 2020, depending on the level of economic contraction due to the impact of the pandemic.

As a result of the coronavirus, the United Nations World Food Programme estimates that the number of food insecure people in East Africa will increase to more than 41 million this year, including 14 million who are estimated to live in urban areas.

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