“We can count how many amazing things COVID-19 took away from us, and we can also choose to see what COVID-19 has done for us.”
This article originally appeared at COVID HQ Africa and is re-posted here with permission.
Never in a million years would I have guessed, that one day matatus would have a sense of decorum and cleanliness. You see, matatus (also known as combis in most parts of Southern Africa and molue in Nigeria), are a popular means of transport in Kenya and Africa at large. They are known to be somewhat chaotic yet effective in getting you from point A to point B. COVID-19 has made it more bearable to use them, given the new preventative measures.
“If you ask me, our personal hygiene has increased as a society.”
Some bus terminals in Nairobi have a small water tank offering customers an option to wash their hands prior to boarding or the bus conductor offers to spray your hands with sanitizer. It has become so normal to automatically sanitize your hands at the entrance of any building and for us to have a small bottle of hand sanitizer right next to our doors for incoming guests.
It has become so normal to automatically sanitize your hands at the entrance of any building and for us to have a small bottle of hand sanitizer right next to our doors for incoming guests. If you ask me, our personal hygiene has increased as a society. I vividly remember, in a conversation, a friend mentioned how she would continue to wear masks post-COVID-19. “Why, Ruth?” I inquired enthusiastically. “Why not! It gives me anonymity and reduces chances of catching any respiratory illness.” Ruth is in her own world but we all have that one friend who shares her sentiments.
“My favorite new rule is social distancing. If we could continue with social distancing in public transportation, that would be amazing. So can we? Yes? Thank you.”
You and I can, both agree social distancing in queues from supermarkets counters, banks to bus terminals should continue post COVID-19! This has become a personal favorite. Personal space in public is a foreign concept for many. Prior to COVID-19, queues were opportunities for groping, theft and germ transfer to mention a few.
“Zoom meetings have become the new normal.”
As a people, here in Kenya and around the world, the idea of working from home has been embraced. Zoom meetings have become the new normal. Perhaps this should be a concept both employers and employees, should continue to adopt moving forward. We’ve embraced virtual meetings, that Zoom saw 300 million virtual meetings daily as of April 2020, up from 10 million in December 2019. To give you a larger idea how massive virtual meetings have become, Zoom in 2019 was valued at US$15.9 billion and as of May 2020 their market capitalization was standing at a record of US$48.8 billion. I know! I’m flabbergasted,
Institutions of higher learning such as universities should continue offering majority of academic learning digitally. On the down side, over 18 million pre-primary, primary, and secondary school learners from mid-March 2020 were not benefiting from virtual learning. Kenya, is well known as the Silicon Savannah, with an internet penetration rate of 83%, but this was not reflected in classrooms. In South Africa, online learning has proven to be a savior for many schools. Over 30 sites enabled students to access learning material for free.
In Nigeria, the whole sector had to retool. For example, Lagos government distributed 10,000 radio sets to students in under-served communities. The private sector refused to lack behind. One tech start up, uLesson, which launched in February of 2020, saw close to 250,000 downloads of academic material.
“We could possibly be witnessing the dying of paper money as we know it.”
COVID-19 has probably done more for digital firms and platforms. Be it delivery companies such Amazon to the increase usage of digital paying platforms. Here in Kenya, the use of M-Pesa and Airtel Money (mobile payment platforms) were already a popular concept amongst locals. It is so popular that one can pay for their vegetables with it.
But what happens to an industry that heavily relies on paper money? The pandemic has only pushed the use of digital money via telecoms more strongly, with banks and the Ministry of Health cautioning against use of paper money. Before COVID-19, one could not pay for bus fare via M-Pesa, but the matatu/combis/molue industry has had to embrace this concept if they were to stay economically afloat. Safaricom’s 2020 profit show it all. The East African telecom giant recorded KES 74.7 billion net revenue with mobile payment contributing KES 84.4 billion of it. We could possibly be witnessing the dying of paper money as we know it.
We can count how many amazing things COVID-19 took away from us, and we can also choose to see what COVID-19 has done for us.
About the Author
Zindzi Kibiku is a Kenyan broadcasting journalist and media personality.
This article originally appeared at COVID HQ Africa and is re-posted here with permission. The views and opinions are solely those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of COVID-19 Africa Watch or any affiliated organization. The original article is available here.