More than 100 Kenyan apparel manufacturers have temporarily closed, sending hundreds of workers home because of a decline in demand in export markets, primarily in the United States. The affected units are mostly from the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Machakos, the industrialisation, trade and enterprise development ministry said.

“The clothing manufacturing industry has been punched hard by COVID-19 devastation as its main export has been the United States of America,” industrialisation, trade and enterprise development cabinet secretary Betty Maina said.

A few have however remained afloat, she said, and have turned to the production of face masks and other personal protective equipment, as exports declined, according to a Kenyan media report.

The manufacturing sector, one of the Big Four Agenda pillars and critical for the country’s economic growth and development, remains among those affected by Covid.

At least 30,000 direct jobs had been lost in the sector by June, data by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) indicates, with more than 5.9 million jobs being affected across the economy since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in March.

Other sectors hard hit include tourism and hospitality, public transport, construction, real estate and trade.

Data compiled by KEPSA indicates at least 5,991,768 direct and indirect jobs have either been lost or workers sent home on unpaid leave as companies and businesses mitigate the effects of the virus.