When Johnstone Oningo cleared a meeting in Mombasa on a Wednesday night, it would take him four days to get back to work in Busia thanks to coronavirus related disruptions on the transport sector.
“I used to finish my meetings, take a night bus and I would be in Busia the next day, but with the imposed night curfew, I had to wait and travel on a Thursday. Even then, we only made it to Kisumu even at high speeds”
“We had to spend the night there and travel on Friday and by that time, it was already the weekend and so I could only get back to work on Monday,” he said.
Mr. Oningo’s story has come to characterize travel between Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret and the rest of the hinter-lands during the coronavirus pandemic.
It has been costing businesses and businessmen money.
The cessation of movement in and out of hotspot areas was a big blow to enterprises reliant on shutdown areas for supplies.
This meant that input costs went up as businesses were forced to source for alternatives as shortages hit.
Further, access to markets was limited forcing most businesses to cut production.
Moreover, the human touch between enterprises and their customers was severed as virtual meetings took hold.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta opened up the counties of Nairobi, Mombasa and Mandera on July 6, and announced the subsequent resumption of local air transport from July 15, the enterprises marked a new dawn.
In months since the lift to restrictions, private sector activity has strengthened with businesses marking a rebound in new orders as demonstrated by the Stanbic Bank Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) across the months of July and August.
For instance, firms were able to receive inputs quicker in July as delivery times improved at the fastest rate in 16 months.
“Notably the removal of county travel restrictions supported output and business sentiment in July. This enabled firms to receive inputs much quicker, as supplier delivery times improved,” said Jibran Qureishi, the Head of Research for Africa at Stanbic Bank.
The resumption of travel was not however smooth as the State-wide night curfew persisted, curtailing long-distance travel.
This has meant businesses spending more time on the road than is necessary adding a new layer of costs.
Perhaps this has accounted for the increased demand for Jambojet direct flights from Mombasa to Kisumu and Eldoret following requisite approvals by parent company Kenya Airways.
The flights are set to revolutionize air travel and accelerate business turnaround times, there being no requirements to fly through the Nairobi terminal as has been the ritual previously.
The airline intends to start operating the two routes on October 2, 2020, with a one -way introductory price of Sh.8,900.
Jambojet will operate the two routes every Friday and Sunday, with the Mombasa-Eldoret and Kisumu flight departing from Mombasa at 13.15 to arrive in Eldoret at 15.05 and in Kisumu at 15.55.
On the reverse, the flight will depart Eldoret at 15.25, and from Kisumu at 16.15 to arrive in Mombasa at 18.05.
As the coronavirus pandemic impact continues to wreak havoc, many businesses are making adaptations that will reverberate through time into the future.
For Jambojet, the desired adaptation is to overhaul how transport and infrastructure links Kenya’s most important businesses centres.