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Uproar as county sets May deadline for business licenses renewal

Traders in Taita-Taveta County have opposed a directive by the county government demanding they pay annual licensing fee by end of May at a time when thousands of businesses are bleeding from the adverse effects of Covid-19.
The county has warned that those traders who will not have paid the license fee by end of this month will face unspecified severe consequences.
Ordinarily, the deadline for paying for the licenses is at the end of March but the county says it extended the payment duration to end of May thereby giving traders and other business people a grace period of two months.
The county also said it had waived the penalties associated with late application for license renewal.
However, such assurances do little to comfort traders who have suffered massive losses from closure of business premises and lack of clients in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya.
“We were hoping the county would be understanding and even waive the license fee at least for this time. This demand to renew our licenses is simply callous,” says Mr. Charles Keli, a trader in Voi town.
The threat by the county to take unspecified punitive action against those who will not have paid for licenses further complicates life for small-scale traders who have borne the brunt of Covid-19. At Voi stage, most stalls have been reporting virtually zero sales after the government imposed a travel ban following the lockdown for Nairobi and Mombasa cities.
Passenger vehicles and buses plying the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway are the life-blood for shops and most establishments in Voi town.
“Our shops largely serve passengers who pass through this town. There has been no movement for months and our losses are huge,” admits Ms. Maria Zura, another trader.
In what might give a reprieve for traders, the County Assembly has picked up the matter. On Thursday, Vice Chair of Public Accounts Committee Joan Adino demanded a statement from Finance Department on why traders were being forced to pay for licenses.
Ms. Adino noted that aware of the economic hardship the entire country was undergoing, the Finance Department had reduced the projected revenue targets from over Sh 300 million this fiscal year to Sh 120 million.
In April, the county government ordered the closure of barbershops and saloons for a period of three weeks as part of a containment strategy to avoid the risk of spreading coronavirus. Other businesses hard hit include hotels, bars, lodges and coffee shops.
A section of traders have been agitating for the county to allocate a stimulus package to jump-start the business operations.
By Wagema Mwangi

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