Cess strains Martha's business

Martha serving the customer food
The county council should build us better stalls - ‘kiosks’, toilets, install lights and provide water. The taxes we pay must account for something.

It is the smell of fish and chapati that welcomes you to this small establishment, surrounded by a church, some metal workers’ workshops and a garage.

Martha Kemunto 37 owns this small, dark, smoke filled food kiosk (Stall) in Kibra. She uses the shop to only prepare food, and then hawks it to her potential customers. She began her business in 1995, with a more solid structure however after the post-election violence of 2007, her life and business took a major hit.

“My food kiosk was burnt down in a blaze in 2007, I had to move my business elsewhere and since then business has never been the same,” she says. In 2010, she started paying cess; it is a requirement by the county government. Something she says has put a strain on her business and her family. She has to split the profit she makes between providing for her family, paying cess and running her business. Sometimes her family lacks because the expenses are too high.

She sells to other small business owners who are also facing difficulties since they are also paying cess, which is collected twice every week by the County Government or market management. Hence she has to lower the cost of food and ends up making very little to zero profit.

“I make roughly 600 per day, I pay cess worth KES 50 (about fifty cents US dollars) on Monday and Friday. I still have to pay my worker around KES 150 per day, pay the daily security fee of KES 20 and at the end of the day pay my suppliers, after which I am left with very little for my family.

“I used to cook chicken, fish and ugali but after the increase in taxation, from KES 25 to KES 50. I can’t afford it and neither can my customers. I now make them beans, green grams and other cereals with rice or ugali and sometimes I prepare fish when it is not very expensive for me.”

“The county council should build us better stalls - ‘kiosks’, toilets, install lights and provide water. The taxes we pay must account for something,” Kemunto says.