One of the most synonymous things with the Coronavirus pandemic has been a face mask.
Its effectiveness in the fight against the scourge has been clinically proven and affirmed by the premier global health authority, World Health Organization (WHO).
It is predicted that its use will continue even after the pandemic is put under control. This symbol of misfortune that has befell every country in the world infecting more than eight million people and claiming over four hundred thousand lives by the time of this writing, has legally been made a mandatory budget line for individuals and households in many countries including Kenya.
Most likely, you are wearing one as you read this. A universal guaranteed market is the first and most important piece of face Mask Inc.
Numerous organizations, large and micro, public and private, profit making and non- profit making spread across the country have emerged as manufacturers of this coveted apparel.
Many Kenyans have consequently secured jobs as tailors. Such has been the level of scale at Kitui County Textile Centre in Kitui County that the county’s government got national and international recognition.
An impressive 30,000 masks a day. This is a positive step considering manufacturing is one of the Big Four Agenda of the current government. A dedicated and subsidized production line is the second bit of face mask Inc.
The third division is that of distribution. Again many jobs have been created in this section. From the individual hawkers on our streets, to online vendors who deliver the masks to our homes to large retailers moving bulk volumes.
Initially face masks were made purely for their functionality as COVID-19 preventive tools. However, corporates and even politicians have since found another concurrent usage, a vehicle for advertisement, publicity and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Face masks have been branded with company names, logos, slogans and also photos of some politicians and handed out to customers, the needy and general public. This is the fourth dimension of face mask Inc.
The fifth facet is a combination of loyalty, patriotism and even faith. Masks are being used to express the wearer’s favorite football club, allegiance to country and religious beliefs. These are things people hold very dear to their hearts and they feel proud to be associated with.
Kenyans and Africans in general love colour and fashion. Many quickly got bored with the monotonous light blue masks and replaced them with the more fashionable African Kitenge cloth.
Face masks now come as an accessory to a complete fashionable African dress code. As reported in international media, customised retailers such as The Gap, Banana Republic and Nordstrom can’t keep their designer face masks in stock.
Even celebrities like Kim Kardashian have jumped on the bandwagon and launched their own lines. The mask has therefore becomes an expression instrument for people’s vogue.
The seventh and last slice of the global behemoth is a sour one.
As more high capacity manufacturers join the face mask production business and health authorities fight the pandemic, the output curves of the two sides will cross at some optimal point.
Beyond that the manufacturers and distributors will experience reduced market demand for their product probably leading to dead stock as has been reported in France. For the rest of the population it will be a sigh of relief as the COVID-19 dragon will have been slayed.
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Dr. Kevin Wachira is a Lecturer in the School of Business and Economics at South Eastern Kenya University, Kitui. Email: [email protected]