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Africa’s Informal Traders Hit Hardest by Lockdowns

Also called miraa, khat is a wildly popular herbal stimulant in Somalia that is said to increase energy, deepen focus and suppress appetite. The leaf starts to lose its properties the second it is plucked from the branch, and so must be sold quickly, or else its value dissipates. In Africa, it is grown in central Kenya and in Ethiopia, with both countries exporting the leaves to Somalia. But things changed some two weeks ago when the Somali government announced a ban on international flights other than humanitarian ones as part of efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. Both the small-scale businesses and the farms that are the backbone of the khat trade have since been severely impacted. Meanwhile, some officials have said that because khat is picked and moved by hand, it could be a vector for coronavirus.