Activity in Kenya’s private sector rose at its fastest pace in a year last month on the back of a gradual easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The Markit Stanbic Bank Kenya Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) jumped to 54.2 in July from 46.6 in the previous month, well above the 50.0 mark that separates growth from contraction.

July’s level was the highest since June last year.

“The removal of county travel restrictions supported output and business sentiment in July,” said Jibran Qureishi, head of Africa Research at Stanbic Bank, referring to the opening up of the capital Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa.

He said the outlook was uncertain, however.

Firms continued to shed jobs in July, the survey found, but a slower pace than in the previous months.

The government cut its GDP growth forecast for this year to about 2.5% due to the pandemic, from an initial 6%.

Relaxation of restrictions boosts private sector

In June, private sector activity in Kenya grew thanks to reduced curfew hours and the relaxation of lockdowns in Europe that boosted demand for exports.

Kenya shortened its curfew hours in June, providing respite for businesses hit by a shorter working day.

The virus has led to stagnated economic activity, with tourism, horticulture, transport, manufacturing and small and medium-sized businesses hit hardest.

The finance ministry expects economic growth to slow to 2.5% this year from 5.4% last year, while the International Monetary Fund is forecasting a 0.3% contraction this year.

Kenyan’s hard hit by COVID-19 pandemic find other ways to make a living

Meanwhile, residents in Kenya who have been hardest hit by the coronavirus have had no choice but to seek alternative measures to survive.

Millions of jobs were shed in the informal sector.

With uncertainty hanging over the livelihoods of most Kenyans, many are turned their car boots into grocery stores as they race to feed their families.