COVID-19 lockdowns in several cities across Africa and the world signal a significant loss of income for nonessential businesses that will remain closed until cases are curbed. Businesses in the hospitality, transport, arts & media and retail sectors will record an unprecedented decline in demand as stores close, travel plans stay cancelled, and concerts and live performances are postponed. While it might be near impossible to entirely make up for lost revenue, there are measures business owners can take to soften the impact on income and operations.
Demand for online media, mobile money, e-commerce, remote working, and distance learning has surged as schools and business owners try to engage students, customers and employees. Now, more than ever, it is important for companies to adopt digital solutions to ensure customer engagement and overall employee morale and productivity. For example, Nigerian artistes like The Cavemen and Bez have held live shows on their social media. However, digitization requires skills and financial resources that many teachers, students, and MSMEs have no access to, limiting the ability of marginalized groups to learn, connect with consumers, and sustain operations with employees.
Identifying new opportunities
While lockdowns have led to a complete halt of most operations, there might be new opportunities to change production lines to serve new demands. For example, Morocco has partnered with several hotels around the world to shelter and feed thousands of stranded citizens. Additionally, hotels in Ghana are providing 14-day self-isolation services to guests with recent travel history. Similarly, micro manufacturers in Nigeria have started producing hand sanitizers, and there might be opportunities for clothing factories to help produce masks and other personal protective equipment.
All signals point to hard times for most businesses, and while it is important to keep employee and investor morale up, there should be clear communication from business owners to stakeholders on how current realities affect their business. These implications might be delayed delivery of goods, disrupted supply chains, and slower investment returns. It is important that in proposing measures to address these issues, business owners avoid “over-selling and under-delivering” as in the long-term, a lack of trust will only impede on the employee, consumer, and investor loyalty.