KIZITO OKECHUKWU | SEPTEMBER 1, 2020
With the pandemic having annihilated businesses of all sizes and statures across the world, we are all in the midst of a serious wake-up call, as we continue in hope to find ways to live our lives as normal as possible, while playing by the cruel rules of the virus. Since the global outbreak, millions of deaths have been recorded with just as many jobs lost – forever.
As we know, South Africa too felt the wrath of the pandemic. Our research, published in April this year, predicted that thousands of small businesses will simply cease to exist. Sadly, this is now fact.
Spring. It’s a season of fresh growth, new beginnings and rejuvenation. The scent of flowers, seedlings blooming, animals exiting their confined hibernations and birds cheerily hark in this new warm season of rebirth.
I believe that spring can create a natural source of motivation and encouragement, in tandem with our government, to make our economy blossom again. And here is how
– Corporate: Big businesses must be encouraged to open and get their staff back onsite. Because in this regard, it’s not only about restoring corporate productivity, it’s also about the impact on small periphery businesses. For example, I was saddened when I went to buy street food from the Mama in Bryanston and she told me that pre-pandemic she used to sell 60-80 plates a day, but now, she rarely sells more than ten, because offices are standing empty. There are thousands of these small periphery businesses everywhere that rely on corporates and they need to get back to productivity, not to mention the larger periphery businesses, such as internal office cleaners, external window cleaners, etc. The list is endless and the economic domino effect is crippling.
– Travel and Tourism: As the Northern hemisphere approaches autumn (aka “fall” in the USA), many tourists will seek regions with warm weather to visit. We have to open up our borders safely with strict health protocols with, for example, a certified negative virus test a week before their arrival, still subject to rigorous airport screenings. With the many travel agencies, hotels and restaurants closing down, this will be a big opportunity to get these businesses back up and running. And once again, the peripherals, such as waiters, cooks, cleaning staff, maintenance and tour guides, etc. will be earning a living again. These all help reinstall consumer spending power, which helps pump money back into the economy, and are relevant to nearly every industry sector.
– Health and Fitness: It was encouraging to read that South Africa did not have a flu season this year. I guess this was due to home confinement and possibly that many took precaution by self-medicating, having hot water, lemon and honey, etc. I probably distributed over 300 lemons to my work colleagues during this period. So staying healthy and exercising is crucial to lessen the risk, as well as to keep wearing masks, social distancing and regular sanitisation.
– Startups: Our startup ecosystem has been dealt a crushing blow. From those that have surrendered their slim hope of continuance and those that have retrenched staff significantly, to the venture capital industry, which is now investing extremely conservatively, and the corporates that are over-cautious to talk partnerships or collaboration, now, more than ever, is the time to let hope spring eternal by building our economy on collaborative trust between small and big business.
– Conferences, Events (including weddings) and Entertainment: These are big money spinners, also employing many peripherals, so they have to get back into the economy, super-safely of course. Conferences and events attract millions of visitors annually with huge spending power. Entertainment, such as performers, musical artists and the creative industry at large, which includes film and TV productions, hire thousands of freelancers, many of which have been side-lined and unpaid since March.
In closing, we must acknowledge our Health Practitioners and Frontline workers, who many will agree have done a great job, bearing in mind there was no clear-cut remedy to fight this virus quickly.
Now I think we must spring into action and open the economy fully and safely – and remember it will take teamwork and diligent adherence to existing health protocols.
Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; and Executive Head at 22 on Sloane.
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