How African Chambers of Commerce Cope with Pandemic
By Lars Benson
Over the past year, we have seen many Chambers and Associations throughout Africa adapt, grow, and embrace new ways of doing things.
First, associations responded to the pandemic health crisis by working with local health authorities to provide services within their communities. These services included everything from handing out masks to informing the public on safety protocols. Second, we saw associations work with members on building resilient businesses as they were severely challenged by the pandemic.
In some cases, associations helped businesses retool to provide new products and services remotely. We are now entering a new stage where the threat of shutdowns, lockdowns, and potential re-openings are all different possibilities on the horizon. There is hope that with vaccinations we might return to a new normal.
But what is this “new” normal? It will probably not look like it did last year. Employees learned how to work from home offices, restaurants now offer home delivery, and most importantly nearly all businesses discovered the tools to conduct meetings by phone or through webinars. This all means that once again associations will need to be nimble to adapt to this evolving “new” normal and begin to understand what members and stakeholders will need in the future. At a minimum, associations that are able should start holding focus groups or conducting surveys to better define this “new” normal.
Even with the new context of the pandemic, some of the fundamental tenants on why people join associations still hold true. In Africa, the future association members will still demand information to help their business grow, they will require networking events to meet new customers and suppliers, and they will want the association to advocate for a better business environment. Is your association ready for the “new” normal?
Lars Benson, Regional Director, Africa
The Center for International Private Enterprise is an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.