By Olawale Rasheed
The pandemic questions business strategists of proven skills and antecedents; it tasks their forecasting ingenuity.When they talk of global economy under distress,the dangerous virus is compulsively creating a new world economic model. When many expect a return to normalcy,the virulous infection promises a new normal.
The lockdown , destroying the economies of many countries around the world according to many experts and ongoing debate across the world, is ironically creating a new economy. Normal practices are becoming abnormal and a new culture of work and business transactions is emerging.
I attempt examining the new normal the economic system is experiencing. Are those changes temporary or permanent?
Let assess the 10 new developments,though not exhaustive :
1.New Found Secret among Financial Institutions: It has always been an obssesion among many top management-rationalising workforce to shore up profits .The thinking has always been how to maintain efficiency and increase return with a reduced workforce. Then suddenly emerged the Covid 19 pandemic,compelling online operations even under lockdown. Many banks are experiementing and studying how a reduced workforce can function post-covid-19. A bank Chief in my area here posits that a post-coronavirus world especially in Africa may see attempts to streamline banking operations,including within its agenda staff rationalisation. But nothing is conclusive. As many top nations are experiementing for anti-coronavirus vaccines ,top bank exceutives may be plotting graphs on operational efficiency. As the financial sector is likely to be severly disrupted,staff structure may not be spared.
2.Imperative of E-Learniing : As the pandemic shut down schools at all levels ,busineses within the e-learning sector are gaining new strategic importance. E-learning entrepreneurs have huge opportunities courtesy of COVID-19. Now or in the nearest future, online education is expected to be fully embraced by government at local,states and Federal levels. Educational institutions especially at tertiary and secondary levels will elevate e-learning to new levels.Learning online will become a new normal. Tertiary institutions here in Africa may then claim their fair share on Africans paying heavily for online education adminstered in Europe and north America.Private school operators smart enough will evolve e-learning business model.
3.Question about Meeting Apps: A new normal is the adoption of meeting apps and teleconferencing .This particular development has become a mainstream practice which in business sector stands for new reality even for those averse to intrusive technologies . Board meetings and top management interactions are shifting online,again reducing physical interactions in business decision making. It is truly efficient,fast and effective. This tool having gain prominence now may be hard to discard. What to address is the safety of the platforms in the face of widespread cyber crime and industrial espionage.Zoom meeting app is a case in point. Even at that online meeting has come to stay ,introducing new protocols and forcing businesses to up their preparedness to tackle cyber crimes.
4.Booming E-commerce: Home delivery services and the general e-commerce sector are widely considered the biggest winner in the lockdown economy.Internationally,Amazon owner,Jeff Bezos just added $24 billion to his fortune according to Forbes. Unarguably ,lockdowm enforces patronage of e-commerce. E-comrerce operators in Africa and Nigeria in particular also reap bountifully from the lockdown economy .One striking development is the improvement of many businesses online. From consulting to essential services,business operators are moving online ,transforming microblogging sites like Instagram,Twitter and Facebook into e-commerce platforms. This trend is sure to continue.
5.Booming Work from Home Services: A new development which existed albeit on a low scale prior to the pandemic has now taken the center stage. Working from home is now an enforced practice that may die hard post COVID-19. This in effect will affect the nature of business practices especially among consulting professionals and SMEs.Scaling down cost of business through working from home is expected to impact on the office letting business sub-sector. This has all along been creeping into business operations. Post-coronavirus,it is expected to be amplified as professionals now discover working from home can be cost efficient in a world of economic downturn. As business dwindles in the face of forecasted recession,cost cutting measures won’t exclude home working mechanisms. Now various apps supporting home working are gaining popularity.This wont go away so soon.
6. Ascendance of Co-Working Space: Highly probable as an intermediary between homeworking and present office system is co-working spaces. This sub-sector is highly popular in Europe and North America and is only making certain level of presence pre-coronavirus here in Nigeria. Many professionals and consultants may be forced to opt for co-sharing office space which is cost effective as much as home working. The co-working operators are emerging across Nigeria before the pandemic. The possibility is that the business may boom exponentially especially as owners of vacant houses ,if business savvy,may enter the business in partnership with professionals.
7. Efficiency of Family Budget : Closely related is a radical change in home finance. Couples are engaging more closely on house budget,creating a water tight spending system. A review of home finance practices reveals prioritization and exceptional seriousness amongst families especially within the Federal Capital territory,Abuja. The weakened middle class is particularly extremely cautious about spending while the rich are equally weighing expenses in line with the demands for philantrophy. Strangely enough,the wives no longer enjoy total authority on budget making; the men are now harsh actors in a drama like legislative -executive interaction on the national budget .Home budgetting efficiency is compulsorily enforced under lockdown economy.
8.Rennaisance of Local Phamaceutical Firms: A business sector witnessing renewed care and attention from governments all over the world is the local manufacturers within the medical sector . In the last three weeks, the Nigerian government has been engaging local players in the pharmaceutical sub-sectors. As at last count,over 250 local medical manufacturrers are receiving attention. Also noticeable is the new interest to locally develop the medical production value chains.The SMEs are equally raising voices with government. showing unusual willingness to support the sector.This will continue as the supply of medical equipment has become a national security matter.
9. Emergence of Systematic Philantrophy : Philantrophy sector is a huge platform in many settled societies ,providing much needed support for those left behind by societal advances. In Africa and Nigeria in particular,the deep poverty situation increases the significance of support foundations and societies.The lockdown economy manifests latent capacity of Nigerians for philantropism. Many are now considering setting up society support foundations at a time many super rich within the society are donating billions of naira in support of the masses. The nation is likely to witness setting of privately run food banks,community health dispensing and education support services. Post-coronavirus, this sense of institutionalised giving will increase.
10. Accelerated Low Carbon Economy: The Pandemic is a strong driver of renewed attention to containment activities against climate change.Governments and businesses are likely to be forced to act on climate change benchmarks .Already the European Union is promoting green deal as a foundation for post-coronavirus recovery plan. Green deal is an election campaign issue in the forthcoming United States presidential elections.Renewable energy sector is gaining popularity as the private sector is under compulsion to act to reduce carbon emission.