Home Opinion & Features Four attributes SA businesses need to survive post lockdown

Four attributes SA businesses need to survive post lockdown

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Survival of many businesses is going to depend on their capacity to build resilience in order to remain sustainable

THE RESILIENCE of South African companies will ultimately be the country’s “secret weapon” in the fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19), global management consultancy firm Kearney said on Sunday.

“By nature, South Africans are resilient people, long accustomed to adapting their lives and livelihoods in light of political, social, and economic shifts,” Kearney Africa managing director Theo Sibiya said in a statement.

“Faced with this new, invisible enemy that has already wrought untold economic tumult and human suffering in other regions, we must once again find innovative and creative solutions as we acclimatise to this new reality.”

The survival of many businesses is going to depend on their capacity to build resilience in order to remain sustainable.

“Already, South African businesses and citizens are demonstrating that they are up to the challenge – displaying resilience, resourcefulness, dynamism, and social solidarity. As a result of this, they are able to offer services that have new-found value in the current reality,” he said.

Among these were two Cape Town-based textile manufacturing companies who had teamed up to convert their factory to produce face masks for public use. In doing so, the companies contributed to the national coronavirus pandemic response, while maintaining solvency and preserving jobs.

Other local companies had been plunged squarely into the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and both government and business had demonstrated remarkable foresight in establishing electronic platforms that communicated complex epidemiological data in user-friendly and engaging ways.

For South Africa, this shift to the 4IR laid bare the stark reality of the digital divide, where huge swathes of society’s most vulnerable were at risk of being left behind. Sibiya believed this presented an opportunity for forward thinking enterprises, including government, to roll out new social development programmes that ensured every South African had access to telecommunications technology for learning and working.

Government was also calling for industry collaboration to meet current demands. For example, the trade, industry, and competition department had called for proposals to assist in the national ventilator project to produce 10 000 ventilators by the end of June.

This project would see key state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and heavyweight industry players working in partnership to design a non-invasive ventilator solution that did not require electricity, amid a global shortage of ventilation equipment.

“Realistically, a seismic shock like this is bound to transform how we think and work.” From the insights gathered from overseas partners, businesses would need to embody certain key attributes in a post-Covid-19 economy.

Resilience: The need for resilience over maximal efficiency would shape how value chains were constructed and measured.

Sentience: “We comfort ourselves by thinking of Covid-19 as a ‘black swan’ event – it isn’t. It was easily predictable given the ebola, SARS, MERS, and avian flu epidemics. Some agencies such as the World Health Organization had playbooks to deal with such situations. So why did most Fortune 500 companies not?”

Distribution of Information: Telecommuting was well on its way to becoming the norm for many digital workforces, but had been relatively new for the rest. Microsoft Teams, for example, had seen a 500 percent increase in usage in March. It was here to stay. The second-order implications for the majority of the workforce being remote could be more significant.

Purpose: Perhaps the most significant change was a hope more than a prediction. Covid-19 had laid bare mutual dependency on each other as individuals and countries. A more compassionate work culture coupled with greater corporate investment and accountability for the environment and society would be an incredible positive to emerge.

“While we might have hoped that the disruptions wrought by Covid-19 would be a once-in-a-life-time cataclysm, it is increasingly clear that the effects of environmental changes on our health and our economy will mean that our ability to respond and adapt to seismic shifts will stand us in good stead,” Sibiya said.

– African News Agency (ANA)