Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused global disruption on a huge scale that has not been seen in most of our lifetimes. Although, so far, Africa has largely been spared the alarming death rates seen in America and parts of Europe, the coronavirus spread rapidly from country to country throughout the continent in only a few weeks, and continues to spread.
By acting quickly and implementing a strict national lockdown, African countries such as South Africa have done their best to stop the spread of infection. But all this comes at a high cost. Countless small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and even some long-established big businesses have closed their doors, and scores of jobs have been lost as the lockdown is extended indefinitely. In early April, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned that up to 50% of all jobs in Africa could be lost, which would devastate already battered economies in developing countries, and lose any progress that has been made over the past decade or so.
But if Africa has proven anything during its history, it’s that its people are resilient, even in the face of extreme adversity. Many businesses are proving this by adapting to the ‘new normal’. Take Zhauns (the continent’s leading machine supplier), for example. During the lockdown period, Zhauns is solely focusing on supplying SMEs with face mask, hand sanitiser and toilet roll-making machines.
With a soaring demand for these products, which are categorised as essential goods, new business opportunities have been created, which will provide hope for many people who have lost work due to the current restrictions. Zhauns also provides customers with the necessary training (through the online platform, Zhauns Academy) so customers can not only learn how to use the machines, but also learn how to build their business and increase their chances of succeeding.
The more we can help each other during the COVID-19 crisis, the more hope there will be for the African continent in the months and years to come.