Business, Money & the Life: COVID-19 pandemic impacts global business and shows countries’ true state of readiness

The year 2020, a decade the world anticipated with so many visions and global growth, started on a rather health crisis. Fear and death are incapacitating countries into doom. Would the world recover from what seems to have just begun – a pandemic? An answer many of us globally seek to have, amid the battle of the coronavirus.

I can’t flatly state when this peril first started, but I woke up together with the world to an annihilative outbreak of the flu in Wuhan, China, where the first case was recorded. The decision of the Chinese president to sweep the first few cases under the carpet has been harshly criticized by the world at large – that position has resulted in what the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic. As it stands now, the world is battling a crisis known as the COVID-19 aka Coronavirus or Rona.

A brief look at what COVID-19 is.

By the WHO definition and standard, Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 – (WHO 2020)

The noted common symptoms of the virus are:

  1. Fever
  2. Tiredness
  3. Dry cough

The symptoms in some patients have also been noted as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell – asymptomatic.

Eighty percent of affected people is said to recover from the disease without needing special treatment – and around one out of every six people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are also likely to develop the disease and with a lower survival rate.

How to protect yourself from the disease

  1. Washing of hands frequently with soap and runny water.
  2. Avoid touching the face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
  3. Avoid crowded places – social distancing
  4. Covering of the mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  5. Self-quarantine – Stay home if you feel unwell, even with a slight fever and cough
  6. If you experience a fever, have a cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early – WHO advises you to call the medical center first.

Africa’s inactions during China’s total lockdown

There’s no doubt China is Africa’s highest investor of approximately 19 percent rate. The financial impact of China in Africa was staggeringly exposed amid the disease breakout early in January this year, 2020. Many African economies were in shambles as they had heavily depended on China’s charity and influence, importation of raw materials among other progressive business activities.

In the heights of the total lockdown as China failed to control the spread of COVID-19 majorly, in the center of Wuhan and other cities of its country – the world, especially Africa, were the much affected. The invaluableness of China’s preponderance as the highest hub for raw materials and importation business couldn’t be denied. Businesses crumbled – even here in Ghana, many importers were faced with product shortages and materials for manufacturing.

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Sadly, the responses of African countries in the light of China battling the disease breakout was poor and unstrategic. Before the impact of China’s lockdown which was felt globally, WHO declared the disease a pandemic and spread abroad, businesses recorded low returns and unprofitability. What were the active responses to the failure of timely goods delivery, lack of access to business partners in China, and the ban on exportation?

African business owners, ignored hints of a future pandemic, resorted to murmurings of hope and turned to other countries like Dubai, and Europe in waiting for the lift of ban from China. They failed to project China’s situation, hence missed to planned towards what the world is experiencing now – not just border lockdowns, but business shutdowns and inoperativeness.

Now, many countries have joined china on lockdown, global businesses dwindling and shutting down – Some African leaders are out there in search of loans and support to fight this pandemic, while other countries are facing it head-on. I believe Africa leaders and businesses could have responded to China’s earlier situation and would have been in a better position today to battle the global health crisis.

The impact of COVID-19 on governments

Many developed countries acted swiftly and still acting in promptitude, taking advantage of existing healthcare, infrastructure and data analytics to deal with the spread of the disease and support its citizenry.

Most African countries as always, trailing behind with potentially high rates of cases and deaths as predicted by virologists and experts. The pandemic is unpredictable and the “high and mighty” countries are already under pressure in containing the disease – exhausting essential equipment, medical practitioners and overwhelmed by the spread.

Given that, many Africa countries would suffer inadequacy, lack of infrastructure and budget in combating the pandemic due to strained public health systems if the virus eventually takes hold. The WHO boss, Tedross Ghebreyesus warned that Africa must “wake up” to the coronavirus threat and prepare for the worst. He also urged Africa leaders not to take advantage of the situation to borrow.

Global research, conceptual image. Scientist holding a globe with a laboratory bench and glassware in the background.

For instance, Ghana’s government is preparing for the threat engagement, by setting aside a US$100 million which later turned out to be unavailable. The country is now mobilizing funds for the battle ahead. The government isn’t showing any sign of pressure whatsoever and seems to be handling its affairs manageably, but for how long with increasing cases recorded every day?

Countries like Italy, Germany, South Africa, are already fagged in handling the pandemic. Italy which has recorded the highest death toll and still counting as the number of coronavirus infections spirals out of control, are reporting of major shortages of respirators, test kits, surgical masks, and ventilators and calling for help – how many more governments to buckle under to the crisis?

Then again, China seems to appear to have stabilized and repositioning itself to respond to the disease – Covid-19 giving support to affected and needy countries. As of March 12, a Chinese aircraft landed in Italy bringing more than 230 boxes of medical equipment –while the European union selfishly gave the cold response to Italy’s plea for help.

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With the current lack of solidarity for neighboring countries, the effectiveness of unions – European unions, African unions, etc, invariant hate and racist blame of the disease on China by President Trump would the world’s most powerful and lowly countries be the same again after these crises? What would the future look like with adequate public health systems, pandemic responses, and infrastructure especially for African countries?

The impact on businesses

As the coronavirus continues to spiral across countries, business shutdowns, a growing number of top global brands, and employees increasingly being laid off, business and economic analyst forecasts on the future of businesses will increase economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, with a deep recession hitting in 2020. A lot of people and businesses are going to be broke as I indicated in my last article on money matters. The crisis will hit hard and even rocket in subsequent months.

Presently, businesses are doing their best to hang in there, uncovering other strategic ways to survive through the pandemic and pick up the speed from what’s going to be left when the crisis dwindles.

China again, as the leading retailing country, with many other countries depending on them for vast products, is not the only country with major retailers shuttering stores and huge losses but the spread of the virus impacting other major retailers around the globe. Supply chain disruption is also another impact the pandemic has posed to businesses – with extra expenses toward laid employees and advance pays for workers affected by the virus, are huge unexpected costs many businesses unanticipated for the first quarter of the year.

A brief look at some of the affected sectors

  1. Hospitality: The hospitality industry in Ghana recorded over 80 percent in fall due to travel local and international travel bans – reducing occupancy rates and a loss of GH¢63.1million.
  2. Export and Importation: With China being the leading hub of products for retailers, many retailers and major brands went out of business as most of the stores in mainland China are closed and as their primary market sourcing and a critical source of raw materials for business, led to business inactiveness.
  3. Financial Sector: As of March 16, S&P 500 companies lost more than US$2 trillion in value in the first few minutes of trading on Monday as investors panicked about the mounting danger from the pandemic on the global economy – Reuters, 2020. On the local front, banks direct customers to digital platforms cautioning against panicky-withdrawals.
  4. Energy stocks tracked a 10 percent slump in oil prices, while technology stocks also shed 10 percent
  5. Apple Inc., Inc., and Microsoft Corp together lost nearlyUS $300 billion in market

Tips on how to keep your business running amid the crisis

Some few tips small business owners can take to mitigate risk, protect employees and support customers during the pandemic.

  1. Get Innovative
  2. Redefine business culture
  3. Increase value offering
  4. Establish remote working options
  5. Business interruption insurance (this may not apply to businesses in every country)
  6. Plan for the long term

>>>The writer is the CEO of Commec Group, a business development consultancy. She is a multiple award winning Business Development Consultant and a Writer. For business and engagements: /

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