The global outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic presents a significant threat not only to human health but also to the business sector. In Ghana, experts project significant revenue shortfalls and a significant decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In fact, the government has indicated that the cumulative effect of the novel coronavirus pandemic will cost Ghana over GHS9 billion. At the micro-level, it is also projected that Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) will be the hardest hit. Businesses across the country are feeling the pinch and, in some cases, there has been a complete halt in operations.
Despite these challenges, some businesses are taking a range of actions not just to respond to the crisis but also to prepare to take advantage of the recovery. This article shares the approaches some businesses incubated by the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre have adopted to ensure business continuity:
TechShelta is a service-oriented company that builds a suite of software and hardware for the agribusiness industry in Ghana. Its vision is to maximize the efficiency of greenhouse farming using technological innovations by providing advisory and automation services to greenhouse farmers and providing market linkages for their clients.
In anticipation of the impact of COVID-19 and impending lockdown announcement by the government, one of the first things TechShelta did was to put in place safety protocols using World Health Organization’s guidelines, implement flexible working hours, and assign specific roles to critical staff to keep essential business systems and processes running. Fortunately, companies in the food value chain were exempted from the partial lockdown and as a result, TechShelta only had to issue identification cards and this allowed key team members of the team to move freely and work effectively.
Additionally, to ensure the safety of both employees and customers, TechShelta re-adapted their distribution model by focusing largely on bulk deliveries and eliminated all cash payments relying solely on digital payments.
Alongside their day-to-day business activities, TechShelta is also working on customizing their advisory and automation components which they hope will be completed by May to make them more efficient especially during this crisis period. This would give them remote access to farmers.
Furthermore, the business regularly consults with experts, the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre, and other key stakeholders in their ecosystem for guidance, and is exploring the opportunity to increase their revenue by increasing sales, marketing, and branding.
And although the company has had to defer a few projects they intended to deploy before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, they have managed to adapt well by leveraging the situation to their business advantage and they have built capacity over the period to navigate the rising business issues
In every crisis, there are a few that take advantage of the times to rise, and TechShelta is a perfect example.
Farminista Africa Limited
Farminista Africa Limited specialises in empowering women smallholder farmers by providing them with resources and climate-smart agricultural training to promote food security in Africa.
Speaking to its founder, Debbie Ajei-Godson, she shared the company’s business resilience strategy framework, which serves as Farminista’s guide to working in all crises situations as experienced with COVID-19 and is built taking into consideration the factors of
- the threat to the health of staff and suppliers
- drop in company finances
- restricted movement and
- access to the company’s infrastructure.
The framework of Farminista considers three (3) key factors: Crisis Preparedness, Business Continuity and Crisis Recovery.
Crisis Preparedness – This refers to the constant identification of threats within and out of your control. Debbie mentions that the threats include industry threats, climate threats, health threats, resource threats, market threats and policy threats that are being posed by the pandemic and she suggests the following steps to ensure preparedness
- Do a thorough business impact analysis of each threat and put down your mitigations.
- Map all your key business processes to its owners – staff, suppliers, machinery et cetera.
- Create what-if scenarios for all key processes and identify possible outcomes. Discuss with your team and stakeholders and work towards possible solutions.
Business Continuity – To ensure business continuity, Debbie and the Farminista team propose the following pointers:
- Automate processes to reduce downtime and increase customer confidence in your business
- Constantly audit all your resources- company savings, suppliers, contract workers, and alternative use of existing technology.
Crisis Recovery – This can be achieved by the following:
- Conduct Impact Assessment on all key processes and business activities.
- Reduce downtime and increase customer confidence.
- Create a knowledge base of all your outcomes and use that to re-engineer your business processes.
Debbie also mentions the Farminista way of working which involves 5 simple steps to help the team constantly learn and win in all times as they run the business.
Another example of a business defying the odds is Green Campus. Green Campus seeks to improve sanitation by advocating for proper waste management through the distribution and sale of eco-friendly trash bags, initiation of waste segregation projects, and recycling of the waste. The company has been in operation for 2 years, and its main clients include students on various university campuses in Accra, corporate offices, hotels and individuals who are conscious about the sustainability of the environment.
Green Campus is heavily dependent on raw materials imported from China and South Africa and due to the closure of most borders, their production has been put on hold currently. Additionally, since Ghana’s first case was confirmed and a lockdown was implemented, schools, hotels and non-essential corporate offices, which constitute a big part of their client base, were shut down thereby affecting their sales. The lockdown meant restriction of movement; as such they are unable to distribute products to clients which has resulted in a significant fall in revenue. What will it take for a small business such as Green Campus to thrive in times like this? The company’s CEO, Papa Yaw Agyekum Addo, put in place an array of measures to contain the economic pressures on the business and sustain it in the face of this pandemic.
Firstly, they conducted a business impact analysis with support from the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre, developed a crisis management plan and a business continuity strategy that will position them to respond adequately to the impact of this outbreak.
Additionally, Green Campus recognized that this is an opportunity to evolve and has been engaging with key staff and clients on this strategy. The plan involves maintaining great customer relationships, finding new clients and redefining their distribution strategies. To achieve this, Green Campus is currently building an online platform that will make it easy to reach new clients and transact business and exploring the possibility of expanding its distribution channels to include retail stores. Also, given the uncertainties in imports, the company has been actively rethinking its supply change and is exploring local suppliers for raw materials and other inputs.
By all indications, these small and growing businesses have put in place strategies that enable them to weather this economic storm, and although the conditions are likely to remain austere for some time, their well-thought-through plans and strategies make them hopeful and ready for the future.