COVID-19 did not just claim lives. It also coincided with the closure of businesses, large scale retrenchment and the closure of companies that were unable to operate during the lock-downs. However, one silver lining in all this gloom was the rise in entrepreneurship, driven primarily by innovative youths and women eager to make hay in a dark sky illuminated by a single star.
Perhaps, with hindsight, we can say that massive layoffs and unpaid leaves were beneficial – of course not to everyone. They put a fire in the belly that pushed people to reset their approach, re-imagine themselves within a global sphere, forge new paths for future business development that harnesses digital technologies and provide modern day solutions to the problems society faces.
“The number of people who have actually walked away from jobs since the pandemic began are so many, either because of a realization that they could provide a solution. Of course, with the pandemics, challenges like these also become opportunities,” said Maggie Mutesi, Managing Editor of Mansa Media Africa.
Critical in the rise of entrepreneurship has been the uptake of digital tools. The pandemic limited human interactions and accelerated the digitization of customer interactions for global businesses. Use of social media for marketing of products helped companies accrue sales, at a time when everyone was scrambling to open a Facebook and Twitter account. Yes, you read it right – even 75-year-old grandfathers began using YouTube to play 1960s music they fondly love.
“Zoom for example emerged and has become the dominant video teleconferencing software platform during the pandemic. Before then, it had had its initial public offering in April of 2019 and hadn’t seen much growth to it. However, when the pandemic came, and lots of tailwind came their way, they managed to ride that wave which has set them apart from competitors such as Cisco, WebEx and Microsoft.” says Dumi Jere, Founder and Managing Partner of Talanta.
COVID isn’t ending. And while that is a bad thing for all of us, it could be beneficial for the entrepreneurship boom. The improvement in virtual interactions and increasing use of Artificial Intelligence will help companies working in the digital sector to expand sales and operations.
Even the hospitality sector – arguably hit hardest by the lockdowns imposed during the pandemic – could benefit from the use of virtual tours that enable prospective visitors tour their bucket list destinations without the hassle and bustle of going through an airport.
Arriving three hours before the flight for check in, while in the plane, reading adverts of products you will never buy because you cant afford, could be a thing of the past (hopefully)… Plus the security agent who always reminds you to remove your water bottle before going inside the terminal as if water isn’t the most important liquid yin your life! Ah, you can buy it at the duty free shops – if you have the $20.
While shutdowns restricted international travel (who needs it if I can visit the Pyramids on my laptop and take the photos I want to floss to my Instagram followers) it boosted domestic travel. Domestic tourism in Kenya and Tanzania boomed with many entrepreneurs joining the industry.
“I saw a gap in the travel industry and decided to venture into it since my photography business was barely bringing any returns because there had been cancellation of events due to the pandemic”, says Emmanuel Boaz, Managing Director of Magical Quest Safaris.
One thing is sure, actually three. The sun rises from the East, roses are red, and entrepreneurship in Africa is here to stay. Perhaps, the Africa we want is one rich in remote workers, meetings are held over Zoom and money transactions are done through PayPal or mobile money platforms like MPesa.
Perhaps…. But then who knew they’d be COVID and we would be saying this?