My colleague asked me a question? “Where are the opportunities in all this mess? Will the world be the same again?” There are so many questions floating around following the announcement by the Ministry of Health and Childcare this week that Zimbabwe had three cases of coronavirus.
Comparisons are being made on how the disease will spread and wreak havoc in the economy as it has done where it first started and spread to the rest of the world.
Looking back at when the virus was first picked up in China, not many of us believed it would come to Africa, but there we are, we have it and it’s up to us to face it and deal with it. Dealing with an unknown enemy is difficult and herein lays the problem with the approach we take in fighting it. Ever heard of the phrase, “comfort in numbers”? This phrase is helpful in allowing us to take bold actions that will benefit the nation and world at large in the medium to long term.
When coronavirus is gone, we will all come out stronger and more united in facing adversity and challenges no doubt. This disease is sparing no-one and everyone is affected, economy wise. Some are more affected than others but all the same things are not the same and won’t be for some time. I say this because sometimes as policy makers, there is a tendency to avoid making tough decisions.
If there was ever a time that bold decisions need to be taken, it’s now. The future will thank us for what we did as policy makers today. But if we don’t face the challenges head-on history will record us as something else — maybe failures. My advice to policy makers is to look at the economy using three lenses.
On the macroeconomic level, all economies in the world have been hit hard by the coronavirus. Stock markets have crashed, currencies have weakened, and exports have all but stopped. Bold but necessary decisions were taken to close down borders and focus on the containment of the virus. No doubt to be able to do this one needs a “wall chest”, some will suggest.
Indeed, they are right. No economy can afford to close down completely unless it has reserves to dig into and keep the it running. My own personal view is that we should take time to learn from all this as a country and decide on our priorities.
Many are saying we haven’t even begun to see what the virus will do to us as an economy. They are right and I agree but will hasten to say, this will only make us stronger and more united to fight this ugly disease.
From a business standpoint, this is not something new but it’s a different problem that requires us as business leaders to think beyond now. We must all come to terms with what is unfolding before us. To think that business must go on as usual is misleading and bordering on being irresponsible.
My advice to businesses around the country is to press the stop button for non-essentials and be aware that the macroeconomic picture is something that we have no control over. Worldwide whole economies bigger than Zimbabwe are in lockdown mode and it is not because they want to but they have to. No-one knows what will happen after the coronavirus is gone.
Which businesses will remain standing are the ones who have lost their key skills to the disease or the ones who have retained their skills and are ready to press the reset button. For me it’s a no brainer and I am sure it most certainly is for you too.
Turning to the consumer these are indeed very difficult times, especially because when tragedy strikes in an economy that has been facing significant challenges such as ours, we most certainly lose hope. It is hard to lose loved ones and not know whether you will make it or not.
My advice is don’t lose hope, so no matter how difficult things are we will all pull through if we remain vigilant and remain focussed on staving off this disease and its destruction. How can we do this? It won’t be easy! And I say this because I know how difficult it is to plan and prepare when you have limited resources.
But you can play your part by not helping spread the virus. So yes the consumer is most vulnerable at this time and it is important for all of us to invest in our survival at all costs. To avoid being sick is our first responsibility and this is one of the hardest things to do today. Because for many people working is all we do to get the next meal on the table. With no savings, we have nowhere to turn to.
What lessons can be drawn from my analysis of our current situation above. As the government it is important to split the tasks ahead of us into two. There could be more tasks but these remain very important. The first task is ensuring that we make available resources needed to help those in need of medical help quickly and efficiently, particularly the caregivers.
There are so many out there who would want to help but they need protection. If resources are not enough we must call on business and those who can to help us, even taking loans if available to ensure that we deal with the situation.
Still on this it is important that we make bold decisions that may cause even more pain in the short term because if we don’t do so there will be no economy to run. I said to a friend earlier this week that the biggest advantage for African countries facing corona so late in its track is knowledge. But are we collecting the knowledge and using it to our advantage? If not this is the time to cause such knowledge to be collected and used to solve some of the challenges we are facing in the fight to stop the coronavirus.
Clearly, the countries facing the biggest challenges at the moment did not have the advantage we have now because they didn’t have something to learn from and thankfully for us we do know what went wrong. To have this knowledge and not use it is not right. Future generations will judge and ask why we didn’t use the knowledge we had. Clearly, coronavirus is not very well understood at this time. It is evolving and we must use all available tools to contain it.
The other task is to keep the nation positive. There is nothing as harmful as dealing with a crisis where there is no hope. Wherever you turn to these days it is all negative news, as if there is no life after this. Drawing lessons from past disease outbreaks all over the world, after the diseases were contained, economies once again flourished. Whether we think we will make it or not it is our duty to play our role of ensuring that there is life after this disease. Stay safe and play your part.
Pacheso is an experienced economist with more than 18 years’ experience in the financial services sector. He enjoys mentoring start-ups in his spare time.