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Four things you can do to keep your business afloat as Covid-19 bites

By Lulu Kiritu | May 27th 2020

Global trade has, without a doubt, taken a major blow in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The rates of imports and exports have tremendously dropped in each and every state in the world.

According to the World Trade Organisation, global trade is expected to fall by between 13 per cent and 32 per cent in 2020 as the pandemic disrupts normal economic activity.

It is clear that most countries are trying their best to contain the coronavirus. Unfortunately, it is rapidly spreading on a daily basis and this continues to pose a threat to economies as most countries are either on a total or partial lockdown.

According to the biannual Africa’s Pulse World Bank report, which was released in the second week of April, economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa will decline from 2.4 per cent in 2019 to between -2.1 per cent and -5.1 per cent in 2020, depending on the success of measures taken to mitigate the pandemic’s effects. In other words, the report predicts that the region will experience its first recession in 25 years.

Kenya currently has more than 1,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases. With the continued rise in cases, the economy continues to suffer.

The rate of imports in the country has gone down and as such, local businesses continue to suffer. According to statistics by KenTrade’s Single Window System, there has been a notable decrease of over 50 per cent in the number of permits applied for to import various commodities during the period between January and April this year as compared to a similar period last year.

Most businesses are dependent on imports. I recently spoke to a few businessmen and women who rely heavily on imported goods to make ends meet. According to their testimonies, there is no shred of doubt that the rate of imports has reduced. As such, products have become scarce and more expensive.

Business has gone down since the traffic of people and flow of money has reduced. This is currently the case for most business owners.

With this kind of downward spiral in business, it is important to rethink strategy so as to ensure that businesses stay afloat during this pandemic. Here are a few tips.

First, go local. The flow of goods in  the country has gone down due to import and export challenges and restrictions. Some businesses solely rely on imported goods from suppliers outside the country. Due to how hard some nations have been hit by Covid-19, the country has introduced import restrictions such as a ban in the importation of second-hand clothes.

As a result, delivery of goods by suppliers has been impaired, made slower and/or their ability to get those supplies to you has been restricted. In such a scenario, one should strongly consider engaging alternative suppliers, including local suppliers, even if they are more expensive.

My conversation with a businessman confirmed that this is the way to go. Martin runs a clothes store and depends on imports for his business. His business has been greatly affected by current import bans. Martin, however, has decided to go local and is currently custom-making clothes and selling them online.

Second, cut on your spending. With the current strain on finances, it is important to make tough, yet essential decisions for your business. Saving money is vital to ensure that your business stays afloat. You can do this by working from home or online instead of paying rent for your business.

Third, go online. With the rise in technology, a lot of thigs are done online. Invest in the online growth of your business. Create a website if you do not have one, as well as social media pages. Grow your online presence and conduct your business there. Work on the kind of content that you present to your audience. Let it be reassuring, encouraging and enlightening.

Fourth, plan ahead. A wise businessperson plans ahead. If your business revolves around importing and exporting, this is not the time to close shop or give up on your company.

Though a lot has been affected by the pandemic, remember that no situation is permanent. The pandemic will come to an end. Ask yourself where the end of this pandemic will find you.

Take this time to familiarise yourself with all the processes and all requirements to import so as to grow your business.

Through it all, let us remember that failing to plan is planning to fail. We shall overcome.


Ms Kiritu is a public relations professional

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