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Online presence can boost small businesses' fortunes

OPINION
By Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde | June 16th 2021

Close up image hand using a laptop with online transaction application.[Getty Images]

Over the past year, the term digital transformation has gone from an industry buzzword to a firmly entrenched necessity for survival. Lockdowns and stay-home orders, while necessary, have created a huge challenge for Kenya as well as some of the continent’s largest economies.

Suffice it to say that life, work and business on the continent are nowhere near back to normal just yet if the latest Covid-19 mobility reports are anything to go by.

Kenya has registered the highest increase in visits to retail and recreational places such as restaurants, cafés, shopping centres and cinemas at 21 per cent, nine per cent in South Africa and 15 per cent in Nigeria. This picture is less promising when compared to return to workplaces where only South Africa has reported a nine per cent decrease while Nigeria has six per cent more workers going to work. Kenya reports the highest at 12 per cent.

For small and medium businesses (SMBs), it is increased physical visits to their businesses located at trading centres, towns and within malls that means business to them. Reduced footfall translates to a slump in earnings and it is these businesses that are the backbone of the continent’s economy accounting for up to 80 per cent of the region’s employment.

In its study dubbed, African Economic Outlook, the African Development Bank noted that Covid-19 could reverse the past two decades’ hard-won gains in poverty reduction, pushing the continent into its first recession in more than 25 years.

But all is not lost as stated by the World Bank in the April 2021. The bank noted that the way forward for African economies may just lie in “policies that foster investments in innovation and digital technologies”. 

So, the picture is not all doom and gloom if we can ensure that African SMBs are not only included in the digital economy but afforded the necessary skills and opportunities to adopt technology that is essential to their survival.

This can also place them in a position to generate more jobs and contribute meaningfully to the continent’s economy once again, despite limitations to everyday mobility.

As more shoppers go online in search of goods and services, SMBs have no choice but to invest in having an online presence. Google Search Trends data shows reduced physical interactions have been matched with an increased number of people, goods and services offered by SMBs online.

Helping SMBs take advantage of the solutions at their fingertips is a collective effort of availing digital technology, skills and know-how, and raising awareness. Google has availed tools and programmes to help businesses and individuals in Africa to establish online presence.

But the most vulnerable groups that were hardest hit by the pandemic have been slow to adopt online strategies due to varying challenges around understanding how to use available tools. 

The solution to the revival of the continent’s economic backbone is quite literally at its ‘digital’ fingertips.

Mojolaoluwa Aderemi-Makinde - SSA Head of Brand and Reputation, Google 

 

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