How businesses are operating in East Africa in the midst of COVID-19

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COVID-19

By Tej Bedi

Estimated Read Time: 3 minutes

To say the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on society and business in Kenya is an understatement.

The country has historically depended quite heavily on its tourism industry, which has felt an enormous impact, with accommodation, food services and other interlinked businesses affected.

However, despite these challenges, large business has shown resilience, and specifically in manufacturing and agriculture, there seems to be a more positive outlook.

There has been a strong response to the challenges arising from the pandemic in the adoption of digital technologies, as seen in service and support particularly. Call centres started to use technology-based platforms; growth was seen in food and grocery delivery services and applications, and e-commerce and online entertainment services have flourished.

Challenges unique to the East Africa region

One of the greatest challenges faced in the region is humanitarian – countless jobs have been lost and households reliant on daily wages have struggled to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.

Balancing the socio-economic effects whilst attempting to limit the health concerns of COVID-19 has posed a great challenge to the Kenyan government. Various interventions were implemented to help business and citizens, such as reductions in Value Added Tax (VAT) and PAYE. KEPSA (Kenya Private Sector Alliance) came into play to assist businesses in the private sector, while banks made special loans available and waived fees for individuals moving funds between bank accounts and mobile wallets. It was inspiring to see how all stakeholders pulled together to alleviate the effects of the crisis.

The role of technology in the business response

Cloud-based solutions came to the fore in the Enterprise and SME space especially with sales, case resolution and enabling productive delivery. With a solution like Salesforce, there is a technology-based solution available for almost any business. CloudSmiths made it a priority to demonstrate practically that, using the Salesforce platform, a business can easily manage activity tracking in a remote working environment – which is crucial to sales teams, as an example.

We were able to assist businesses with physical operations to utilise connectivity; increasing their efficiency while eliminating the need for people to go into company offices. This was made possible with the use of Salesforce, various apps and the Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls that we have all become accustomed to.

Challenges in implementing technology-based interventions

The lack of personal touch does present a challenge to some. In addition, working on accountability rather than physical presence has been a mind shift for many leaders and business managers. Becoming more results-oriented in terms of our own management technique as opposed to micromanagement has been a major pain point. Technology plays a big role in the realisation that you can still achieve the results, with improved efficiency, even when you can’t physically observe the work being done.

Delivering intelligent solutions

While activity and productivity can be monitored via apps, maintaining communication and morale during 2020 was also vital. Leaders at CloudSmiths, which has widely distributed remote teams, made it a priority to hold virtual get-togethers and weekly Townhalls, which were pivotal in keeping our teams and those of our clients involved and motivated. We applied our Salesforce platform for internal solutions and assisted our clients to use the technology optimally.

In Kenya, the pandemic has shown us that this new way of work is ultimately about business transformation, utilising cloud-based technologies in sales, customer services, marketing and so much more. Cloud-based platforms like Salesforce will continue to prove their value, with mobile connectivity leading the way in productivity and improved efficiency.

Tejpal Bedi is the Managing Director, CloudSmiths East Africa. He has spent over 12 years in the East African environment and is passionate about providing cloud-based solutions to transform business in Kenya.

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