On 10th march 2020 the world woke up to devastating news, the World Health Organization had declared corona virus a global pandemic. A virus that first surfaced in Wuhan in China had now spread to all continents in the world and was slowly becoming a threat to our species as a whole. Soon most African countries were reporting various cases infections with the virus.
As one of the only East African country that hadn’t registered a case of the virus, Uganda could only hold its boarders for too long and on the 22nd march, Uganda reported its first case of corona virus, a young man in his early thirties who had flown to and fro Dubai on business issues. The government was now tasked with coming up with measures to counter the spread of the virus and it had to do it fast.The first measure was ban on passenger planes in and out of the country, only cargo planes were to be allowed in and out of the country, However, following the exponential increase in cases popping up, it was soon evident that more extreme measures had to be taken. First was a ban on public transport, which then resulted into a ban even private transport.
From plummeting stock prices to massive rates unemployment, the pandemic was bound to have adverse effects from an economic standpoint, and within a few months of the outbreak, a global economic recession would no longer be a mere scare but an inevitable reality.
In Uganda, the first sector to feel the pinch was the transport sector which instantly started registering millions in losses. As the backbone to many other businesses, a standstill was bound to produce adverse ripple effects. The most significant effect was to the tourism sector. The biggest contributor to Uganda’s foreign exchange basket was bound to be hit hard. From tourist transactions, to hotels to tour companies, things couldn’t get any worse for the tourism sector.
With restrictions to movement of people, the slowdown in business was immediate. A restriction in the movement of people implied a hindrance in labor as a factor of production, a big blow to most industries, especially those that rely mostly on human capital.
But amidst the adversity are there any opportunities from an entrepreneur’s perspective, is there a brighter side to the current predicament, is there a silver lining?
The local manufacturing industries that are usually out competed by cheaper products from abroad might have a reason to smile. With most countries closing their boarders and a general slowdown in production, the travel restrictions, posed a hindrance to international trade. This could be a blessing in disguise for such industries. Such a situation translates into increased effective demand for locally produced products. This could be the spark that the local industries need for progress not to mention improve the balance of payment standings of the country in the long run. From industries producing hand sanitizers, face masks, or even the various drugs used in treatment of patients of the corona virus.
Entrepreneurs whose businesses are online may well be the biggest beneficiaries. With billions of people now forced into self-quarantine, subjected to whole days without any work or any outdoor activities, the number of people now going online is off the charts. To the digital entrepreneur, online traffic is a pure gold mine. Things couldn’t get any better for online retailing and digital marketing. This could be the boost that e-commerce needed. And what better way to compliment e-commerce than with electronic transactions using digital currencies like bitcoin. At a time of a global pandemic, paper money is now an unsafe means of exchange and digital currencies which were first received with skepticism, may well be the better option. Even entrepreneurs in the service sector are now taking their business online. From yoga classes, to fitness clubs, dance classes and other social activities are shifting online and conducting their sessions online. In France, even health services are being carried out online where doctors simply video chat and diagnose patients online. All this internet traffic translates into profit for the internet service providers, the telecom companies.
Those are but a few brighter sides to our current predicament. Where an average entrepreneur may perceive calamity, it takes an objective vision, a different angle of perspective, unwavering optimism and a pinch of boldness to see the endless opportunities availed before us. With the emergence of new economic trends, one can only wonder how the economic atmosphere will look like after the pandemic, will humanity struggle to get back on course, or would the pandemic have triggered a total shift in the course of economics.