Resilience, flexibility will help us rebuild economy

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020 00:00 |
Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yattani. Photo/File

Charles Mudiwa 

Without doubt, the Covid-19 pandemic is testing Kenya’s capabilities greatly. With  most countries having implemented various stages of a national lockdown, the world’s economic, social and political dispensation will, undoubtedly, adopt a new normal. 

Here in Kenya, the impact of the pandemic is already being felt. For instance, according to the Stanbic Bank’s recent Kenya Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) report, the manufacturing and services sector fell to 49.0 in February from 49.7 in January.

In our analysis, firms faced a shortage of raw materials owing to reduced imports arising from interruption of manufacturing and supply chain in China.

In times of crisis, it is natural for people to suffer mental turmoil. We are bound to experience high levels of anxiety, which in certain instances is exacerbated by group think mentality.

It is important to train the mind to avoid self-destructive thoughts by replacing these with purposeful thoughts, and trusting those in charge are capable to resolve the crisis, in this case, Covid-19. 

Some of the purposeful thoughts include ways in which we can help address the problem.

In the current crisis, this means adhering to instructions issued by health officials on how to stop the spread of the disease—social distancing and practicing thorough personal hygiene.

In such times, people look to leaders for guidance on how to deal with the crisis. In turn, leaders need to demonstrate leadership in various ways.

Effective communication by leaders is critical in crises.  This begins by appreciating the uncertainties that their staff are having to contend with.

Staff need to trust and believe that their leader has their best interest at heart and the best way to pass such a message is by communicating in a transparent and honest way and allowing for open dialogue and engagement with those the leader communicates with.

A story of an arrow, a buddha and his student is told.  “If a person is pierced by an arrow, is it painful?” The Buddha asked.

“It is” The student replied. “And if he or she is stuck by a second arrow, is it more painful?” Buddha went on to ask. The student replied, “It is.”

The Buddha then explained that, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow.

However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first- and with this second arrow, comes the possibility of choice.”

In our current situation, the first arrow is the Covid-19 pandemic. It has brought about travel restrictions, plummeting stock prices, low business, and uncertain business operating environment.

The second arrow represents the anxiety that the virus will cause us and our loved ones, challenges arising from financial insecurity coupled with scary messages in both mainstream and social media.

The first arrow causes unavoidable pain and how we react to it prepares us for subsequent ones.

The way to overcome this natural tendency is to build our mental resilience through mindfulness.

Mental resilience, especially in challenging times like the present, means being fully aware of our environment in a way that increases our ability to face the first arrow and avoid the second one.

Having this state of mind is what will get us through the current crisis. Already, we have seen many financial institutions adapt to ease the strain on Kenyan consumers by reducing transaction costs, giving borrowers extension of their loan for a period of up to 12 months, among other waivers.

Such moves will help lower the burden on households during this time of crisis.

Without doubt we will emerge from this crisis with new innovative ways of doing business.

Businesses will have improved value chains of connecting with clients directly without necessarily holding physical meetings.

More companies will fast-track their digital innovation to connect with key stakeholders.

Restaurants are now more focused on deliveries and are reworking their models in order to adopt to the disruptions that we have undergone.

On a personal level, we will now appreciate the future of doing business. Many of us will now understand the concept beyond “working from home”.

We now have an opportunity to see globalisation beyond physically crossing continents to seeing the future through a digital lens. It is up to us to adapt.

Covid-19 will test us to our extreme limits but have no doubts that we will emerge from this stronger and more resilient, giving us a chance at predicting the third arrow and ducking it.  —The writer is the CEO, Stanbic Bank Kenya

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