Strategise to overcome Covid effects, grow economy

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021 00:00 |
Moderna Covid-19 vaccine has 94 per cent efficacy. Photo/Courtesy

Every end marks a new beginning, something that each new year presents. Making new resolutions and goals or redefining the existing ones at both personal and organisational levels best demonstrates this.

However, to achieve it, we must reflect and understand the past year to grow in the upcoming year. 

Last year dealt us a new phenomenon, something unprecedented that evolved rapidly from a health crisis to one that affected all aspects and sectors of our lives.

Covid-19 shifted nations’ plans with many focusing on safeguarding the lives of citizens despite the economic impact.

It caused shocks on both supply and demand as countries restricted movement.

This disrupted the global supply chain and, in turn, posed a challenge to industries seeking material inputs.

Lack of the inputs resulted in decreased production and job losses. Consequently, this affected the demand for goods and services as consumers’ propensity to spend decreased. 

One thing stood out — Kenyans’ resilience and zeal to support each other amid the crisis. 

The introduction of fiscal measures, by the State, to unlock cash flow increased the ability for citizens to access basic needs and provided the necessary buffer for businesses to continue operating in a crisis.

Another noteworthy step was the setting up of a Business Emergency Response Team to spearhead the formulation of measures and emergency policies, to steer businesses and cushion the vulnerable, especially SMEs. 

On the other hand, industry was keen to keep Kenya moving. Manufacturers repurposed production lines to ensure essential goods did not run out.

They also shifted focus or ramped up production of essential goods. Despite the constrained business environment, industries did not increase the cost of goods, to support the country.

The pandemic also drove us to innovate to help the country and overcome the crisis.

For example, Kenya Association of Manufacturers’ automotive sector developed the first-ever locally manufactured ventilator, dubbed PumuaIshi 3.0. 

Citizens too continued to support the country through donations towards efforts to flatten the curve, which is truly laudable. 

The manufacturing sector, for many years, has been an epitome of job provision. Increased adoption of innovations and strategies to ensure there is continuous supply of essential goods and PPEs demonstrated its strength to provide and sustain jobs.

This year presents us with a window to leverage the opportunities that the pandemic brought.

Even so, we must be cognisant that coronavirus will still be a major factor, shaping our decisions and strategic goals.

The nation’s focus now should be overcoming Covid-19. Additionally, we must realise sustained economic recovery.

Part of this is the need to create a resilient and sustainable manufacturing sector that will ensure we are always self-sufficient.

The nation’s strategy should aim at growing local industry and creating more employment opportunities.

Manufacturers’ innovations and inventions are a clear insight into their underutilised capacity.

The government should continue to provide support to industry and open up more possibilities for innovative products and services.

The strategy should focus on mechanisms that support import substitution, growing exports and exploring new markets for local products.

The Manufacturing Resilience and Sustainability Policy Toolkit, by KAM and KPMG, provides recommendations to aid the economic and manufacturing sector’s recovery from the impact of Covid-19, as businesses navigate challenges caused by shocks arising from the crisis.

Key among them, nurturing nascent and emerging opportunities uncovered by the pandemic; adoption of a ‘do-no-harm’ principle by the government when developing policies; supporting SMEs through affordable credit; increasing the resilience of the manufacturing sector through policy stability; and creating a fiscal space by rationalising government expenditure via operationalisation of the public investment management guides.

We hope to achieve this by working with the State, among other stakeholders, to develop policies that encourage sector investment.

— The writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the UN Global Compact Network Kenya Board chair — [email protected]

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