COVID-19: Changing the ways of doing business
Currently all the Universities, Colleges, Primary Schools, and Professional (Tutorial) Centres have all been closed in major Nigerian cities of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States. Without doubt, the closure will have serious adverse impact on the academic calendar of most Nigerian Universities, other tertiary institutions, Primary and Post Primary institutions as well as Professional Examination Tutorial Centres operating in such cities. Specifically, the June 2020 ACCA professional examination preparation will be impacted as the training centres have all been closed. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria had to post-pone its March 2020 examination diet due to the devastating impact of COVID-19 outbreak. Whereas students of many schools abroad are still receiving their lectures online despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigerian students on the other hand are on an “academic pause” given that schools in Nigeria have been completely shut down with no knowledge of when they could re-open.
By the time this lockdown is over, a time when many corporate entities may have realised the potential of online services as compulsory and reliable alternative to doing business; service providers currently offering online services would have lost a sizeable chunk of their businesses to competitions that have earlier seen the future of technology and embraced its utilities.
For instance, in Nigeria, almost all the banks closed shops to their customers, resulting in most customers that are not subscribed to online services being trapped without access to cash. Another discomforting fact is that the banks notified their customers that all clearing cheques will not be honoured as most of the banks are closed. This suggests that personal and corporate customers that may have collected post-dated cheques may not be able to present them until the end of the lockdown period. This implies that retail customers and businesses that until now have conducted their financial transactions via cheques stands to lose cash flow. Aside from CEO of banks thinking of new ways to solve this issues of customers not being able to present post-dated cheques because of lockdown, they must also look beyond reliance on paper cheques for banking service transactions – a product that still dominate a significant portion of banking services in Nigeria. Generally, it is high time organisations that are currently reliant on paper-based transactions thought of transitioning into paperless services as a new competitive edge. Paperless services, which are currently in practice in many developed nations, are not only cost effective but also eco-friendly.
Furthermore, the most recent meetings of international organisations such as; OPEC, European Union heads of states, European Union Finance ministers, G7 Heads of states, as well as many mega churches around the world have resorted to virtual real time online streaming as a means of conducting their affairs in order to ensure that they maintained social distancing. Likewise, in Nigeria, Churches and Mosques have really been affected by the lockdown. The lockdown has impacted on the monetary revenues religious organisations receive. Thus, most churches are currently thinking on how to exploit technology in offering online church programmes.
This suggests that COVID-19 may have also opened business managers to new business thinking. Consequently, organisations that do training abroad, or individuals that want training outside their geographical environment may worry with how to develop a strong business case that will support their training abroad. It is expected that most organisations will go for cost-cutting after the COVID-19 outbreak and will not support avoidable costs such as accommodation and airline tickets, especially given that COVID-19 has revealed that these services could be rendered virtually. People may not likely travel out for meetings unless it is necessary. Therefore, for businesses that have needs of training oversees, the way to go is online training.
Even those in transportation business will need to re-think their business strategies based on what this clock-down has revealed. It will be worth noting that during this lockdown, those in the business of moving consumables products could still transport food items to all locations. This is another area that those in transportation business may see as a potential business option, given that even if human traffic were to be eliminated, essential items that sustain life will still be in transit.
Insurance is another area that has not developed the way it is expected in Nigeria. Many of the health care workers in Nigeria responding to the outbreak are not insured. It appears that government policies in Nigeria have not adequately supported insurance services in Nigeria as there is currently, no legal framework or obligations that make it compulsory for government or private enterprises to insure workers in Nigeria. COVID-19 outbreak will raise a new discussion on the importance of insurance cover for workers in Nigeria, as risk mitigation would be the new way to go. For supermarkets, the new idea will be artificial super mart that will be entirely controlled by technology. People do shop for groceries abroad online and this has helped to improve on the supply chain logistic services. Online grocery shopping is an opportunity that is waiting to be tapped in Nigeria. It will open more business opportunity for big time farmers who will supply directly to the supermarkets, as well as logistic companies that will help in the deliveries. There are therefore more job opportunities and expansion of IT infrastructure and logistic services in Nigeria.
For organisations in Healthcare, online consultation may be the way forward. Pharmaceutical organisation should start thinking of digital assistants and self-diagnosing medical services. Few Doctors in Nigeria have been exposed to COVID-19 because of lack of transparency from their patients. I advocate that hospitals should virtually diagnose their patients before they come to hospitals, especially now that some COVID-19 cases may be mistaken for malaria and other similar diseases. It is only in critical cases that require emergency that patients should be rushed to hospital without pre-virtual diagnosis.
• Andrew is a Public Affair Analyst, wrote from FCT, Abuja, Nigeria.
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