As the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic hits Africa’s business sector, small and medium enterprises are in a fight for their survival. With slowing economies across the continent, low consumer confidence and now a pandemic, SMEs are increasingly in search of tools that can help them build resilience against the ongoing disruption.
Pedro Guerreiro, Regional Director for Central Africa at SAP, says some businesses were fortunate enough to have the tools and systems in place to enable remote work. “This minimised the negative impact of the lockdown on their productivity and operations and enabled them to maintain business continuity more easily.
“However, some SMEs have out-of-date technology, while too many have not invested in technology at all. This leaves SMEs stranded and lacking the capacity to adapt to a very disruptive environment.”
According to the World Bank, SMEs account for about 90% of all businesses and more than half of all employment worldwide. However, African SMEs face perennial funding challenges, with the IFC estimating that Covid-19 will widen a funding gap that already sits at $1.5-trillion.
…Cloud Holds Key To Productivity
Guerreiro adds that SMEs that had adopted cloud services prior to the country lockdowns would have been in a better position to maintain business productivity and keep operations running.
“If you are stuck with outdated on-premise technology, however, the lockdown restrictions would have been devastating to your productivity, especially as employees were suddenly working remotely and without physical access to the office.”
In South Africa, for example, which had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, 70% of the country’s workforce has returned to work, but many companies are persisting with remote work.
“There is growing evidence that employees can maintain the same – or even higher – levels of productivity when working remotely as they do when they are at the office. One of the key enablers of this is their use of technology tools such as cloud-based enterprise resource planning solutions that enable them to orchestrate their business productivity regardless of where they are.”