GOING DIGITAL: HOW EAST AFRICAN BUSINESSES ARE ADAPTING TO COVID-19
This blog presents an overview of the East Africa Com 2020 panel: "East Africa's Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak".
During the virtual East Africa Com, experts discussed the outbreak and how it has affected East Africa, including what it could mean for the digital ecosystems of the future. Speakers came from a wide range of sectors, including government, private, health as well as trade. This blog provides highlights from the panel East Africa's Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak. Watch the full discussion below.
The impact of COVID-19 on East African tech is a necessary conversation in the current climate. Those that can adapt fastest "will be the winners at the end of the day".
Philip Thigo, Director for Africa at Thunderbird School of Global Management, said the response of East African businesses to the pandemic was unprecedented. Companies and individuals across the region were moving fast to adopt their culture of collaboration and use the transformative power of technology to catalyze that action and respond to the pandemic.
The Thunderbird School of Global Management is a public research university. They believe in being responsible for the communities which they serve. When the pandemic hit, they asked their community how they can collaborate to help and there was an overwhelming response. From tech entrepreneurs to governments, there was a strong sense of unity, and an agreed appreciation of the urgency and need to pull together. "Silos were broken very quickly", Philip mentioned, as data was being shared, and sectors began working together. Covid brought about something new to the region's tech ecosystem.
Terryanne Chebet is an entrepreneur who had been thinking of opening a shopfront. When the pandemic arrived, they had to take a new direction. Pivoting on their original plans, they looked to the potentials of digital transformation and their business is now 90% on a digital platform - only 10 were face-to-face at the time of East Africa Com.
Markets throughout East Africa and beyond have been impacted, and the trade space in Kenya is no different. Phyllis Mwangi, National Coordinator ITC SheTrades, put a spotlight on the incredible job they are doing supporting women now looking into the international markets. With the welcome of The African Continental Free Trade Area, Africa is becoming an increasingly popular market despite the pandemic.
Phyllis Mwangi referred to the season of COVID-19 as "absolutely phenomenal". Covid has sparked energy and passion to support more women entrepreneurs and women in tech, because, by her own words, the time has come and women are receiving more support.
While everyone has been hard hit in different ways, Phyllis touched upon the impact of the pandemic on tourism - the industry she says felt the impact immediately. ITC SheTrades is working with women in Kenya and wider East Africa to encourage them to think about both local and regional trade and business. In regards to tourism, Covid has brought about a new, or heightened, appreciation for local rather than international travel, so ITCNews is helping support product development and pricing for the sector.
The pandemic has encouraged new approaches to collaboration and entrepreneurship across East Africa. Still, some of the most exciting changes are within the technologies themselves. We're seeing a rise in digital platforms, pitching risk management apps and eCommerce, filling gaps where they can play a pivotal role.
In summary, the risk the pandemic produced was so great that it would have been challenging to prepare for this kind of magnitude. But the organisations embracing collaboration, creativity and digital are the ones to look out for as we move forward. Sure, the pandemic has caused a huge shake-up in many negative ways, but the amazing products and ideas coming from East Africa, as a result, are also definitely worth shouting about.
Do you know an organisation or individual who went above and beyond in 2020 responding to the pandemic? Nominate them now for the East Africa Com Awards, the region's premium tech and telco Awards ceremony.
Look at challenges and opportunities across the region’s diverse tech ecosystems by attending the virtual East Africa Com, 11 - May 2021. Register free here.
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Watch now: East Africa's Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak
This panel discussion was first streamed during the virtual East Africa Com 2020. Watch the discussion in full here.