The Sunday Mail
It started as an epidemic now a pandemic. In business and economics, we usually site the reasons why communicable diseases require a serious and solid healthy financing plan because they do more harm than ever imagined.
At the same time those with other agendas would see communicable diseases such as coronavirus as a business opportunity should be reminded this calls for all of us to think about the destruction and crippling of growth to both small towns, individual countries and the whole world at large.
Of course some would say “what does coronavirus have to do with business” – let me give you a glimpse of the good and bad of coronavirus to business. In a country like Zimbabwe and a city like Harare some traders are happy because goods are selling, hitting targets as well as surpassing targets because of the sudden hoarding of goods by people as they fear that they will starve if shops are closed because of the coronavirus.
So in that case it will be business more than usual. Basic commodities such as cooking oil and brown sugar are nowhere to be found in shop shelves, this even led to their increase in prices by about 50 percent (from $44 to $66 per 2kg packet) in the case of sugar.
Local producers of respirators and gloves as well as sanitisers are also making money as these are highly selling these days, let alone internet service providers, they are also hitting targets, this is due to the fact that individuals’ want to stay connected getting updates on the spread of coronavirus as well as downloading tips on how to reduce chances of contracting the disease.
This is evidenced by one individual’s summary of data consumption trend from their phone.
This is what is happening on the other end, but one will start to wonder why if these goods are running out of stock why are they not replenished. The reasons are simple, it’s mainly because of coronavirus, traders such as cross-border traders are now failing to go and order goods from other countries as they wish since firstly their fear to contract the virus and secondly in ability to penetrate the boarders as countries have put in place measures to reduce spread of the virus.
Also production in these other countries is falling as most people are on quarantine and some cannot go to their workplaces to produce due to the coronavirus. Individuals can’t go to work on farms and industries as they have to follow orders from authorities in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus, so it is obvious the world would run out of stock of raw materials soon.
If all economies shut down production, where will we get things such as fuel and oil, which we cannot produce on our own? Imagine the number of those who died in both the East and the West, among them were chemists, doctors, engineers, industrial workers and so on and these are the very people who manufacture the goods that Zimbabwe largely rely on as most of the goods that are domestically consumed are imports.
So this is what coronavirus is doing to business — so it’s either you die from the disease or from hunger if the situation goes on say for more than say three months from now. As such, communicable diseases such as coronavirus, Ebola and cholera are not just individuals’ problem but an international problem as we all will be affected one way or the other. So this calls for governments of all countries to put in place an international communicable diseases health fund because we all depend on each other. If not, all our economies will definitely crush.
Besides destroying the world’s existing st19ock of human capital (8 000 deaths recorded so far and 200 000 people infected), coronavirus is definitely damaging future human capital, this is evidenced by our own Zimbabwean economy deciding to close schools and universities as a precautionary measure as such it will mean disruption in the acquisition of human capital by the tomorrow’s generation.
The virus is making it difficult for pupils and vendors in general to conduct their business. I witnessed this when I was walking down Sam Nujoma Street in Harare on Wednesday, when suddenly vendors started feeling leaving their wares upon seeing one non-African man walking towards them putting on a respirator.
I felt disturbed and upon asking them why running, they said “we are afraid he might have the disease since he is not from among us”. The virus is making it virtually impossible for people to work freely due to fear.
It makes it worse if we try to imagine the thousands of dollars that our country is going to lose by not hosting tourists in the country, definitely we lost a big chunk of foreign currency that we would have earned.
Not only that, imagine the revenue that was going to be generated by traders this Easter as people would be gathered at various church conferences, coronavirus made it impossible as all gatherings of 100 or more people have suspended.
Preparations for our main event in business the Zimbabwe Trade Fair (ZITF), all suspended.
This then tells us why communicable diseases are not good for business and why we need to cooperate when we are in such situations because we lose a lot as communities, countries and the world as a whole.
As such, I recommend the establishment of an international communicable diseases health fund, that is independent and would be used mainly to curb the effects of diseases such as the COVID-19.
Benhilda Dube (nee Gwacha) is a teaching assistant at the University of Zimbabwe and is a holder of BSc Economics (UZ), MSc Economics (UZ), Studied Health Economics and Finance at Kenya School of Monetary Studies during the AERC’s JFE Collaborative Masters Programme in 2016