The Sunday Mail
In the last three decades, technology has overhauled the way we do things. Whether for business or social purposes, we no longer rely on traditional methods and means.
The way we do things has changed, thanks to technology. The Covid-19 pandemic has already disrupted business activities in most countries globally. It is a fact that global crises create fundamental shifts that affect government policies, consumer behaviour and industrial sectors for years to come.
A digital economy is expected to emerge post Covid-19.
In fact, it has already started to emerge, with an accelerated adoption of technology-driven businesses and social solutions like online learning, teleworking, streaming services, video communication, online market platforms and consumer goods and service deliveries in what some are calling the “shut-in economy”.
Once consumers get used to these behaviours, they will likely remain embedded in their daily lives for years to come.
Zimbabwe has been affected by Covid-19, with varying phases of lockdown having been implemented since March 30, 2020.
Covid-19 has brought about serious business interruptions whose consequences are exerting pressure for the easing of the lockdown conditions in order to avoid further economic constraints.
Despite the unavailability of current and up-to-date trade data, it is clear that international trade has been disrupted.
This calls for countries to be able to support themselves, and as the coronavirus ravages economies, new thinking is emerging. Other countries are exploiting technology to recover, restore and grow their economies despite the impact of Covid-19.
Zimbabwe found itself importing all forms of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) from masks, test kits to gloves. Some of the imports require basic technology to produce locally.
At a national level, the Government proposed an $18,02 billion economic stimulus package.
The package is dubbed Covid-19 Pandemic Economic Recovery and Stimulus Package.
The stimulus package aims to provide the productive sectors with low-cost funds with a grace period of three months to allow businesses to effectively recover.
An economic recovery and stimulus package without technological considerations would not be as effective in the medium to long term.
The Government should be clear on supporting technological development.
Under the conditions for accessing resources unveiled by Finance and Economic Development Minister, priority would be given to existing projects.
New projects would be considered in the health sector if they resulted in localisation of supply chains in the production of Personal Protective Equipment. In our opinion, these conditions need to factor in technology development.
While we may tend to resist new technology, going forward it is imperative that we embrace it to remain relevant in the global economy. This is not for the Government alone but for all sectors of the economy.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) has repeatedly reported that one of the reasons for low capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector is antiquated machinery and old technology.
These industries will become even more uncompetitive in light of the technologies being adopted by other economies as they prepare for a new normal post Covid-19.
This situation will only be made worse by the economy’s other structural challenges.
Newer and more efficient technologies are required along the whole supply chain.
Automation will be a key component in an effort to revive domestic manufacturing, which is important in building resilience to crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our formal economy lags behind and when the going gets tough, calls on protection in the form of Statutory Instruments (SIs) and other legal and trade measures are likely to emerge.
The distribution, wholesale and retail sectors are unlikely to be spared.
While Apps such as VAYA have gone a long way to address some of the consumer needs, the level of technology absorption for our key industries is slow and a paradigm shift is required.
Banks have adopted digital platforms to avoid people visiting banking halls.
The future of banking will no longer be in brick-and-mortar branches and physical human contact, but largely through digital and other virtual delivery platforms.
Small and lethargic banks will not fit easily into the highly automated banking space.
Regulators should brace themselves for hyper-dynamic environments. Progressive banking institutions may want to strategise their future relevance and competitive positioning today.
Technology has its downside; for example, structural unemployment in the short term.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Global Commission on the Future of Work, adopting a human-centred approach that entails increasing investment in people’s capabilities, increasing investment in the institutions of work and increasing investment in decent and sustainable work can lessen the burden of job loss.
While some employees have been working remotely, challenges in connectivity and the high cost thereof has slowed progress in digitalising workplaces, and some employees have found themselves physically going to work.
It is important to ensure that our telecommunications companies compete on providing quality connections at the lowest possible cost.
“Working from anywhere” will be the norm.
SIDEWAOS is an independent research services firm. Send feedback to [email protected]