Leadership, News

Why Our Post-Covid Recovery Plan Must Focus on The Consumer

Two days ago, I was priv­i­leged to attend a leader’s cau­cus at the Kenya Asso­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers where Kan­tar a lead­ing data, insights, and con­sult­ing com­pa­ny high­light­ed con­sumer trends and mar­ket evo­lu­tion. It was thought-pro­vok­ing to learn that Kenyans are more con­cerned than South Africans and Nige­ri­ans about health­care, edu­ca­tion, and water. On their part, Nige­ri­ans are more wor­ried about pover­ty and hunger. Poor san­i­ta­tion is also a mat­ter of press­ing con­cern for Nige­ri­ans. As for South Africans, they are pre­oc­cu­pied with a lack of access to afford­able, clean ener­gy. Fur­ther to this, they are wor­ried about gen­der inequality. 

For­tu­nate­ly, entre­pre­neur­ship can be a part of the solu­tion to these chal­lenges through a sus­tain­abil­i­ty-based approach. This can be done through the sus­tain­able man­u­fac­ture of prod­ucts. Such pro­duc­tion entails a vari­ety of ways that encom­pass ener­gy and water effi­cien­cy. Indeed, the days of com­pa­nies wast­ing ener­gy, water, and oth­er resources are over. Com­pa­nies that con­tin­ue with such unsus­tain­able pro­duc­tion must be pun­ished by vig­i­lant consumers.

Since March 2020 when COVID-19 stormed the world, con­sumers are more aware of the prod­ucts that they con­sume. Because afford­abil­i­ty is their main con­cern, busi­ness­es should tap into sus­tain­abil­i­ty to reduce cost and increase afford­abil­i­ty. If they use less water and ener­gy through increased inno­va­tion, they can pass on the sav­ings to con­sumers by charg­ing less for their products.

The eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion remains so dire that Kenyans no longer sim­ply match into super­mar­kets to buy any prod­uct. They now tend to buy prod­ucts that are on sale even if it means vis­it­ing dif­fer­ent super­mar­kets. Brand loy­al­ty no longer holds sway over customers. 

In these pan­dem­ic days, con­sumers also have more vari­ety to choose from.  That’s because thou­sands of Kenyans who lost their jobs have had to ven­ture into busi­ness­es that put them in direct com­pe­ti­tion with estab­lished brands. This has caused Kenya to become an African mar­ket leader in direct sell­ing, which occurs when peo­ple sell their prod­ucts in a non-retail envi­ron­ment whether it is online or from the boots of their cars. 

Investors and the Gov­ern­ment should take advan­tage of this burst of entre­pre­neur­ship to nur­ture a more resilient SME sec­tor that can even­tu­al­ly widen the tax base con­sid­er­ably. Since SMEs already employs more than 80 per­cent of Kenyans, they must be sup­port­ed to be even more prof­itable and sustainable. 

Now that the cur­few has been lift­ed after nine­teen months, we must adapt to the pan­dem­ic, not hide from it. That doesn’t mean becom­ing care­less. Rather, it means that we must exer­cise cau­tion even as we go on with our lives espe­cial­ly on the busi­ness front. I am always encour­aged to see how small busi­ness­es like mama mbo­gas still have hand­wash­ing con­tain­ers at their premis­es. Such habits must become part of our culture.

Anoth­er habit that is worth keep­ing is work­ing from home. This lessens the oper­at­ing cost of busi­ness­es. While the nature of many busi­ness­es doesn’t allow their employ­ees to work from home, many oth­er busi­ness­es should ful­ly embrace home offices. 

In April 2020, when Covid-19 was just a month old, a sur­vey con­duct­ed by Con­sumer Insight Africa revealed that 81 per­cent of Kenyans found work­ing from home to be inef­fec­tive. The sit­u­a­tion is evi­dent­ly dif­fer­ent now since work­ing from home is not as alien as it was in the first half of 2020. 

Kenya already has the fastest inter­net in entire Africa, with South Africa and Moroc­co com­ing in sec­ond and third respec­tive­ly. Accord­ing to Aka­mai, a top con­tent deliv­ery net­work (CDN) ser­vices provider, Kenya’s aver­age data con­nec­tion speed is the 14th fastest in the world. We are even ahead of the USA. 

Kenya’s com­par­a­tive­ly bet­ter inter­net gives her a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage since a lot of tasks can now be han­dled online and don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly need phys­i­cal offices. 

Busi­ness­es should take full advan­tage of the fact that a stag­ger­ing 88 per­cent of Kenyans can access the inter­net through their mobile phones. Con­sumers too have a duty to use their phones more crit­i­cal­ly in choos­ing sus­tain­ably pro­duced, afford­able prod­ucts. Think green, act green! 

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About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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