No one will deny that the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our country’s economy, with the already embattled construction industry among the hardest hit of the business sectors.
But according to Databuild CEO Morag Evans, there is a silver lining in the dark cloud that the virus has formed. “Even if it’s just a glimmer, it does present opportunities for South African companies to build on for the future,” she says.
“While we all have to face the unfortunate reality that many businesses will not be able to survive the lockdown period, it is also inevitable that the crisis will serve as a catalyst for other companies to repurpose their business model so that they retain, or even enhance their competitiveness post lockdown. Furthermore, I believe the lockdown will lead to the emergence of new businesses specifically geared to meeting the new requirements of a post-pandemic economy.”
Evans cites several positive factors resulting from lockdown which could help businesses rise from the ashes as restrictions are gradually lifted.
“The petrol price has dropped significantly since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and is now at its lowest level since 2016. This will enable businesses to leverage extensive savings in travel and transportation expenses.
“Additionally, the pandemic has fast-tracked the transition to remote working. As companies become increasingly comfortable operating in the new virtual business environment they will start to reconsider their need for expensive office space, which will lead to further savings.
“More staff working from home also means reduced day-to-day office expenses and lower utilities bills, which further helps to boost cash flow, she adds.
In outlining government’s fiscal and monetary interventions to mitigate the economic crisis brought on by Covid-19, Finance minister Tito Mboweni alluded to the building of a “new economy” in which companies take advantage of the current crisis and start thinking of ways to harness opportunities that would enable them to flourish in a post lockdown environment.
Evans strongly echoes Mboweni’s sentiments, including that local manufacturers should waste no time in reclaiming the production of goods and commodities that were previously imported.
“The move to level four lockdown has enabled cement and construction material manufacturers to reopen for business, while projects in areas of water, energy, sanitation, roads and bridges are back online.
“This presents a golden opportunity for local manufacturers to boost their output and prove once and for all that our country’s own suppliers are more than capable of keeping up with local demand and that there is no need to rely on other countries for these products.
“I have no doubt that all role players are fully capable of rising to the challenge,” Evans concludes.