How to open doors during Africa’s COVID-19 small business slump

28th April 2020

There were hours where I would look at the door to my shop and no one would walk in. I’d look at my phone and it just wouldn’t ring. While I waited, I’d refresh my browser looking for an email with a client order.

You tell yourself, it’s quiet, this is the perfect time to work on my marketing strategy, get my taxes in order and finally fix that shelf that has been wobbly for months. Your heart is just not in it though. You feel powerless.

What I remember most about those days, and how I think many business owners feel right now, is how lonely it was. How you felt that nobody else could possibly be facing the same issues and that the passers-by in the street felt pity for you.

Now, a few years later, I am in a completely different career. I am one of those passers-by. I look into a shop or a bar and am surprised by how empty it is. But I don’t take pity, because what I know now, is that feeling powerless is not the place to start solving your problem. There is one simple solution to taking control of the situation, open doors for yourself.

At the African Management Institute (AMI) our focus is to help ambitious businesses and business owners across Africa to thrive. In the best of times and the worst of times. We help those that are looking to grow and even those trying to survive in the face of the greatest market challenges.  Most importantly, right now we’re working to help you as you work to save your business.

What AMI knows, and what we put into practice every day with our clients, is the principle of immediate applied learning and adaptation. We’re not talking about thick, difficult to read textbooks. In usual circumstances, there’s little time for that. Right now, time is of the essence.

Traditionally, our programmes offer action-oriented, short courses that blend in person facilitated learning with online experiences and tools to help participants apply these strategies immediately for their business. In a COVID-19 world, we’ve temporarily adjusted our blended approach, pausing our in-person part and moving to fully-virtual engagements and interactions. Though different than our usual approach, we know this will help get you through the current economic downturn.

These are tools that help you take control of your business, make cost and revenue forecasts, open your eyes to new revenue streams and show you where you can cut costs (or should delay payment).

Across the continent, there are millions of small business owners who are very understandably worried. This is a time to survive. But in a storm, if you stand in the rain, you’ll most likely get really wet, and worst, possibly drown. It’s time to get out of the rain, it’s time to take shelter, it’s time to take control of your situation and take action to open doors for yourself. That’s how you can avoid the COVID-19 small business slump.

Here are some actions that you can start to take with AMI at no cost:

Regardless of whether or not you engage in AMI’s programmes, we hope that you find a way to keep your business going and that the doors of opportunity start to open again soon. And if they don’t open on their own, we hope you’ll find a way to go unlock some doors of opportunity for yourself.

Diederik Wokke is AMI’s Rwanda Country Manager and is an experienced entrepreneur in the food and beverage industry.

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