Zambia’s lockdown, in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic has radically highlighted that SMEs need access to accurate information and robust systems. The impact of the pandemic on SME’s has already had far reaching implications and many sectors have found that they are not prepared for remote working.
While businesses offering essential services are allowed to have teams operating on site during lockdown, this doesn’t mean that non-essential businesses need to halt all operations. The reality however, is that the ability to adapt quickly to market and environmental changes makes all the difference to small business survival.
The Coronavirus pandemic adds to the many challenges already facing SMEs in Zambia including:
- Difficulty maintaining a steady cash flow and cash reserves.
- Currency devaluation against the USD and fluctuations which means businesses are unable to plan ahead.
- Electricity load shedding and escalating tariff which have increased by over 210% since 2017.
- Fuel cost increases for vehicle transport and backup electricity generators which has escalated the cost of doing business by close to 90% since 2017.
- Rising inflation between 2019 and 2020 eroded business confidence, and as result many businesses neglected to invest in IT infrastructure.
“It’s not too late to adapt,” explains Mupota Muchelemba, the MD of Seidor Zambia “There are many challenges but it’s not impossible. Businesses need to invest in new IT assets that enable their businesses to operate from anywhere by using cloud servers, ecommerce websites, ERP such as SAP Business One for small and midsized companies, and using collaborative tools like Zoom and Microsoft Office 365”.
Seidor Zambia is assisting SMEs, by helping them to move their software to cloud based systems, which are highly effective for remote working.
“We can get SMEs up and running remotely in under a week. We also train staff to make use of cash flow forecast capabilities of their Business One system and the real-time analytics using Seidor Clarity. We also assist SMEs with email and calendar service, instant messaging and calling, file sharing, audio and video conferencing, productivity software (spreadsheet and document editing), which are the minimum set of tools required to coordinate their remote working activities”, adds Muchelemba.
Muchelemba explains that while working remotely, it’s important for businesses to know that their data is safe. “With multiple people accessing systems from various locations and devices, it becomes essential to have tools in place that enable total security peace of mind. Tools like two-factor authentication, VPNs (virtual private networks) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) are highly effective and strongly recommended, as well as ensuring that Data leak Prevention (DLP) is in place.”
“The key to surviving times like this is adaptability, within a stable and efficient framework all while not losing sight of your customer and their needs. Working with a solid system like SAP Business One can comfortably navigate businesses through choppy waters and even help improve cashflow. It may be business ‘unusual’ at the moment, but in order for businesses to survive there does need to be an element of ‘business as usual’,” added Muchelemba.
This unusual situation also provides an opportunity for SMEs to plan properly and to ensure that they are set up to do business better when the crisis is over. The planning starts with access to real-time data and robust systems.