Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, business has not been as usual. It is high time for society to accept and believe that Covid-19 is real and is affecting the operations of many sectors including business, with long-lasting impacts. These are times when one must either adjust and move forward or do nothing and stay behind!
Most of the EU-GIZ Tekki Fii beneficiaries in business are adhering to the advice and one such person is Sunkar Sarjo. Sunkar is a native of Kartong village and she owns an Eco-lodge which usually attracts a lot of tourists. Sunkar would make about D13,000 per week but this is barely impossible now, as tourism becomes a no-go zone this year. She has reduced her prizing but nothing much has changed: “It will be very difficult to recover my business because I have lost a lot of money. I was even building another guesthouse in my lodge which I was hoping to finish soon but due to the pandemic, I am unable to do so, and it will take me years to recover all that I have lost,” she explains. Sunkar has no option but to observe the precautionary measures even at her lodge where she has placed washing basins. She has also donated some sanitary materials to her community to help combat the virus.
Another beneficiary in Tailoring and fashion designing understands the importance of social distancing in preventing the spread of Covid-19. She is Paulet A.S. Gomez, a determined young designer who is exploring different ways of staying healthy but at the same time being innovative so as not to lag behind: “I take this opportunity to advertise my business online to reach out to more customers. I’ve become more focused on thinking and making better designs,” she informs. Paulet also welcomes customers to her shop but she makes sure that they adhere to her new rules: “I emphasize seeing one customer at a time and I make sure they wash their hands well and observe physical distancing,” she adds.
Mamadou Barry deals in poultry and food processing. He tries to entertain his customers to keep them attached while keeping his environment very clean at all times: “Despite everything that’s happening, we must continue observing the precautionary measures to prevent the virus from further spreading. However, it will take me months or years to recover what I have lost in my business because I’m now making about half of what I used to make,” he posed.
The EU-GIZ Tekki Fii Project has been accompanying its partner institutions and beneficiaries during this time of crisis by keeping a close contact with each one of them, to better understand their constraints, but also advise them on how best to steer their businesses through the crisis, also sensitizing them on the precautionary measures to be observed, in line with WHO standards and guidelines.
The Implementing Partners agree that these are extraordinary times that will need urgent action since beneficiaries are gravely affected because their businesses are crumbling. Abdoukabirr Daffeh the Program Manager at NEDI says it’s difficult for the young entrepreneurs to recover at this point due to the lack of stimulus packages for them: “The working capital of these young people is next to zero, thereby resulting to lower production of goods and inability to reach target markets.” Daffeh also highlighted that they are planning to resume training in early June but this time, they will take half the number of usual intakes which will be 10 instead of 20.
Muhammed Danso the Program Coordinator at SIG explains that most of the beneficiaries have laid off their staff and others have closed their businesses; however, they are offering online coaching sessions to help them adjust to current market needs. Whilst Sadibou Jammeh the Business Development Services Manager at GIEPA reiterates the damages on small businesses, he advises relevant stakeholders to open new markets and form linkages that will help in the recovery process.
Rural businesses are the most affected since most of them are in agri-business and lumos have been put on halt. Edrisa Keita the National Coordinator of TOSTAN Gambia says the young entrepreneurs have lost an immeasurable amount of income since most of their goods are perishable goods and a lot has already been disposed of. “The Government should support these young people; also GIZ and partners should support them with startup capital to boost their business and food processing initiatives that they were already trained on, otherwise it’s impossible to recover their businesses,” Edrissa stresses.
It is no doubt that the business sector has been one of the hardest hit since the outbreak. Businesses especially small startups will need to adopt innovative ways of meeting demands or suffer the greatest shock of all times.