Entrepreneurs and the departed COVID 19 in Tanzania.
Greetings from Fancy Kunta, it has indeed been a while since I penned my thoughts and actually published them. Yes I have been going through quite a lot of ‘drafting’ of late, courtesty of the million number of work activities I have to tick off before year end. But we all know who to blame…yes..COVID 19 and the number of weeks we had to halt things (Tanzanian context of course).
However I think we can agree that COVID 19 was/is a major wake up call for EVERYONE..pushing us to seek alternatives and adopt to new ways of life and the ‘new normal’ whatever shape or form that is taking.
This dreadful period saw both the rise and demise of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs alike. While globally the focus was on digital transition with major shift from offline to online, in Tanzania with the informal economy still taking on the majority of the working class, most of the socio-economic impact was felt by informal workers, entrepreneurs, and small and medium enterprises. With tourism also being a large employer of youth and women, the value chain all the way down to food suppliers and mini restaurants was quite hit and affected the money circulation in the particular regions where this sector is dominant.
Entrepreneurs and SMEs continuosly tried to design new approaches that would give them the agility and resilience to sail through with many of them narrowing down on producing, supplying, and distributing, protective and essential needs that were in demand. We saw quite a burst of ‘online shopping grocery stores’ in the spirit of physical and social distancing. How they are maintaining the operations is up to question as some of them have completely disappeared off the radar.
There were also quite a lot of ‘sanitizer’ and ‘mask’ suppliers, some whom should be smiling to date from the horrendous prices they sold these gears for, and some unfortunately I have heard are suffering serious financial problems from the large stock that remains in heaps of containers because, well, as we were told have bear witness to, COVID 19 left Tanzania. Talk about a demand disappearing over night!! absolute nightmare.
And so this led me to the popular question I and many others ask ourselves, whether this was the famous ‘why and what kind of entrepreneurship are you doing’ question that we constantly overlook or do not answer honestly and comprehensively or is it the famous trap we set ourselves up for failure when look at entrepreneurship as just the ‘alternative’ for making a quick thousands of shillings.
Sustainability, in entrepreneurial business models is quite challenging globally no matter the landscape. However the question of why we ventuure in these enterprises, I feel is the one thing we should keep driling on at the very beginning of our design thinking processes to ensure this. Could it be that the where and why will determine the how? and therefore the what? Some might claim that is a ‘social entrepreneurship’ approach, but then why not? and how different is it from the demand vs supply model?
Local specific context is everything, as we have clearly seen during this period. Not just from the effects we saw through the supply and demand for protective and essential needs but also the digital shift most the businesses were made to believe they had to make notwithstanding the practicality in terms of certain operations and even access and outreach to the masses where infrastructure does not allow.
So what is the one lesson we have learnt from this experience? Comment below please…