24 Apr COVID-19 BUSINESS IMPACT SURVEY
The American Chamber of Commerce in Zambia conducted a survey to understand the impact of Covid-19 on businesses The spread of the pandemic is yet to recede globally, as of 23rd April 2020, the John Hopkins University reported that approximately 2.6 million people had been infected with the virus in 185 countries/regions and about 180,000 people had died from the virus. There is still no known cure to this pandemic and l Government’s across the world continue to look for solutions to combat the wide spread of Covid-19.. The Government of Zambia has not initiated a lockdown. Whereas sectors such as tourism and hospitality have come to a standstill, business has continued in most sectors with strict guidelines on social distancing and general hygiene to lessen the risk of infections.
Businesses have had to adapt to the prevailing environment by implementing or developing policies to help them continue in these peculiar times. 95% of our respondents indicated that they had indeed initiated a plan to ensure that essential operational functions were not interrupted. When asked if the pandemic had impacted their business, 48% of the participants stated that they had been extensively impacted by it, while 52% stated that they had been impacted moderately. Although it is uncertain to establish to what extent the pandemic would affect the revenue positions of businesses (with some to gain and some to lose) all participants in the survey highlighted that their projected revenue for the year would be altered by the Pandemic. Companies are getting ready to put in place measures that will cushion these shocks to their initial estimated revenue.
To encourage social distancing, many firms have had to reduce physical presence at the office and opted to work remotely. The survey showed that this was having an effect on the productivity of employees. 90% of our respondents stated that the productivity of Staff was affected by the measures put in place to safeguard their health.
Survey findings showed that companies are taking initiative by making use of video and audio conferencing facilities to host meetings. 90% of participants stated that they were indeed hosting meetings and events virtually on these platforms while the remaining 10% indicated that they had not yet implemented this measure.
Unfortunately,the world economy has been hit immensely since the outbreak of Covid-19 . The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that the world will record the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression of the 1930s. This crisis will be much worse than the 2007/2008 financial crises. The government of Zambia has put in place measures to keep the economy alive. Survey participants were asked if they were satisfied with the measures put in place and the results showed the following;
Through the survey, we engaged our members on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities they are undertaking in this period and the following were the responses obtained:
- Printing Covid-19 awareness document’s at highly discounted price’s.
- Information sharing.
- Donations to NGO’s.
- Distribution of needed goods.
- Food Donations to orphanages and organizations for elderly people.
- Free insurance cover for existing clients.
- Social media campaigns.
We concluded the survey by asking the participants to indicate the measures they would recommend to the Government to put in place to enable a stable environment amidst the scourge of the pandemic. The participants gave the following responses;
- The Government needs to conduct massive testing and if possible lockdown Lusaka as this is the epicenter for Zambia.
- The Government should offer tax relief where possible.
- The Ministries should offer more sensitization and screening.
- The Government should enable small businesses to stay alive by encouraging e-commerce.
- Ensure clear targets are set and are actually achieved.
- Provide for suspension of statutory payments to Government to assist in the survival of businesses.
- Reduce the tax rates, extend deadlines for taxes due, and give grace period for payments of statutory deductions such as NAPSA to mention a few.
- Relief in statutory obligations, clarity in guidance and timeliness of communications.
- Encourage local production and lax on taxes for now until things normalize.
- Get special funding released to SME’s and medium sized businesses.
- Restrict people’s movement, encourage good hygiene and social distancing.
- Implement more stringent measures on large gatherings and groupings.
- Enhance the supply chain systems both in public and private sectors – Ensure basic needs are in place and in enough quantities – Collaborate with the private sector.
- Cushion on all forms of tax in most of the SME’s.
- Assist employees on forced leave with allowances to help them meet their financial obligations. in terms of an allowance .
- Reduce the cost of internet by 50% to allow most students at home to access e- learning.
- Suspend certain employer obligations under the Employment Code.