By Elvis Eromosele
Since its emergence in Wuhan in December 2019, the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact country after country.
Today, it is causing disruptions all over the world. While there is uncertainty about how long the pandemic would continue to ravage, experts posit that it would eventually fade out like other viruses before it, such as Ebola. The timeframe, however, is indeterminate.
In the meantime, the world groans under the burden of the lockdown that the virus has precipitated. In America, Trump is threatening to reopen the economy on May 1, 2020 against the advice of medical experts.
In developing countries, where the bulk of the population earns and live on daily pay, the challenge is that of hunger. If people can’t go out, they can’t eat. Unrest is on the rise.
When it COVID-19 finally fades away the damage would be incalculable. And the world that would emerge would be a whole new world. Here are four things that would change and opportunities for the discerning:
Leadership – Currently, there is over a hundred thousand COVID-19 deaths. Several government officials and business leaders from across the world are among victims of the pandemic. In Nigeria, the Chief of Staff to the President Abba Kyari, a power broker in the Buhari administration has died of the virus. It is creating a power vacuum that would take time and a bit to fill.
So, new younger leaders would be required to step up and fill the plate. The positioned, the prepared and the favoured would take the opportunities as they become available.
Job – The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that COVID-19 could trigger roughly 195 million job losses across the world. This is plausible. Millions have already lost jobs. Millions more may still be lost.
The resilience of whole industries has been tested and found wanting. The food supply and logistic industries have proven indispensable. The touted progress of the electronic and online payment sector is on trial. Luxury and hospitality segments are reeling. Marketing communications and Public Relations, digital solutions providers among service providers are finding the joy of working from home.
Undoubtedly, new industries will emerge from this. Existing firms would be forced to rethink their operations and more importantly, staffing. The future of work would change, irrevocably.
Health – COVID-19 has tested and stretched the world’s health systems and personnel. It has revealed the rot, exposed the inadequacies and uncovered the failings in the national and global health care industry. Healthcare will never be the same again.
At the least, it would force greater attention on the sector, but better yet, it should lead to total reform of the health sector. This would serve the people best. Medical and healthcare workers would get the compensation that they deserve, basic and essential care kits would be provided and infrastructure would be upgraded massively. Imagine all the ICU equipment been deployed in the isolation centres now redeployed in the existing healthcare centres and hospitals.
The infectious disease training, empowerment and enhanced capacity developed and built during this period would come in handy going into the future. The biggest hope is that now that politicians and other power brokers have found that they can’t always run abroad for treatment, perhaps they will be motivated to invest conscientiously in the health system.
Economy – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that gross domestic product (GDP) per capita will shrink across 170 nations due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is definitely an optimistic projection.
Experts are cautious in talking of a global contraction. Many object to the word, “recession,” for now. The argument is that the label requires at least two consecutive quarters of declines in a country’s real GDP. But, if the facts on the ground are anything to go back, a recession is on the horizon.
Globally, the slow-down in manufacturing and the great lockdown has led to a massive drop in the price of crude. The low prices are expected to persist for a while. Countries that depend on oil, like Nigeria, are tottering. Importantly, The Economist notes, “Countries that rely on oil exports should brace themselves for a long period of pain.” Ouch!
Businesses will also have to rethink the siting of factories. COVID-19 has exposed the weakness in putting all the world’s manufacturing eggs in the basket of China. Africa may provide the base for a new manufacturing hub. This would counter the weight of everything been made in China.
Experience, like they say, is the best teacher.
Conclusion: COVID-19 will pass. The effect of the pandemic will not be forgotten. A New World will emerge. The future will be reshaped completely.
In the political space, there are whispers of the emergence of China as the new leader of the new world. Only time will show how this will play out.
In the meantime, nation-states, businesses and individuals must prepare for change. It would definitely not be business as usual. Each one must be effectively positioned to thrive in the new world – the world that COVID19 will build.
Elvis Eromosele, a Corporate Communication professional and public affairs analyst lives in Lagos.