By: Bongekile Filana
The Coronavirus has not only changed our way of life, it has radically changed the operations within the business sector. This change has brought so much frustration to Activators and young people who are in the Youth economic sector. Regardless of the new reports by Business Tech that there has been unusual growth of online retailers between 25% and 50% due to lockdown, Activators in one voice feel like, moving a business into a digital space is not that easy, such transformation requires resources and digital systems in place. Rethinking and remodelling their businesses plans, as well as formulating new operational strategies don’t seem to be the biggest issues. Lack of resources and financial support are the main hurdles.
Activators in the Youth-Economic sector have voiced their frustration on how COVID-19 lockdown has affected their businesses especially because there is a speedy transformation into the digital space and working remotely has become the new norm.
“Accessing business markets has been a struggle even before COVID-19 lockdown, penetrating digital ecosystem for business purposes is not as easy as everyone thinks. A digital-based business continuity plan needs resources. If you are a start-up, it is really hard to thrive in the changing trends”, says KZN Activator, MbaleZulu Dlamini.
In our interaction within the Youth Economic Sector, we engaged with Kgabo Legodi, who is a high-tech entrepreneur and Activator based in Limpopo province. Legodi believes that start-ups are the backbone of every thriving economy because they are contributing immensely to the socio-economic development. She also believes that as they are challenge-driven and underpinned by creative and innovative thinking. Access to funding start-ups shouldn’t be this difficult .Even now during lockdown, no one speaks about funding for Start-Ups.
Khulile Mazimba, an Activator based in the Eastern Cape, said “As a social entrepreneur based in rural areas, my impediment is connectivity. We note and appreciate the efforts of our government in connecting the unconnected but the process seems to be moving slowly. Bridging the digital divide should be a priority of our government, we can’t go digital if we remain disconnected to the world. Our businesses have suffered severely during this period of lockdown as we can’t even do business online”.
Nathacia Oliver, who is the coordinator of the Youth Economic Participation Sector at ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, an entrepreneur and an Activator based in Gauteng, has shared her views around digital transformation in the business sector. “Operating business online makes life easier, however it is expensive in terms of data. COVID-19 lockdown left us with no choice but to adapt to digital space in order to maintain our competitive edge,” she said. “Many people are still sceptical about buying and selling online but I don’t blame them, the security around ecommerce has been an issue, and not just in South Africa, but in the continent at large. It remains something we must all pay attention to”, added Nathacia.
Eastern Cape Activator, Vuyokazi Ntlebi said “I run fitness wellness training, COVID-19 lockdown has caused economical distress to my business. I can’t commence with training even under level 3 regulations. People pay only for services rendered, if there is no service, there is no payment. Yes, I thank smart -phones because I am able to communicate with my clients to check their psycho-social wellness and send them demos of exercise but I really can’t expect them to pay.”
This COVID-19 lockdown has tormented our societies and caused socio-economic distress. Entrepreneurs and start-ups are finding it hard to sustain their businesses during this time.