African Business Leaders Suffering Big Setbacks From COVID-19, But Optimistic Of Gradual Recovery

by Duke Magazine

From views and opinions, about 95 percent of African companies has had a negative downturn on their revenues in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to salvage this huge blow, digitalization and diversity will be really pivotal for business recovery at post COVID. 

However, despite the headwinds, African business leaders are exhibiting a relatively high degree of confidence: 

38 percent of them see a rapid recovery on the horizon for their businesses in the first quarter of 2021, according to the Africa CEO  Forum.

These business leaders are increasingly optimistic about the continent’s long-term economic growth (80 percent of those surveyed in 2020 compared to 73 percent in 2019), while also acknowledging that the slowdown in global economic growth will have a negative impact on their domestic operations.

The AfCFTA is scheduled to open markets in the African sub-region

With the take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) postponed until 2021, African business leaders are enthusiastic about the single continental market initiative, a significant driver in accelerating the pace of growth. 

They share the belief that the unification process cannot be supported exclusively by public authorities.

African business leaders also agree that inclusion and gender diversity in the boardroom are key components in the development of the continent’s private sector. 

Although it is clear there is a direct correlation between good corporate performance and gender diversity on boards of directors, African companies still have considerable room for improvement in this area.

Out of the 74 percent of companies surveyed, women make up less than 25 percent of board of directors’ members and less than 10 percent of the board of 54 percent of companies surveyed, which is down from last year (when women made up less than 25 percent of the board at 73 percent of companies, and women made up less than 10 percent of the board at 45 percent of companies).

Initially perceived as a short-term solution to ensuring business continuity during the crisis, the acceleration of digitalization is now establishing itself as an essential component of companies’ recovery strategy, according to 95 percent of business leaders surveyed. 

The focus now is hinged on developing business digitalization, public services and the structure of the innovation ecosystem to encourage the advent of new champions. 

85 percent of business leaders are with the opinion that COVID-19 will have a major impact on innovation in the coming years.

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