What Kenyan businesses can learn from the disruptions of 2021

[SIZE=7]A year of upheaval:
What Kenyan businesses can learn from the disruptions of 2021 (By James Bayhack)[/SIZE]

By James Bayhack, Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at CM.com


From lockdowns, third waves and vaccine rollouts to digital innovations, eCommerce booms and riot-related supply chain struggles, 2021 has been eventful – to say the least. For many Kenyan businesses, 2020 set the tone for what to expect this year, especially in terms of digital transformation and managing operations under lockdown restrictions. However, the last few months undoubtedly threw a few curveballs our way. It’s fair to say that now, executive managers in almost every industry are prioritising ways to adapt and future-proof their businesses for what’s sure to be an interesting year to come. At least, they should be.

With American humourist Evan Escar’s words in mind – he claimed that while hindsight is good, foresight is better – what can we learn from our experiences during the last year of upheaval to better prepare for the one to come? Every setback, development, or achievement presents a host of opportunities for improved insight and better understanding. And 2021 was packed with all three.
Digital transformation
This became an ‘adapt or die’ situation this year. With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing, more businesses were forced to go online. A 2020 report by Deloitte ( https://bit.ly/3H92fLo ) found that while two-thirds of businesses had a digital transformation strategy in place, 46% of senior leaders didn’t feel confident leading an organisation in the digital economy. Often, this comes down to not fully understanding a company’s technological needs or even what it means to be truly digital.
This year, we saw how businesses that had already embraced digital transformation were better equipped to manage the ‘new normal’, transitioning teams and adapting to digital demands faster. Companies that struggled were the ones that had no plan in place, hadn’t adopted the right technology to support their business and, understandably, had a limited budget for the transformation required.
Kenya’s Vision 2030 has identified ICT as an enabler of a knowledge-based economy that could propel the country towards a middle-income economy by the year 2030. As we prepare for 2022, it’s crucial that businesses align digital transformation with company goals and understand the core needs to ensure agility in the future. This covers everything from developing correct procedures and training staff to investing in technology and tools that support a decentralised work model. The digital age is upon us. Fortunately, innovations are taking place every day to make the transition to a digital environment a little less painful. Considering that most of the fastest growing online populations ( https://bit.ly/3bX7iAa ) in the world are in Africa, organisations that can keep up to speed with technological capabilities will secure their place in a digital future.
The hybrid workspace
One of the biggest changes to take place in 2021 was the rise of the hybrid workplace. After months of total shutdown in 2020, when teams navigated the perils of working remotely, this year saw a trickle of people returning to offices for a few days or hours a week. But a global survey by Statista suggests that 73% of employees ( https://bit.ly/2YzGLpu ) want flexible, remote working options to remain post-COVID. And countries like Kenya could use this to their advantage, growing the economy and boosting tourism by attracting remote workers ( https://bit.ly/3D4cSMT ).
The hybrid workplace – and even the elusive ‘third’ working space, which constitutes anywhere with a plug point and internet connection – seems here to stay. This means the pressure is on for businesses that initially struggled to adapt to remote operations – those that battled with things like managing customer queries remotely, motivating decentralised teams, and staying on top of customer service. With many Kenyan entrepreneurs developing solutions to help solve remote working challenges and prepare for the future of work ( https://bit.ly/3kjVP25 ), the new world of work looks bright for this country.
In 2021, we learnt how to run companies from home and, while productivity seemed to stay on track, the process wasn’t without its challenges. Now, businesses must master both in-office efficiency and remote working. In my opinion, this means communication has never been more important. And we should expect concepts like cybersecurity and digital wellbeing to become a major focus in the next few months as more people spend more time online – Zoom fatigue is a very real thing.
Communication and innovation
Looking back at 2021, I’d say effective communication – internally and with customers – is what sets businesses apart. For many, digital platforms and collaboration tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Gumzo ( https://bit.ly/3bWlwkM ), the first video conferencing platform made in Africa, have replaced the physical office. But direct communication cannot be overlooked, and neither can the importance of upskilling team members with improved communication techniques. It is now vital to ensure that everything, from onboarding to year-end reviews, is done in a way that makes every employee feel heard and valued. Good communicators will always be an asset to any organisation – whether or not you’re sharing an office space.
In terms of external communication, customer experience became the focus this year. We learnt to speak to customers on the channels they prefer ( https://bit.ly/30ddotN ), whether on WhatsApp ( https://bit.ly/3o9T6Jz ), social media platforms or via SMS ( https://bit.ly/3CUIS65 ) notifications. According to the World Bank ( https://bit.ly/3bUQvOc ), 72.9% of Kenyans use a mobile money account and 26.1% make purchases and pay bills online. It has therefore become crucial to build responsive, easy-to-navigate websites and ensure everything from marketing campaigns to payment methods are optimised for mobile users. In the year to come, customer experience and convenience will be key drivers in business decisions.
Looking ahead to 2022, now is the ideal time to extract important lessons from the last few months and forge partnerships to ensure your company is as prepared as possible for the future. If you would like us to guide your business when it comes to improving customer experience, providing always-on support, and uncovering the power of conversational commerce, visit CM.com.


Distributed by APO Group on behalf of CM.com.

The High Court sitting in Nairobi has declined to stop the Health Cabinet Secretary, Mutahi Kagwe, from implementing a directive requiring Kenyans to undergo mandatory vaccination. The Ministry of Health had issued a directive to Kenyans to take the Covid-19 jab warning that those who will not have been vaccinated would be denied crucial services including travel.

Through a private application, lawyer Winfred Otieno Ochieng, wanted the court to suspend the CS’s directive, terming it as unlawful and unconstitutional.

However, Justice Anthony Mrima ruled that the directive would not be suspended until the lodged application is heard and determined after hearing responses from both parties.

“I will not issue any interim orders at this stage until I hear the parties before the government directives take effect on December 21,” he ruled.

High Court Judge Antony Mrima in his office in Migori County

The Judge further urged the parties to file their pleadings with the court in 10 days, with the Ministry of Health being represented by Attorney General, Paul Kihara Kariuki.

“I direct all parties to file their responses and submissions before the hearing of the matter on December 20,” he ruled.

The petitioner had argued that implementing such a directive would deny Kenyans the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution, such as the right to equality and freedom from discrimination.

He further pointed out that vaccinating approximately 24 million adults who are unvaccinated by the said date would be unrealistic, unachievable and oppressive owing to the short period before the directive takes effect.

On Sunday, November 21, 2021, through a press statement, CS Mutahi Kagwe stated that Kenyans who will not have been vaccinated by December 21, will be barred from accessing public transport and other recreational facilities during the Christmas period.

Other services that unvaccinated people will be denied include in-office services to protect government staff from contracting the virus.

“Everybody seeking in-person government services should be fully vaccinated and proof of vaccination availed by December 21, 2021,” stated Kagwe.

The directive attracted the wrath of Kenyans online who termed it as unrealistic and antagonistic.