EXPERT COMMENT

Productivity holds key to business success in post-covid world

Investors are gearing up for a strong economic recovery

In Summary

•Despite the pandemic, Kenya remains an enduring attraction for investors in many of the world’s leading financial capitals, including London and New York.

•The opportunity is immense, and as a business leader, I would urge all enterprises to take advantage and cast their nets.

NSE Chairman Kiprono Kittony speaks during the KNCCI Nairobi county chapter forum on financial and investment inclusion for SMEs/HANDOUT
NSE Chairman Kiprono Kittony speaks during the KNCCI Nairobi county chapter forum on financial and investment inclusion for SMEs/HANDOUT

Despite the crippling economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies and investors are gearing up for a strong economic recovery supported by continued vaccinations, technology, and digitisation.

Recent data indicates that new business registrations at the Attorney General’s office reached a record 101,674 in the year to June, the first time the figure has crossed the 100,000 threshold and 38.7 per cent higher than the 73,302 recorded in June 2020.

This surge in entrepreneurial activity across the country comes at a time when investors are shoring up their assets and building strategic reserves in response to the impact of the pandemic, and in anticipation of the GeneralElection next year (investors typically spend the period before an electioneering cycle building capital).

Fixed deposits in banks hit a record Sh1.59 trillion in June, up more than 50 per cent from around Sh1.1 trillion in the beginning of 2017, according to the Central Bank of Kenya.

Investors have never been better capitalized than they are today.

This is timely given the growing appeal of Kenya as a leading investment destination on the continent.

Despite the pandemic, Kenya remains an enduring attraction for investors in many of the world’s leading financial capitals, including London and New York.

We routinely rank as one of Africa’s most attractive investment destinations in many leading surveys.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), which serves a significant number of foreign investors, is currently the best performing bourse in Africa, underlining the strong investor confidence we enjoy on the global stage.

The buildup of capital in our financial system, increasing investor interest from both local and foreign players, and the escalation in entrepreneurial activity indicates that the stars are aligned for Kenya.

The current administration has also laid a strong foundation by investing in strategic development projects like infrastructure, which is a key catalyst for sustainable economic development.

In the absence of a contentious election in 2022, the economy could take off strongly, ushering in a much-needed renaissance.

The opportunity is immense, and as a business leader, I would urge all enterprises to take advantage and cast their nets.

As with every gold rush, there will be winners, losers, and lessons to be learnt from the new and existing firms that succeed or fail.

One of the key differentiators between the firms that will seize the opportunity and those that fail will be productivity.

Productivity, which is a measure of how efficiently firms use their resources to achieve their objectives, has come to the fore thanks to the pandemic.

Firms that embraced e-commerce to navigate the lockdown are realising they no longer need to pay for entire distribution fleets and can do everything online much cheaper and faster.

Others that adopted work-from-home policies are not renewing office leases after realizing that staff can deliver agreed results remotely, at significantly lower costs compared with running a physical office.

Technology has proven to be a key enabler of productivity during the pandemic and will likely remain an integral part of how business is conducted.

This holds true in the private sector as it does in the public sector, where the successful digitisation of government processes and services deserves credit.

Firms that are yet to integrate digital capabilities into how they do business are falling behind the curve.

This is now a business imperative that is as much a concern for business decision makers as it is for employees and job seekers.

As the future of work looks ever more digital, workers need to learn new digital skills to deliver value to their employers.While the opportunities presented by our new digital ways of working and doing business is great, the downside cannot be ignored.

For some people, working remotely has added to stress and burn out due to lack of boundaries between work and home.

Increased cases of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions have been documented globally and in Kenya among remote workers.

Organization wellbeing is therefore a business essential for firms. An employee is not a unit of production but a person, meaning firms keen on retaining workers and maintaining consistent productivity must find ways of fostering employee wellbeing.

There has been an increase in mental health awareness, and general health and well being among many corporates in Kenya. This trend is likely to continue as

more business decision makers realize the linkage between organizational well being and productivity.

Anyone who has worked in sales can attest to the fact that a happy and motivated worker can make a huge difference for a business.

The post-covid-19 world is hard to predict. New variants of the virus continue to emerge, and the overall situation could change depending on the pace and effectiveness of vaccinations and how government containment measure evolve.

However, one thing that has come out clearly through the pandemic is that businesses that prioritised productivity emerged on top.

This is unlikely to change and businesses need to focus on this to stay competitive and thrive.

Kittony is the Chairman of the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)