Experts outline East Africa’s post-pandemic recovery strategy at ACCA webinar

Dar es Salaam. East African countries must undertake several measures in a deliberate move to get their economies back to line after significant challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, experts said on Wednesday.

Speaking during the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) East Africa webinar which was based on the report, Covid-19: The road to recovery,  leaders in the field of accountancy from Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya, said that Covid-19 posed lessons for the region to learn from as country economies look to chart a path to recovery. 

Head of ACCA Tanzania, Mr Jenard Lazaro said ACCA organised the webinar in collaboration with national accountancy bodies across East Africa including the Tanzanian National Board of Accountants and Auditors (NBAA), a valued long- term strategic partner of ACCA. He commented that ACCA greatly values the local insights and knowledge provided by NBAA, which were a critical contribution to this webinar. The session examined the business and finance impacts of Covid-19 and the responses of organizations in different sectors across East Africa including Tanzania.  “We are at a stage where business models and strategies may evolve in response to the pandemic. Our aim is to better understand this change to support Tanzania,” said Mr Lazaro.

From embracing digital and technology and transitioning from health emergency to social and economic recovery, the experts said the speed at which the region recovers from the economic impacts of the pandemic would also depend on the effectiveness of collaboration between the public and private sectors. 

Standard Chartered Tanzania CEO, Mr Sanjay Rughani (FCCA) said while Covid-19 has accelerated businesses to embrace digital and technology, it was now up to businesses to drive beneficial impacts through effective recovery plans, and to consider how business models need to evolve in the future and how workforce capabilities are critical to an effective response.

“Workforce capabilities are critical as part of an effective response. Behavioral competencies such as adaptability, curiosity and creativity will be instrumental to the recovery of the economy,” he said.    

He also called on businesses to put in place smarter and better approaches around communication to assure stakeholders.  This would help with investor confidence, improve collaborations and help build the path to recovery. 

Citing Tanzania as an example, he said the country’s approach to the Covid-19 pandemic was good and one that ensured that there was a close collaboration between the public and private sectors.

In Tanzania, he said, the pandemic was contained even as the government did not employ lockdowns, thanks to maintaining hygienic practices.

However, he noted, the country would be challenged in areas of tourism, exports, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and remittances from an investor perspective. 

“With the whole world catching the cold, Tanzania, which of course is part of the global economy infrastructure, is also sneezing,” said Mr Rughani. 

But Companies have had to adjust to the way they do things. 

A partner with KPMG East Africa and head of consulting Mr. Brian DeSouza (FCCA) said for businesses to transform, every organization needed to look at the opportunities offered by the digital cloud, as this will continue to shape how information is consumed and changing the way people work. 

“The Cloud provides a secure platform you can access from anywhere,” said Mr. DeSouza. 

A member of the governing council and vice-chairperson for the National Board of Accountants and Auditors (NBAA), Dr. Neema Kiure-Mssusa (CPA) said automation is seen as an opportunity to boost efficiency.

Dr. Mssusa said agility and adaptability were also important in putting the economies on the right footing. 

As for the accountants, she was of the view that it was critical for them to upskill in technology and recognize the importance of digital transformation in driving the business forward. 

“When developing a technology strategy for businesses, it is important to look ahead and anticipate the potential future needs of businesses and clients,” said Dr. Mssusa. 

The accountant-general from the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development in Uganda, Mr. Lawrence Semakula commented it was high time for governments to shift from the health emergency to social and economic recovery.   

However, he said, the full recovery of economies was projected to be a gradual process.

ACCA Africa director, Mr Jamil Ampomah commented: “Key decision-makers and business leaders must find a lasting solution to the economic impact of Covid-19.”

ACCA’s June 2020 survey findings indicate that the impact of the pandemic on the region’s economies has been profound. In Tanzania for instance, 51 percent of respondents cited customer purchases as having stopped or reduced, according to ACCA portfolio head-business management professional insights and author of the report, Covid-19: The road to recovery, Mr. Jamie Lyon.