We are all unsure of what the business scene will look like when the country reopens for normal operations. The reality is that the number of Covid-19 cases reported keep on increasing. The 12th FKE Webinar took this opportunity to learn from partners from Norway and China who have eventually reopened their economies. By 30th June, China had 83,531confirmed cases, 4,634 deaths and 78,469 recoveries while Norway’s confirmed cases were at 8,866, 248 deaths and 8,138 recoveries. Globally Covid -19 confirmed cases have reached 10Million with 500,000 deaths and 5Million recoveries recorded.
With calls to reopen gaining momentum, what do this numbers mean for Kenya which has 6,106 confirmed cases, 144 deaths and 2013 recoveries?
The Executive Director FKE, Ms. Jaqueline Mugo while introducing the guest speakers noted that China and Norway were FKE’s international partners who have supported joint projects for capacity building and improved business climate. Moreover, the cooperation with China aims at enhancing responsible business practices in Africa and Chinese enterprises joining FKE membership. The guest speakers Dr. Michael Niu, Division Director & Associate Researcher, International Department, China Enterprise Confederation (CEC) and Mr. Magnus Ruderaas, Assistant Director, Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), International Cooperation Programme had this to say;
The impact of Covid-19 on China’s economy is significant. Small and Medium Enterprises have been hard hit. However, close cooperation and collaboration has been instrumental in coming up with measures to mitigate the effects. The Government stepped up efforts to help the industries stay afloat, for instance; reduced the cost of electricity and other utilities to minimize production costs, boosted domestic consumption to cushion the blow of the pandemic on the economy.
We have also intensified testing in Beijing especially to those who are visiting, in areas where the virus was found and for people living in medium and high-risk areas. This has seen a gradual control of the virus as currently only two or three new infection have been reported.
The China Enterprises Confederation (CEC) has assisted employees and employers return to work in an orderly manner. CEC developed guidelines on maintaining stable relations and supporting employees to report to work. This constitutes flexi working arrangements, compliance with government regulations, providing online trainings for workers, among others. Additionally, we have guidelines on collective consultation between social partners.
The CEC has developed a Handbook on Governance and Industrial Relations, Resumption of Work and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) covering the emerging questions in this period. CEC holds constant online engagement with enterprises on the new business paradigms in the era of digitization and how to ensure smooth flow of industrial chain during this period. We have also collected best practices from companies during this period to enable members learn from each other on how best to resume work. Key lessons that Kenya can learn from China is that businesses are facing similar challenges of importance is to keep the workplace safe for reopening.
Norway is currently gradually reopening, with schools, restaurants and events continuing albeit maintaining social distancing rules. Borders with Denmark, Finland and Iceland have been opened. Similarly, the situation has been devastating to businesses. Recently published reports indicate that the Norwegian GDP will reduce by 6.5% in 2020 and 3.5% in 2021. All sectors of the economy have received a negative market outlook with 85% of NHO member companies in hospitality reporting a negative market outlook and 84% of NHO members have reported a reduction in customers or demand for goods and services. The supply chains are equally failing due to closed borders, reduced mobility of workers and the quarantine rules.
The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), is working closely with the government and trade unions to develop policy that will minimise economic damage and support business and jobs. The Government measures (with parliamentary support) have contributed to reducing negative effects. Financial compensation schemes have been quickly deployed without strict control. Some of these policies include changes in regulation for temporary layoff and changes in regulations for sick leave and care leave
NHO has given advice to National Authorities on how businesses can be supported in this demanding time. Many of the suggestions from NHO have been included in the compensation schemes and economic crisis packages mentioned above. As the national restrictions are gradually lifted, it is important that the economic support measures are tuned from damage control and saving businesses from going under, to stimulus measures in order to get the economy up and running again.
NHO has moved online to quickly disseminate information to members through a dedicated Member Portal, hotline and webinars for access on legal measures and advice. Guidelines on how to sustain operations including hygiene rules, training methods among many others have been developed.
Mrs. Jacqueline Mugo, The Executive Director, FKE lauded both confederations for playing a key role in supporting business survival and recovery. She noted commonality on the considerations that business have to consider in reopening and the similarity in measures that all employer organizations have put in place to support member companies.
In the foregoing, Mrs. Mugo urged Trade Unions to play an important role in business recovery owing to the need for collaboration among all players during this delicate period.
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