WHETHER we like it or not, Covid-19 is transforming the world in many profound ways and those who are going to thrive or even survive in the new-look terrain must embrace change as the only constant.
Already, we have seen how billions of people all over the planet have been forced by this pandemic to adjust their lives to the demands of an increasingly digital existence. You blink, you lose.
International relations will shift in ways never witnessed before. For instance, we have seen during this disease outbreak how a Russian company under United States sanctions has emerged as a supplier of life-saving ventilators to New York state. It would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago.
We have also seen the US government sending vital medical supplies to China, with Beijing reciprocating the move in gestures that have warmed the hearts of many.
But even as this newfound camaraderie burgeoned, the signs of geopolitical tension remained simmering ominously beneath the surface. The US and China are more than just ideological rivals; the relationship is a complex Gordian Knot, not least because neither country would prosper without the other’s input. China needs the US. The US needs China. This is not yet at Cold War levels, but every country and continent will feel the impact of this realpolitik.
Beyond geopolitical alignments, the world has to brace for the growing use of technology. Covid-19 has shown us that meetings can be convened via cyberspace, obviating the need for physical gatherings.
For many years, governments, particularly in Africa, have paid lip service to the importance of e-services. We have heard politicians wax lyrical about “paperless office” and “e-government”, but in many instances there is nothing on the ground proving that they take these matters of digital transformation seriously.
The Zimbabwean government is currently unable to operate exclusively as an e-government. That is why senior officials continue holding physical meetings in the middle of a public health emergency. This is endangering lives and eroding public confidence in official pleas for “social distancing”.
E-government would also give impetus to devolution, a constitutional imperative that has been placed on the backburner by an analogue leadership that either fears or mistrusts technological innovation. Although the local corporate sector has generally fared much better than the government in embracing digital tools, it still lags behind international best practice.
One of the most scandalous causes of wasteful expenditure in the private sector — as in public affairs — is the endless desire by top executives for expensive travel. Managers and officials award themselves mouth-watering stipends, often in foreign currency, when travelling, yet they expect poverty-stricken workers to survive on slave wages. In a post-Covid world, such behaviour should be nipped in the bud. Companies, governments and individuals must either embrace change or perish.