Constrained to be inspired

BY FAITH ZABA

“INSTEAD of freaking out about these constraints, embrace them. Let them guide you. Constraints drive innovation and force focus. Instead of trying to remove them, use them to your advantage.”

This nugget drawn from Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Web Application by American company, 37 Signals, now Basecamp, inspires us to think outside the box. It teaches us to craft new and innovative solutions to our problems. Precisely, constraints inspire creativity.

When Covid-19 hit, Zimbabwean companies had to adapt quickly. The pandemic deepened an existing economic challenge dogged by acute foreign currency shortages, a debilitating liquidity crunch, hyperinflation that has resulted in skyrocketing prices of goods and services, company closures and job losses. In a nutshell, Covid-19 has had disastrous consequences for the fragile economy.

The adverse effects have hit the globe, not only in Zimbabwe. The World Bank for 2020 showed that nearly 500 000 Zimbabwean households had at least one member who lost a job and close to eight million Zimbabweans were pushed into extreme poverty.

But what Covid-19 has done is to push companies to stretch beyond their limits through innovative business models. Businesses had to think beyond the pandemic. They had to strategise for survival. It became a necessity for companies to change business models.

Scientific studies show that Covid-19 pushed innovation by at least five to 10 years ahead of time.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), research and innovation systems have responded impressively to the pandemic, underpinning much of the resilience countries have shown. This means billions now get to enjoy the benefits of innovation through improved customer experiences. While companies in general enjoyed some cost savings, the environment was very challenging under a national lockdown. Sales volumes plummeted by over 50% in many companies during the first half of 2020 after government responded to the Covid-19 threat by rolling out hard lockdowns that grounded production and eroded consumer buying power.

Afterwards, production ticked up in the final quarters of the year, powered by the foreign currency auction system established by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in June. Several corporates have hailed the auction system for taming exchange rate volatilities.

Yesterday, Zimbabwe Independent held its 24th annual Quoted Companies Survey under the theme Business Innovation and Enterprise in a Disrupted Environment.

This year’s theme echoes the turbulence that the economy has gone through. The impact of Covid-19 was felt at all levels — business, social and personal. The adverse impact is likely to continue for decades to come from the virus’ knock-on effects.

The survey is once again being held when most companies are battling to stay afloat amid a challenging economic environment worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected more than 40 000 people and killed over 1 600.

As we hold this prestigious business event on the calendar, we celebrate growth and the fortitude of companies operating in this tumultuous period.

Zimbabwean companies need to be commended for defying the odds and scaling up higher despite economic problems.

On behalf of the Independent and Alpha Media Holdings, I would like to congratulate all the winners. CAFCA, congratulations for coming out as the best performer among listed companies.

In recognising that strong and effective corporate governance helps to cultivate a company culture of integrity, leading to positive performance and an overall sustainable business, this year we introduced the Corporate Leader of the Year.

Congratulations to CBZ Holdings’ Marc Holtzman and his runner-up Canaan Dube.

Also congratulations to the winners of the Innovation and Technology and Sustainability awards,Simbisa Brands Limited and Padenga Holdings, respectively. Through this, the winners have also become inspirational to other corporates as testimony that perseverance, innovation and creativity are the pillars of sustainable business.

As the Independent, we recognise that research and objective analysis of financial performance is best conducted by independent researchers. This year, we once again partnered Equity Axis, a recognised player in the financial research space as analysts and adjudicators.

The annual premier event celebrates the resilience of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) quoted companies, which had to endure biting economic challenges. We celebrate the innovations that have ensured that the companies remained relevant in these tough times. Indeed, as the American televangelist, Robert H. Schuller once said: “Tough times never last, but tough people do,” so will resilient businesses.