Technology is critical

As everyone has been forced to reconcile their need for interaction with restrictions on physical contact, data consumption has risen precipitously. Isolated families use video services like WhatsApp and Skype to stay in touch, while many business meetings have moved to Zoom and schools to Google Classroom. The world’s second-largest mobile operator, Vodafone, has reported a 50% rise in internet usage.

In developing countries, people need more credit and data advances to stay in contact during these challenging times, as well as contactless micro-finance services to replace physical transactions. Managing this load using the already stretched infrastructure of such markets is a significant challenge, but one where machine learning, big-data analytics and artificial intelligence can really make a difference.

More mobile phone owners in emerging markets use a smartphone than any other kind
More mobile phone owners in emerging markets use a smartphone than any other kind
Image: Pew Research Center

Surviving and rebuilding

In the midst of the pandemic, with economies stricken across the world, some specific sectors and companies have shown strong business resilience with minimum impact from the developing conditions. My company is fortunate to be among them – but unfortunately this will not be the case for many other fintech firms, which may have no solid foundation and are already operating under a limited capacity. These businesses will simply run out of cash and go out of business as a result of the pandemic.

For those that do manage to stay afloat, communication is key. They should keep their clients regularly updated, be clear with them and let them know that while the working environment may have changed, the company is still open for business to the available extent. They then need to strive to bring that commitment to life, taking full advantage of the benefits of technology. By continuing to provide the best possible service to clients, brands can build a strong reputation that will long outlive this turbulent time.

Most importantly, however, as the whole world shifts towards a new reality, there will be an abundance of post-pandemic opportunities for businesses. There will be new niches and exciting ideas, as people realise that the digital tools on which they have relied during this disruption are in fact providing important services, regardless of the conditions.

And so to truly support innovative small businesses, especially in developing countries, we must continue our concerted efforts to provide them with a robust foundation and access to financial inclusion, so that they have the chance to blossom in the aftermath of these troubled times.