Since the first confirmation of COVID-19 in Uganda in March 2020 and the continuous alarming news about the pandemic wildfire spread in the western countries which are believed to have sophisticated medical care and equipment, population has been having mixed feelings of fear and pessimism.
The wise counsel of the President, the Ministry of Health team and the World Health Organization went a long way to protect Ugandans and the foreigners in Uganda against the disease. The Presidential campaign against COVID-19 has always dwelt around first and foremost “Avoid spread” (which started off by decongesting the highly populated sectors of the country and putting in place strict Standard Operating Procedures – SOPs.
Ugandans particularly have been filled with fear and resignation that life after COVID-19 will be so changed, so difficult and so unbearable. This kind of pessimism should be handled with the Ugandan spirit of determinism. Life after COVID-19 has lots of challenges but abundant opportunities as well. Very many people fear change and rightly so. Very many people want predictability and that is also okay. Having a stable mindset that allows you to synthesize issues is the key to opening up rays of hope after COVID-19. Let’s look at the different sectors of our economy and analyse them vis a vis the New Normal and the Old Normal.
The education sectors in as much as it has been immensely affected, it will have new innovations that are different from the conventional ones. Take for instance the traditional classroom setting as opposed to online learning. Many have fussed that the traditional classroom setting is completely going to be irrelevant and be replaced by the kind of digital migration at all levels. I don’t think so. I will not weigh these on the scale of advantages and disadvantages because this is the usual simple approach. In fact that would be refuting one in favour of the other which is seriously not my intention whatsoever. The bear fact after COVID-19 is that the traditional classroom attendance will be blended with the e-learning methods. Now the other concern would be the modalities of implementation and not the question of whether to do so or not. That will then be an irrelevant question in the equation. So, Schools and Institutions of higher learning in my humble view, have to seriously prepare to address these two normal if they are to continue in business. And this then means that they will not find it necessary to lay off teachers but rather hire more to be able to handle the ‘tonsemberera’ (social distancing) strategy. Just imagine a class that previously had 80 students in Secondary School, it will now require management to divide it into two which means hiring another teacher to be able to handle the split class. The whole new normal and old normal will rotate around what economists will term as derived demand. In the new normal, the education sector will need more teachers at all levels.
One of the most affected in COVID-19 is the health sector, meaning both Government and Private medical centres. At some point on one of the media centres, there came a rhetorical debate that this COVID-19 has taught people to use alternative ways of treating themselves and that’s why they no longer go to hospital! I would say this was a misinterpretation of circumstances at its peak. Just take into account that during lockdown access to health facilities was a challenge to many especially in the rural. Take another indisputable fact that even some health centres were converted to COVID-19 treatment centres and so do not allow in any other patient. This does not mean to say that people are not sick nor does allude to the fact that they have now started exploring the herbal medicines that they had not tried before. Therefore should the health sector fear that there will not be any customers after COVID-19? The answer is NO. There will be double the number each health centre used to handle on a daily basis that it was before COVID-19. People are seriously nursing their ailments will drugs that do not really cure the sicknesses and this they know. Immediately after COVID-19, health facilities will need more staff. They will need more supplies. They will need more facilities for admissions because some patients’ conditions are worsening by the day. The old normal will then blend with the new normal.
The Agricultural sector is one of those that have experience disguised unemployment during COVID-19. It’s true that there has been over supply of food stuffs during the period of COVID-19 and at comparably lower reasonable prices. Prices of matooke and eggs plummeted during the lockdown. Will the new normal affect the farmer after COVID-19? Farmers have ventured into market research and have been able to connect directly with the final consumers of their products even without the middlemen who have been exploiting the farmer so much. So if the farmers can embrace the new normal of digital marketing, they are good to go.
The tourism sector has suffered greatly After the closure of the airport and the boarders, the earning from the sector went down drastically to the extent that the apportionment of food to the animals had to be cut into a half or completely forfeited! For this sector the new normal will not only be the SOPs alone but a serious rethinking of the whole sector to embrace digital tourism. Time is now that Uganda re-packages its tourism sector in terms of digital investment and physical care and preservation of our nature more than before. This is the sector that will need sizable time to recover after COVID-19 and yet it shall require the same amount of cost of operation. The animals, reptiles, birds and the rest of that beautiful family will still have to eat and get treatment even when there is no income they are creating immediately after COVID-19. The workers and care takers will still have to be paid their wages and sanctuaries and game parks will have to be maintained at the same cost. Nonetheless, after COVID-19 and after the reopening of the borders and the airport, this sector will have more vibrancy than probably before because by the nature of human being both Ugandans and foreigners, they would like to celebrate after survival and of course after people learn to adapt the new normal of SOPs, the sector will be good to go.
Hotel and lodging
The hotel and lodging industry like the rest have suffered redundancy during the COVID-19 but this is bound to change very fast soon after the pandemic. By the nature of human beings, both male and female romantic interaction is part of life. The challenge in this industry is the adherence to the SOPs mentioned earlier that are very key in combating the spread of the COVID-19 especially when it comes to the social distancing of the guests who may usually be coming from different locations.