LETTER TO KIGALI: Prepared for the aftermath?

By Thomas Kagera
On 18 April 2020 at 08:45

Dear Kamanzi,

I greet you and family, praying you are coping well. Hope you guys in Kigali have made good adjustment. For us here, we are so-so

I am writing this letter after our Easter Sunday service which we have held at home in our living room. My wife, Margaret, has led the service. The reading was taken by Audrey, as Ronitah and Shanitah, our daughters, led us in the praising session. Edisa, my wife’s niece, preached about resurrecting with Christ. It was a nine-people home service.

That is how our we are spiritually coping. But our moderate pace towards overcoming the hard times should not be a reason for despair. We are not giants like them, but we have taken those humble strides and deliberate interventions that have translated into acceptable containment. The curve is not flat, but at least it is not as exponential. With the unrelenting observation of prevention guidelines, I know it will soon ‘flat’ and ‘descend’.

It will not leave us the same, but we shall dock and leave this turbulence way behind us.

My brother, these days my mind has been so much preoccupied with what lies ahead of this storm. I have experienced some crises, or recessions, like this before; when the country experienced a fluid close-down as government forces battled a foreign force in 1979 which put production to a complete naught.

A similar experience was the 1985-86 transition to a new regime in this country. But these were geographically defined battles with visible enemies. And each time the agony was different, entrepreneurs and firms could adapt and bounce back.

But this time, it is difficult to tell with any amount of certainty how and when the ripple effects of this shock will settle. This time the commercial hibernation came so fast and so intense; very severe, transcending formal and informal; state and private; urban and rural, developed and developing worlds.

So, even when this whirl finally settles, every element of our lives will never be the same.

Kamanzi, have you thought about the aftermath of the lockdowns as we crank back into normalcy? Think of the new health protocols and practices that we shall have to take up. New basic sanitary supplies. Adoption of new products and production technologies that will, maybe, become fused with ‘industrial distance’ [which will replace ‘social distance.’]

Will our factories get sub-processed materials from the far East? If materials do not come forth, how will this affect our SMEs? Will not this be a big blow to our export promotion and import substitution programs? And how will this affect employment and disguised unemployment? And how far will this pain deepen as defaults cascade through domestic payment chains? How about the gaping void likely to be left in want as a result of development partners’ inability to continue financing parts of our budgets? Or change in their consumption patterns? For they have, too, been severely hit.

Kamanzi, am still asking myself; Where will all this leave banks whose clients’ businesses will have collapsed or unable to meet their loan-servicing obligations in the face of businesses that will be applying for loans to revitalize their frail enterprises? How will government funding, guarantees and aid, prioritize the major competing public and private sectors?

Anyway, all technicians in their areas of specialization, I guess, must be crafting new competitively adaptive technologies, work principles, economic policies, strategies, human resource [I can see remote working becoming more rampant] and industrial relations, among a plethora of other inevitable adjustments.

My friend, I can see some practices that are likely to have a bigger up-take, especially the digital/online-based products. This shock is likely to eat into the travel industry which will be replaced by tele-conferencing. As hard money notes are becoming more suspect, digital currencies and the whole chain of online transactions are likely to have a bigger uptake than any other commodities.

Consumer-facing firms [hotels, restaurants, stadiums, cinema halls] will need to reassure customers. This means public relations, marketing and advertising agencies will have to create more innovative products and platforms.

But do not worry. The technicians will take care of that. For now, let us take care of ourselves and our families. And our friends.

Hope your daughter, Daphine Keza’s simple leg fracture is healing. I received sad news of the passing of our OB, Alex Ngirinshuti. As you can remember, he was such a friendly personality, a great debater and wished every one well. May his soul Rest In Peace.

On a good note, coronavirus patients here are getting healed. No critical cases. No deaths. The rate of increasing has also decreased. So, we are not far from beating it and start sauntering towards normalcy.
Greetings to family and friends,

Yours Truly,

Thomas Kagera