Tri-partite think tank reach out to local businesses affected by COVID-19 |21 May 2020
A tri-partite think tank comprising representatives from government, the private sector and the civil society have teamed up to assist business owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with all possible assistance to keep their businesses afloat.
Following the announcement of Seychelles’ first cases of the virus, the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), the department of industry and entrepreneurship development (DOIED), Enterprise Seychelles Agency (ESA), the Seychelles Investment Board (SIB) and later with the involvement of the Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles (Ceps), have been engaging together in several collaborative activities to help our local businesses manage with the operational stress and mitigate the negative effects, as a ‘new normal’ is needed to avoid the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic.
Some members of the think tank, namely the principal secretary for industry and entrepreneurship development, Angelique Antat; the chief executive of SIB, Cindy Vidot; the secretary general of SCCI, Iouna Pillay and the deputy chief executive of ESA, Jourdan Camille were at the Al Salam Bank’s conference room yesterday morning to share their action plan in regards to the guidance, advice and facilitation processes to business owners to re-shape their businesses.
PS Antat said that most human beings are mentally blocked in this type of situation and the think tank is there to help business owners think outside the box through resilient and innovative ideas rather than abandoning their businesses.
“COVID-19 has arrived and we have to find ways to survive around it. With the support of all the stakeholders on board, we are trying to get business people to stay mentally focused and resilient in this time of difficulty and that will also prepare them, without intervention from government, to defuse any situation in the event of any similar outbreak affecting our economy in the future,” PS Antat added, noting that the think tank will assist businesses to innovate.
She said that the DOIED will, through its motto ‘Adapt, Invent and Overcome’, help businesses, through tips on innovation and entrepreneurship, in the form of videos among other modems, to surmount challenges of post COVID-19.
PS Antat further said that among the assistance, the department has prepared a ‘Business Innovation poster’ with the aim of guiding the public towards Business Innovation. To further intensify its efforts, the department has prepared short videos for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that are struggling to keep their businesses going during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is further to the department developing an all-in-one electronic guide to ease all COVID-19 information access relating to business and to ensure business continuity.
This e-guide provides health and business advice, for employers and employees, government relief mechanisms following COVID-19, capacity building programmes being led by ESA and business support system driven by SIB. The department will also hold capacity training in entrepreneurship.
Ms Pillay stated the team, through a WhatsApp group, has received positive contributions from the business community and other organistaions, in terms of innovative ideas for businesses moving forward.
She noted that now is the time for everyone to work together and help one another while relooking and reassessing each of our business sector activities so that we can rebuild the economy.
From SCCI’s side, she noted that the organisation will be assisting businesses for connection with relevant bodies in government among the publication of an employment guide with the help of local and international stakeholders, in relation to COVID-19.
She noted that in the present situation it all comes down to working together to find new ways of doing business through innovation and value addition among other business diversification to revive the economy.
Ms Vidot noted that SIB has seen the necessity to re-structure its operations – for example the Post-Investment Support Unit which facilitates business to self-evaluate and work through their business continuity planning during COVID-19.
She claimed that during this time of the post COVID-19, SIB is of the view that this is an opportune time to innovate business models in order to adapt and overcome the situation.
She further claimed that SIB has also been actively updating its website to feature useful and updated information regarding prevention of COVID-19.
Among the information found on the website, SIB is also providing information regarding the Financial Assistance for Job Retention Scheme as well as a consolidation of all the financial assistance available during COVID-19.
For his part, Mr Camille said that COVID-19 has prompted ESA to rethink how it deliver it services, therefore, it has developed its ‘Online Learning System’ to deliver training to their MSMEs through digital means compared to previously where their trainings were being done conventionally through a classroom set up.
Presently, ESA has uploaded 10 training videos – covering topics such as cash flows, dealing with difficulties, diversifying your income and entrepreneurial mind-set among others.
He noted that the online training videos which are easy to access and easy to use are available on ESA’s website – www.esa.gov.sc, Facebook page and on YouTube.
Mr Camille noted that ESA has been assisting the ministry responsible for finance with the Financial Assistance for Job Retention (FA4JR) Scheme, by answering calls from applicants.
“Our business development team is helping businesses fill in their FA4JR forms, as well as their cash flows. Further to this, ESA will also be assisting businesses with preparing their cash flows for the Private Sector Loan Application with the Central Bank of Seychelles (CBS),” he said.
On the question of solidarity with local businesses during COVID-19 and post COVID-19, he urged the public to buy and use more of the local products.
“In doing so, this will provide support for local and small businesses rather than buying imported products,” he added.
The tri-partite team is in the process of finalising a website to assist businesses with concerns and queries on any issues.