Kathy Gibson is at the Deloitte Digital Dialogue – The world has become a more unequal place, with growing inequality not just within societies, but also between countries.
Dr Martyn Davies, MD: emerging markets and Africa; and dean of the Deloitte Alchemy School of Management at Deloitte Africa, believes this trend will be accelerated and be exacerbated because of the economic damage being inflicted by the current crisis.
In the developing world, we have to contend with massive debt which suppresses growth; digitalisation and mechanisation which is driving new ways of doing business and interacting; and deglobalisation where peripheral countries will become more peripheral and fragmented.
Shamina Singh, founder and president of the Mastercard Centre for Inclusive Growth, says the organisation has known for a long time that inclusive growth is an important piece of the puzzle.
“What Covid-19 has brought to the forefront is the urgency,” she says, with the poor typically impacted first and hardest in both developed and developing economies.
Post-Covid development is likely to happen in four phases, at different times for different parts of the world, she adds.
These phases are containment, stabilisation, normalisation and then growth. “Depending on where you live in the world and where you are in the Covid cycle, you will experience it differently.”
However, we all need to understand the urgency of growth, and the urgency of digitalisation, Singh says. “Those organisations and economies that have been able to adapt to a digital economy seem to be recovering faster.”
Education and youth employment are going to be critical for post-Covid recover, says Dr Martin Boehm, dean of IE Business School.
He agrees that digitalisation might be a solution in the long term, but it drives inequality in many students. “We see now the challenge of home schooling and educating your kids if you don’t have the necessary means.
“What we clearly see from an education perspective, the crisis is aggravating some of the differences in personal and professional development of our children.”
Youth unemployment is a major challenge, Dr Boehm adds.
“In some sense we were talking about a lost generation, of people who had graduated but couldn’t find employment. If you do that for a few years, what you can offer employers deteriorates. New graduates are eager and more able to do the job than the lost generation, which remains lost in limbo.
“Going forward we are going to see similar situation. Graduates won’t be able to find jobs and will be stuck in unemployment for many years or their lives.
“We have to find ways to keep developing and educating these graduates.”
Kuseni Dlamini, chairman of Massmart and Aspen, says that the issue of jobs in general and youth employment in particular will loom large as one of the major challenges from this crisis.
“We have to think very seriously about the very nature of work and how it will be disrupted by the fallout of Covid-19,” he says.
However, the crisis should bring new opportunities, Dlamini adds, pointing out the major crises in the past have often been followed by new innovations and the development of new industries.
“It will be a missed opportunity for emerging markets not to rethink their global supply chains and to develop new local industries. Supply chains need to be rethought, bringing the source of products closer to the markets.
“We need think strategically and think about it deliberately. But do we have the political will? Are we able to formulate the right policies for FDI and domestic capital?”
Dr Jennifer Blanke; vice-president: agriculture, human and social development at the African Development Bank (AfDB), points out that a lot of economic growth to date has not been inclusive.
“This is what are seeing that the death rates from Covid-19 in some groups are higher than others – because they don’t have the access that other groups have. And the big crisis is in developing countries.”
In terms of youth unemployment, she says this is nothing new in Africa. “What is really needed is to see this as an opportunity to leapfrog with technology. In Africa, we don’t have a lot of jobs, but there is a lot of opportunity.
“Frankly, this crisis has shown us that we don’t have what we need. So manufacturing in Africa is another huge opportunity.”
The continent has a very young population – the average age is 18 – and Dr Blanke says this can be viewed as either a challenge or an opportunity.
“If we do what needs to be done, these people will make the difference. What we need to be thinking about is taking advantage of those opportunities.”
Dr Davies questions whether the current lockdown situation, and the fact that it inhibits out ability to roll out physical infrastructure, will see a move to delivering services in different formats.
“Covid has exposed the disconnects in society,” says Singh. “So the idea of leapfrogging is imperative, and the role of the private sector is critical – we cannot pull back in this time of crisis.”
Dr Boehm says that, while technology has had a major impact on how we do business it has also changed what skills are needed.
He believes we need to cultivate various categories of skills:
* Human skills deal with being able to work with others and include empathy, negotiation, communication and creativity. “This is what makes us distinct form the technology around us.”
* Cognitive skills, the thinking skills, include problem solving, critical thinking. They are important because people must be able to understand critically, analyse, project and come up with solutions.
* Digital skills are about communicating and collaborating in a digital space, while being able to collect data and work with it. So data management, analysis and drawing conclusions are important.