What you need to know:
- Vaccine inequality means that for the richest countries the current advice is you need three shots to be considered fully vaccinated.
- For poorer countries we are still struggling to get enough jabs to reach double-digit targets for vaccination uptake.
There is this thing called long Covid – it is said that even after getting the disease, symptoms can persist for months or years. One individual has told me about having difficulty climbing stairs, another that she has lost all sense of taste when it comes to milk.
And who said these after-effects of Covid-19 are purely physical? And who says they are restricted to an individual?
The macro response to Covid-19 has been tighten your belts, batten the hatches, cut costs, spend less not more, firing not hiring is the name of the game. Keep it close and ensure that your family, your job, your business and the nation live to see another day.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we see the ugly spectre of nationalism re-emerging among other not so pleasant things. In the past two years, we have seen countries putting up borders – no-one goes in or out; stalling indefinitely on work permits and visas for study or tourism – especially if your country of origin is experiencing a spoke in cases.
Vaccine inequality means that for the richest countries the current advice is you need three shots to be considered fully vaccinated. For poorer countries – aka most Africans, some Asians and a lot of Latin Americans – we are still struggling to get enough jabs to reach double-digit targets for vaccination uptake.
This type of herd thinking has also resulted in employers instituting hiring freezes. Woe unto you if you are from the generation of recent university graduates. Not only are you inherently disadvantaged by your lack of experience but you are also competing with vastly more skilled folks who might have been laid off recently.
South Korea and the K-Wave
If one is trying to avert an existential threat then those few available positions must be filled by ‘qualified’ candidates and there don’t appear to be too many women, if any.
So what can we learn from South Korea and the K-Wave sweeping across the world?
It is not an accident that Korean pop culture is at the top of its game and a worldwide phenomenon. For the discerning historical scholar, this was an intentional strategy by the late President Park Chung-hee, the legendary and visionary leader, who foretold that ‘soft power’ would be the way for Korea to win global recognition.
The timing seemed wrong. The country was still trying to recover from a brutal Civil War that had resulted in a split.
Fast forward to today, Squid Game, a Korean show, is now Netflix’s all-time most successful production, having brought in almost a billion dollars from a $21 million budget. K-Pop sensation BTS went public last year, raising a whopping $4 billion. K-dramas are by now the most watched in the world on account of a captive Chinese audience, Indonesian and Filipino viewers and even Nigerian fans. It’s game over for yesteryear’s The Bold & the Beautiful!
Time to open borders
The deliberate and significant investment of government resources over the past few decades in performing arts academies and in entertainment start-ups has resulted in the world watching Korea’s Oscar-winning Parasite while snacking on Korean BBQ chicken.
The lesson is, avoid the underinvestment curse. Don’t become blind to long-term opportunities to create value by yielding to the natural inclination to do nothing.
Now is the time to open up rather than close borders. Guess what? It is likely that people want to trade, do business and sign deals with countries they can travel to and sit across the negotiating table – face to face.
Now is the time to hire women. And you know those elusive women you couldn’t find – well expect that since there are generally more job-seekers in the market there will also be more expert female candidates in Loch Ness.
Now is the time to build brands. While many of your competitors are stuck in analysis paralysis contemplating what to do or sheltering in inaction, you can win market share and mind space that will serve thee well by creating an intangible asset.
Now is the time to be brave. Living with a chronic condition such as long Covid-19 requires changing the business model. Think business unusual.
The author is the Managing Partner of C.Suite Africa, a management consultancy. [email protected]