Covid-19 and the Poor: Inclusive Business has solutions, but needs radical collaboration

The Covid-19 virus will soon make waves in low-income contexts in South Asia, Africa and Latin America. While these regions have a much younger population than the EU or China, both the disease itself and any measures to keep it from spreading will have a severe impact. The most vulnerable will be hit hardest. When you are poor, social distancing is not an option, and hygiene and health services are often not available. When you live in a slum, you have to go out to make money, you take a mini-bus to work, you go to crowded market for groceries, and to the pump for water.

The current pandemic the biggest system reset in history, and an opportunity to create a fairer and more sustainable economy. We wonder:

  • How can we extend the solidarity we experience in Europe to those living in poverty?
  • How can governments of low- and middle-income countries strengthen their economies while fighting the Covid-19 crisis? 
  • How can we overcome sector boundaries to provide solutions at scale?

Solutions are available

Inclusive business has solutions to the challenges posed by Covid-19 in the low-income context. Here are a few themes, which we will explore further in upcoming posts:

  • Mobile information services can inform users on ways to stay safe, update them on the spread of the virus, official policies, or access to help. Virtually everyone, even among the poorest, has access to a mobile phone and connectivity to some extent. 
  • Access to medicines: Low-cost pharmacies, community health workers, or primary care clinics play a key role in prevention by creating awareness and providing access to soap, disinfectants, or face masks. They also provide access to simple medication.
  • Micro-distribution models bring fast moving consumer goods closer to the small retail shops that exist in most villages and neighbourhoods. They could help people stay away from central markets and other crowded shopping areas.
  • E-Solutions exist to earn money by completing data tasks on one’s phone, or to study at home. Most people have a job that cannot be done online, so giving them access to alternative income sources while in curfew will be critical.

Technology can play a critical role in generating specific solutions to Covid-19 challenges. Drones can deliver oxygen or test kits. AI can predict how the virus will spread, informing planning. 3D printing can print spare parts for critical health equipment such as ventilators on site. Co-creation between complementary partners, such as social entrepreneurs, start-ups, NGOs, corporates or donors, can get these solutions on the road quickly.

Scale up existing solutions and invest in systemic change!

Governments’ response to the Covid-19 crisis should build on these existing solutions, and support partnerships to create new ones. They should invest part of the resources to tackle the crisis into these solutions. Donors, impact investors, corporates and NGOs can support such efforts financially and with man-power and technical assistance.

We need to scale up solutions at lighting speed to tackle the first wave of the pandemic. At the same time, we need to prepare for next waves and future epidemics. For that, we need more resilient, inclusive health and economic systems. Inclusive businesses are part of those.

Let’s join forces!

We at Endeva are putting our capabilities to use to protect the poor. We hope you will join us.

  1. We will present in greater depth the solutions that are already available. We will feature them in a series of blog posts. We ask you to add solutions you are aware off, in order to build a comprehensive repository of knowledge.
  2. We want to connect these enterprises to the right partners to scale up their reach. Please reach out to us if you would like to help tackle Covid-19 via inclusive business.
  3. We will facilitate collaboration to achieve more systemic change, including by fully leveraging the power of technology. Stay tuned for more details!

Together, we can emerge stronger from this crisis, with more inclusive, resilient economies.

This post was co-authored by Dr. Aline Menden and Dr. Christina Tewes-Gradl, co-founders and managing directors at Endeva.