While times remain tough for start-ups, the crises have created opportunities for evaluation and optimisation for the post-COVID-19 reality, says Hauwa Yabani, WBAF’s Nigeria High Commissioner
An affiliated partner of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI), the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) is an international organisation contributing immensely towards easing access to finance for businesses from startup to scaleup, with the ultimate goal of generating more jobs and more social justice worldwide.
It is committed to collaborating globally to empower world economic development by creating innovative financial instruments for innovators, startups, and Small & Medium Enterprises.
The Forum interacts with global leaders in all areas of society, first and foremost in business and political spheres, to help assess needs and establish goals, bearing in mind that the public interest is of importance. It engages a wide range of institutions, both public and private, local and international, commercial and academic to help shape the global agenda.’
WBAF’s operating structure presently comprises a Board, 30 High Commissioners, 119 Senators, 57 International Partners and 47 Faculty Members from 96 countries.
WBAF has announced key-findings of a global survey that included business owners from more than 81 countries and across multiple industries during a virtual World Press Conference on 1st July 2020 hosted by the WBAF Chairman, Baybars Altuntas.
For the first time since the Great Depression of 1929, every country, every society and every economy in the world has seen the impact on health, employment, finance, trade and business. Every report we see – from the World Bank, IMF, OECD, WEF, and NASDAQ – forecasts wide-ranging effects of this great disruption.
The latest IMF Global Financial Stability Report projects high market volatility, a collapse in risk asset prices, a reversal of portfolios and a deterioration of market liquidity. These global financial conditions clearly have greater effect on the entrepreneurship ecosystem than they would in non-pandemic times.
The World Bank predicts that the global GDP will shrink by 5.2% in 2020, the worst scenario since World War II, and nearly triple the contraction experienced during the 2009 recession.
A recent OECD Report also predicts massive global unemployment rates. The same report stated the expectation that starting in Q4 of 2020, recovery will be slow, and in many regions, returning to pre-COVID-19 levels will take 2 years.
Like other institutions, the World Economic Forum identified a number of key risks: 500 million people falling into poverty, a 3% drop in world output, an anticipated fall in global trade of up to 32%, and an estimated 40% drop in FDI.
One of its reports forecasts that bankruptcies will skyrocket, that many industries will fail, and that structural unemployment levels will be elevated for years to come.
The report of a NASDAQ Survey indicated that startup investors expect there will be a significant impact on investing activities and that this pandemic-induced environment will last between 1 and 2 years.
The WBAF’s global survey elicited opinions on issues in a variety of domains, ranging from financing, the workforce, business model realignment, and types of support that are needed during this turbulent economic period.
A former Senior Advisor to the London Stock Exchange Group and now Chairman of the WBAF, Baybars Altuntas said that the WBAF is taking active roles in the global pandemic, key among which is the submission of a comprehensive policy recommendations report to the G20 leadership in order to alert policymakers about the urgent needs of startups.
Altuntas also expressed WBAF’s optimisms thus: “We are convinced that we will be able to present a better road map of post-pandemic times for startups, scaleups, entrepreneurs, SMEs and investors if a greater emphasis is placed on knowledge, which is central to the transition debate to a ‘new normal’.” We believe that simply keeping physical distance, washing hands, and staying at home is not enough to solve the challenging problems that entrepreneurs and the young generation will face after COVID-19 itself ceases to be a problem.” “We need better policies that are developed in the light of knowledge that can only come from the entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem.”
Also speaking was Professor Singh, a former Singaporean Parliament Member for 20 years and Founder of one of the world’s first unicorns. He chairs the WBAF’s Global Startup Committee.
According to Prof. Singh, “At this point, we would like to provide a summary of insights from other global surveys conducted by international organizations over the past few months that offer complementary views. Some focused only on one segment within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, while others attempted to get a more comprehensive picture. Overall, you will see that the WBAF findings are consistent with these other major surveys.”
Prof. Singh also observed that: “Ernst and Young Global completed an FDI investment attractiveness survey for Europe in May 2020 that was designed to help businesses make investment decisions and governments remove barriers to growth. Two of the key findings were related to the status of existing projects, specifically that 65% of existing foreign investments were proceeding as planned, 25% were delayed, and 10% were cancelled. The other important insight from this survey was that 66% expected a decrease in 2020 investment plans, while 21% expected a complete delay, and 15% anticipated a substantial decrease.”
The Nigeria’s perspective:
Presenting her perspective with regards the report, the WBAF Nigeria High Commissioner, Hauwa Yabani, said: “as with all other affected countries, Nigeria is facing enormous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on all sectors of the economy.” With an economy that is highly dependent on global crude oil demand for foreign exchange and government revenue, the crash in crude oil prices has devastated public finances, further exacerbating the situation.” The resort to state-wide lockdowns to control the spread of the virus led to a major slowdown of economic activities. But that, “while times remain tough for start-ups, the crises have created opportunities for evaluation and optimisation for the post-COVID-19 reality.”
“Start-ups that are resilient, repositioning technology as a major enabler and participating in various capacity building programs are increasing their chances not only of survival but also of attaining sustainable growth. Start-ups in some sectors such as health sector, logistics and other essential services have seen spikes in the demand for their products or services, but have struggled to meet the demand due to the corresponding funding requirements which are not readily accessible.” “It is not surprising that some start-ups have had to fold up while others are grappling with appreciating the importance of digital literacy, establishing online presence to retain or gain new customers and utilising the various emerging transaction channels.”
“The general expectation in Nigeria is that the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually wither, as the Ebola, Zika, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) viruses have in recent years. However, the socio-economic impact on the economy, especially on the start-up ecosystem, will remain for long after especially for those that fail to adapt to the new normal. It is a time for optimistic pragmatism.”
The key findings of the May 2020 WBAF survey can be summarized as follows:
- 52.22% of respondents expected their funds would last 3-6 months without any additional funding; 29.6% reported that their current funds would last more than 3 months.
- 41.1% of respondents reported a > 50% drop in market demand for their services or products.
- 63.1% of startups that participated in the survey plan to change their business model in the post-pandemic business cycle; 36.1% of respondents have definite plans to pivot their business during this business cycle.
- 46.5% of respondents believe that the impact of the pandemic will last 6 months to a year; 11.3% believe it will persist beyond 2 years.
- 39.90% of respondents reported a drop in the valuation of their business, but 21.67% reported an increase.
- Funding, demand, and workforce represent 37.93% of the challenges startups face, with funding ranking highest.