Successful Women in Africa and Germany in Times of the Pandemic

The Corona pandemic poses major challenges for German and African women entrepreneurs in equal measure. Many companies are experiencing financial difficulties and even have to close down. But can the crisis also give the starting signal for a positive development? Many companies are currently taking important steps toward digital transformation.

In an online survey conducted by BDI and the Agency for Economic and Development (AWE) as part of a joint "Women's Business Breakfast," nine out of ten women entrepreneurs said they clearly felt negative effects of COVID-19 on their businesses. Mary Ngechu, Managing Director of Lineplast Group of Companies in Kenya, has had to lay off employees due to the pandemic. But she does not only draw a negative conclusion from the last months. She also reports positive developments. Her company, which specializes in packaging for the food and cosmetics industries, expanded its product range and now successfully manufactures disinfectants for the East African market.

Tanja Gönner, Spokesperson of the Board of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), is convinced that the Corona crisis can be a driver for innovation. "The pandemic is also the starting point for something new," Gönner said. "I don't want to give the impression that everything is currently easy. But the crisis is enabling some changes to take place in our society."

Corona pandemic as a driver for digital transformation?

Digital transformation was already well advanced before the crisis and is being driven further by the Corona pandemic. The adoption of digital tools has gained tremendous momentum. Heike Bergmann, member of the Board of Management at Voith Hydro and Vice Chair of the Sub-Saharan Initiative of German Industry (SAFRI) says, "The pandemic was an eye opener here. It has shown what is possible." In addition to digital training for employees, the company introduced an online program for remote hydropower plant maintenance.

For the solar company Daystar Power Group in Ghana, a remote solution has also proven its value in the Corona pandemic. Installed solar systems are now monitored remotely, reports Olaedo Osoka, CEO of the company. The company has since learned to make the best of the constraints, Osoka says.

"Fast-track digitization is a huge win for Africa," affirms Sabine Dall'Omo, CEO of Siemens in South Africa. Virtual projects with partners in different African countries, such as Ghana and South Africa, were unthinkable until recently. Today, they are possible. To further advance cooperation across national borders, she has high hopes for the Pan-African Free Trade Area.

Background Women's Business Breakfast

The exclusive "Women's Business Breakfast" organized by AWE and BDI brings together female executives from Africa and Germany to discuss experiences, innovative ideas, investments and partnerships. Participants in the third "Women's Business Breakfast" include Heike Bergmann, Member of the Board of Management at Voith Hydro and Vice Chair of the Sub-Saharan Initiative of German Business (SAFRI), Tanja Gönner, Spokesperson of the Board of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Sabine Dall'Omo, CEO of Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa, Mary Ngechu, Managing Director of Lineplast Group of Companies Ltd. in Kenya, Olaedo Osoka, CEO of Daystar Power Group in Ghana, and Franziska Hollmann, Director Corporate Finance Africa at the German Investment and Development Company (DEG).