Surviving the threat of COVID-19: A review of SMEs’ adaptive strategies

Innocent Bayai, Koppeschaar Zanne, Timothy Aluko, Mecury Chimutanda


This study seeks to explore and assess the feasibility of SMEs’ adaptive strategies considering the limiting stimulus and peculiarity of SMEs in developing economies. Noting evidence paucity and fragmentation in relation to SMEs’ adaptive strategies during the pandemic (COVID-19), this study collates evidence related to the settings of developing economies as a way of augmenting the realities of the SME sector. The study assumes a literature review approach inclined on tracking available evidence on how SMEs maneuvered the challenges introduced by the COVID-19. The intuition presents to SMEs an opportunity to weigh the plausibility of alternative strategies to navigate the business now and for referral purposes in case of another crisis. Online trading, change in business models, remote work, reconfiguring budgets and reducing overheads, and re-negotiating debt obligations emerged as popular strategies adopted by SMEs. However, the efficacy of these strategies in developing countries remains a concern on account of inadequate stimulus packages, SMEs’ low management capacity to handle the changing business environment, operating losses, poor uptake of technology and technological literacy, the limiting costs linked to the adoption of technology amongst many. Policy imperatives designed to undo these limitations can prop the SME sector post the pandemic.

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