The disproportionate impact of the current coronavirus outbreak, which seems not to have an end specifically on Black and minority ethnic businesses in the South West of the UK, has been highlighted by a study carried out by the Black South West Network (BSWN).
The carried-out survey was designed to assess the impact that the virus had and is still having on Black and minority ethnic led businesses, social enterprises or community businesses, voluntary organisations and self-employed minority ethnic individuals.
It has been estimated that the pandemic and social-distancing measures put in place by the government to control the spread of the virus have shed a light on pre-existing socio-economic inequality within the region.
Specifically, the investigation underlined how cash flow and liquidity are the biggest challenges for business owners of colour and the self-employed.
The majority of the interviewees had experienced a “significant cash loss”, as 67% of people had to close down their business and 48% declared they were unable to deliver products - with the rest being affected in many different ways.
A local authority representative from the business virtual session at BSWN explained that the pandemic is "unlike anything that we have witnessed in previous times.
Sibusiso Tshabalala, project lead for social procurement at BSWN said: “One of the things that highlight the impact way before the pandemic happened was the fact that many of the BAME people we had communicated with over the years were not accessing grants -but why we wonder?
“So, therefore when the coronavirus hit, it further increased that disadvantage. Many of those who we’ve spoken to have been able to access online portals or applications but were unsure about how to navigate them.
“During our last AGM, we highlighted all the findings and now, what COVID- 19 is showing is how deep the inequality goes.
“It crosses from health, criminal justice, the environment and overcrowded housing - so it’s not easy, not to say almost impossible, for everyone to social distance.
“Businesses need to be aware of the inequalities and they need to understand the challenges and nuances. BSWN is working on providing solutions.”
Another local agent declared that the virus “is an existential threat to people’s livelihoods.
“Those individuals who are from BAME communities are disproportionately affected.
“There’s a lot of challenges around finances, but in terms of the hospitality sector, the retail sector, restaurants, takeaways, taxi drivers, people with small businesses are being affected to a greater length.
“They are having to make decisions about the reduction of staff or even closing down their businesses.”
A café owner, who was interviewed as he took part in the research, spoke about how his business had been affected and explained: “We can’t open during the day [and] we have lost all our customers that live and work in the local area.
“It has taken six years to build this business and now we can’t pay the bills or rent as we have a lease.
“We have lost our income.
“Our suppliers who we have used since we [first] opened - which are also local businesses - have tripled and in one case have quadrupled their prices in our two big main sellers.
“We are trying to open in the evening for deliveries to bring in some money, but we are losing every day.”
Unsurprisingly, 90%of all businesses involved in the study had requested governmental financial support -which is still not arrived yet-, and almost 50% declared they need support to apply to financial schemes, and a little over 30% had added that they need better access to information. We wonder though when the government will realise that a deep and decisive turnaround needs to be put in place. People need help, and they need it fast.