Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in a pandemic: A systematic review of pandemic risk impacts, coping strategies and resilience

Michael Odei Erdiaw-Kwasie, Matthew Abunyewah, Salifu Yusif, Patrick Arhin

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Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are particularly vulnerable to pandemics. Therefore, resilience and adaptation to shocks from pandemics such as COVID-19 are urgently needed. However, despite some coping strategies already in place among SMEs, research on their nature and effectiveness is limited. Thus, it remains unclear how effectively and sustainably documented coping strategies reduce SMEs' vulnerability and increase their resilience to pandemic risk. This article reviews academic literature for evidence of pandemic risk impacts on SMEs, coping strategies in response to these impacts, and the degree to which these strategies reduce SMEs' vulnerability and increase their resilience. According to the literature review, seven essential pandemic risk impacts were identified for SMEs - human movement restrictions, financial constraints, operational challenges, logistics difficulties, delayed business reopening, short-term policy focus and tacit knowledge workers. The study also outlined eleven critical coping strategies, notably structural or physical and behavioural changes. Study analysis reveals that resilience research among SMEs is predominantly conceptual with limited empirical evidence. To conclude, this study urges more adaptation research focused on developing new forms of pandemic risk education for SMEs addressing their complexities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20352
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

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