Since the uncertainties occasioned by COVID-19 have become increasingly overwhelming, certainty is now recognised as a product, a very rare and expensive one as such. No doubt, the global pandemic caught the world off guard, exposing the vulnerabilities of different countries and now, gradually pushing the world into a global recession. Travel, tourism, and international trade have been severely disrupted, and businesses across many industries have already shut down (Mark Z., Ryan S., Cristian d., Steven C., Adam K., Petr Z., 2020). Insecurities have increased as hunger crisis has made it largely impracticable to enforce the lockdown regulations in most developing countries.
In Nigeria, like every other developing economy in Africa, this public health crisis is crippling the informal sector – which “contributes about 65% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)” (International Monetary Fund, IMF, 2017). Although governments across different levels have responded to the situation and whether or not these responses are substantially sufficient are good topics for debate on some other days. However, the current stance and response is with the ongoing work led by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN in the Economic Sustainability Committee, the focus of which is to contain the economic contagion created by this virus and build a sustainable and resilient economy thereafter.
Notwithstanding the economic policy response underway, there is a need for a “more profound rethinking of decision making – in public policy, business and civil society” (Dennis J., 2020).
Now that the prices of oil have crashed (Opinion, 2020) and the value of Naira has depreciated even more (Chike, 2020). Revenue from taxes are currently not a viable option as most tax authorities across Africa including the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) have extended tax filing and payment deadlines in light of the corona-virus pandemic (Aimée D., 2020). The situation on ground reiterates the already overemphasised need for the Nigerian economy to be diversified. The role of the telecommunication industry in enhancing online business transactions and sustaining social relationships by keeping most people connected during this pandemic cannot be undermined. Therefore, the government must seek to further facilitate development of this sector while leveraging technology more in order to benefit from the growth-pole potentials of the digital economy, as the realities of the 4th Industrial Revolution are now with us.
More than ever before, attention must be re-directed to supporting the informal sector – agriculture and other social entrepreneurial activities should be prioritized, difficulties in accessing funds and capital should become a thing of the past. More importantly, the ‘no longer fit for purpose’ Export (Prohibition) Act of 1989 which not only prohibits, absolutely, but also penalises the exportation of certain goods – beans, cassava tuber, maize, rice, yam tuber as well as all their products or derivatives should be immediately repealed if we are truly determined to build a resilient and globally competitive economy.
No one wants to suffer the double-jeopardies of uncertainty. Therefore, building a smooth economic recovery plan for the Nigerian business environment post-COVID will mean eliminating all other uncertainties that may reduce or diminish investors’ confidence in our economy. Improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria has never been more important as this will not only make Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) more attractive but will also provide an enabling and friendly environment, which is already long overdue, for our Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to thrive.
Truly, the tides have changed and as we continue to witness the emergence of a “new normal”, it is important for businesses and individuals alike to begin to reinvent their realities. There is no gain saying that the pandemic has generated a Great Economic Mismatch (GEM) characterised by deficient demand for things requiring close physical contact or interaction among people and deficient supply of things compatible with social distancing (Dennis J., 2020). Although this may be the status quo for a while, taking full advantage of technology offers an escape route of this GEM. Therefore, building an online infrastructure and improving on the existing one will be a smart investment and response for many industries and organisations to scale up activities during this crisis and beyond.
The thriving industries and sectors during this pandemic – Data Science and Analytics, Financial Technology, Insurance, Medical Research and Public Health, Logistics etc. – are springing up new priorities and competencies that will become much more relevant and demanding after this crisis. To this end, individuals must begin to develop capacities that will best fit into these top priority areas and other emerging markets.
Essentially, young people clamouring for inclusion in society and leadership must take advantage of this zeitgeist – the spirit of the times – optimising technology and the abundant internet resources to provide digital solutions capable of addressing the emerging challenges of the world post-COVID.
Although a challenge in this regard may be lack of access to broadband internet connectivity. However, in the meantime, young people must make the best use of the internet (maximising online opportunities for upskilling and career development) through their mobile phones, personal computers, etc., bearing in mind that the competition on the global level recognises no such obstacle.
Moving forward, through smart public-private-partnerships, we can take a cue from private technological companies in Kenya (with full support and timely approval from the government) deploying balloons to deliver internet connectivity to the country’s most inaccessible regions during this pandemic (Alison, B. 2020). When this is done, digital inclusion and the government’s financial inclusion policy will become seamless. In the same way, the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 –Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure – in Nigeria will be fast-tracked.
As much as we continue to mobilise our forces and resources in the fight against this virus, we cannot afford to simply win the battle now and lose sight of the war ahead (the aftermath of this crisis). Thus, we must prepare the foundation for a robust recovery, bearing in mind the future possibilities and implications post-COVID, while we continue to act decisively in light of our present realities. The government must be determined to implement its policy responses as businesses continue to reinvent their realities and individuals, especially the youth, begin to develop skills for the new economy.
Now that our times are changing, there is a need for re-adaptation of our governmental policy and individual strategies, as our stories too have now changed.
Aimée, D. (2020, April 21). Rethinking Tax in Africa to Respond to COVID-19. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/rethinking-tax-in-africa-to-respond-to-covid-19/
Alison, B. (2020, May). Balloons to Deliver Emergency Internet Across Kenya. International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group. Retrieved from https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/news_ext_content/ifc_external_corporate_site/news+and+events/news/insights/telkom-kenya
Chike, O. (2020, April 22). Naira crashes further at the parallel market due to dollar scarcity, lowest since 2017. Nairametrics. Retrieved from https://nairametrics.com/2020/04/22/naira-crashes-further-at-the-parallel-market-due-to-dollar-scarcity-lowest-since-2017/
Dennis J., (2020, April 22). The Socioeconomics of Pandemics Policy. Brookings. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-socioeconomics-of-pandemics-policy/
International Monetary Fund. (2017, August 8). Nigeria’s Informal Economy Accounts for 65% of GDP – IMF. Business a.m. Retrieved from https://www.businessamlive.com/nigerias-informal-economy-accounts-65-gdp-imf/
Opinion (2020, April 30). Nigeria’s COVID-19, Oil Price Crash and Fiscal Crisis Calls for a More Fundamental Response. Business Day. Retrieved from https://businessday.ng/opinion/article/nigerias-covid-19-oil-price-crash-and-fiscal-crisis-calls-for-a-more-fundamental-response/
Mark, Z., Ryan, S., Cristian, d., Steven, C., Adam, K., & Petr, Z. (2020, March). COVID-19: Global Recession. Moody’s Analytics. Retrieved from https://www.moodysanalytics.com/webinars-on-demand/2020/covid19-global-recession
Damilola Oguntade is a recent Law Graduate from the University of Lagos and a Bar II Candidate at the Nigerian Law School, Abuja.
He is an emerging Policy and Thought Leader with the mindset of a global shaper. His competencies in Global Sustainability, Research, Policy and Advocacy have been recognised and awarded at the Model United Nations Conference in Washington DC, 2017, the Nigerian Economic Summit in Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, 2019 and other Symposia during his undergraduate studies.
He is currently co-anchoring an ideation project with the Director of Communication, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development at LafargeHilcom Ltd, Lagos, Nigeria.