“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect”
The truth is that however prepared the world might have seemed for any sudden occurrence, it definitely did not see the Covid-19 pandemic or its aftermath coming. The current Covid-19 world statistic depicts above 90 million confirmed cases since the inception, and Nigeria presently has a total well above 100,000 cases in a recent report rightly asserted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
While the nation is presently out of the lockdown, and is gradually resuming business activities in various sectors of the economy with many schools planning towards the much-awaited resumption, I was torn between disbelief and worry when an official announcement was recently made by the health minister about the need to prepare for the second wave of the pandemic that affected our markets and economy due to its unprecedented disruptions.
Now, with the rising cases of the Covid-19, we are faced with a critical challenge on our response to the second wave of this virus. I strongly believe deep beneath the depressing curtain of darkness; the stars do exist and moreover every cloud has its silver lining.
Analysis from the First Wave Pandemic
Definitely, Nigeria wasn’t sufficiently prepared to tackle the effect that the outbreak of the Corona virus disease would have on the economy and this can partially but surely be linked to the over reliance on petroleum as the national source of revenue. However, with the fall in the price of crude oil and the general downturn in major sectors of our economy including construction, tourism, real-estate, manufacturing and aviation; the economic impact of the Covid-19 was drastic.
As quite expected, the national budget for the year was unattainable in terms of the expected revenue as oil prices had to fall below the actual price fixed for the year. This was unavoidable as the international demand for oil fell and national demand was also lesser than supply. Needless to say, the nation wasn’t prepared for the hit on its major source of revenue: oil.
Undeniably, the fact that Nigeria was barely recovering from the recession from years back also contributed to the severe effect the lockdown had on the economy. Small business owners could not open and this affected the livelihood of the average Nigerian citizen who had to go to work daily before feeding. The predicted laying off of workers happened massively and many were left unemployed. To worsen the situation, the prices of essential commodities also rose significantly.
Also, the immediate effect of the national economic decline owing to the lockdown was the increase in crime rates, as more crimes were reported in various parts of the country every day. Though the government took measures to ensure that the effects of the lockdown would be reduced to the achievable minimum by disbursing funds to state governments and communities, as well as loans, only a little could be alleviated as the economy rather became worse.
Indeed, the question that lies ahead of us as a nation is whether we are able to learn from the crisis presented by the pandemic and how to position ourselves to move ahead in the post Covid-19 world even as we still hope and await a vaccine to be produced. The globally experienced disruption that the pandemic has foisted on humanity is no doubt harrowing. However, the bitter truth is that the pandemic has taught humanity several positive lessons.
Learning Development from the Pandemic
Need I say that this pandemic has led to improved hygiene of most people in our nation today. Even at the individual level, most people forget to wash their hands as often as necessary because of a hectic lifestyle. Since part of the safety precautions to keep the Covid-19 spread at bay requires consistent washing of hands. I believe this habit will most likely remain in the lives of the people long after the pandemic is over. The physical well-being of the people will be better maintained since people are likely to wash their hands frequently and correctly while sanitizing surfaces may be a larger priority.
Furthermore, the Covid-19 has caused most private sector to rise for a social cause. Even with government resources under strain as public health professionals ramp up efforts to test more people and provide care for the coronavirus patients, the private sectors stepped up to help fight against this pandemic. Significant financial contributions have been made through the special fund set up in various parts of the country. In addition to the contributions made, many organizations have switched from their major business activities to producing materials needed such as personal-protective-equipment, sanitizers, face-masks etc. to support the government in the battle against this pandemic.
Moreover, the pandemic has called our attention as a nation to a shift in the diversification of our economy and to focus more on the agricultural sector. In addition to this, it has exposed us to digital transformation -telelearning, telecommuting and most especially telemedicine which could actually be an effective way of getting things done.
Moving Ahead towards the Second Wave
Indeed, the biggest opportunity presented by Covid-19 in Nigeria is the chance to reset some of our economic approaches in a way that maximizes our chances of developing more resilient and sustainable approach to globalization. The battle against the Coronavirus disease elucidates the importance of technology. For instance, Eric Yuan, the founder of Zoom, a video communication tool that became popular for its use in virtual meetings became a billionaire during the Coronavirus saga. No matter the stumbling blocks, it is the responsibility of every citizen in the country to take the bull by the horns. I strongly believe Nigeria is blessed with brilliant and tech savvy youths. Innovation and digital technology should be embraced in the country since it is particularly important when dealing with global challenges such as pandemics and climate change, that threaten everyone.
Also, the post covid-19 world will be shaped by decisions being made in the crucible of the fight against the virus. I believe there are major tasks that must be confronted by the government, citizens, stakeholders, researchers and professionals in achieving a better scenario even as we prepare for the second wave of this virus. First and most immediate is to fight the common enemy – now the virus – together. The second is economic reconstruction which has to do with the massive government debts, a broken global trading and investment system.
Fighting the virus together requires cooperation on three things: research and knowledge (working together to understand and beat the virus); maintaining global supply (trade ensuring efficient global supply of materials that are necessary); and warning against future outbreaks. For cooperation to work, we need to agree on common rules and empower an institution to oversee them. The World Health Organization (WHO) exists to do this, but it is overstretched and underfunded. It needs to be properly funded to do its job. Consequently, the WHO must be supported, financed and empowered to do everything possible to point the country towards a virtuous circle of mutual trust and away from a vicious cycle of dog-eat-dog.
I believe we must take it as our core duties to engage in the fight against this pandemic and we must do this without being distracted by political differences, but by focusing on the extraordinary challenges that lie within our borders. More fundamentally, economic reconstruction is a huge task that must be surmounted in moving ahead in this post COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, new flows of investment should be generated which I believe will result in a massive reset in creating more employment opportunities for the people.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The Corona virus pandemic has not only pointed out to the nation the need to enhance the preparedness for disease outbreaks and other emergencies, but also for the aftermath of unexpected events that may occur. Hence, as a nation, it is important to shake off the dust the first wave presented us and move towards a paradigm shift in the quest for better opportunities in the future. While Nigeria has developed in certain areas of the economy decades after independence, we cannot deny that there are much more heights left for the nation to attain. Regardless, we can; with national cooperation and unity, transparency and accountability, scale such heights and together, lift all sectors in the economy to an enviable feat. The best time to take actions was yesterday. Another best time is now. I see the stars. Do you?
- World Economic Forum: Challenges and opportunities in the Post COVID-19 world
- Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, retrieved from https://covid19.ncdc.gov.ng/# on the 14-09-2020
- WHO Timeline– COVID-19 retrieved from https://www.who.int/news room/detail/
Oyinlola Abosede, a graduate of Chemical Engineering from Obafemi
Awolowo University is an intellectual fighter for emancipation.
and an advocate on social issues. He wrote in via email@example.com