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Coronavirus: Simple ways to keep your business running

Both the public and private sectors are scrambling to slow the spread of the illness and contain COVID-19 infection, as it is spreading rapidly.

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Coronavirus is beginning to shake up businesses and consumer behaviour on a massive scale. Both the public and private sectors are scrambling to slow the spread of the illness and contain COVID-19 infection, as it is spreading rapidly, with updates flying in every minute.

Depending on the industry you are in, some losses are unavoidable, but for many entrepreneurs, it is about minimizing your losses and finding ways to capitalize on opportunities. No longer is it business as usual. People’s routines and lives have been greatly impacted.

What does this mean for you and your business? It means that unless you re-examine your marketing strategy, your ability to grow and expand your business is under siege.

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As the situation evolves, many small business owners are unsure of what steps to take to mitigate risk, protect employees and support customers. Here are the recommended tips that small business owners can take to accomplish all of those, and still make sales during the COVID-19 pandemic:

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Establish a remote work option

Implement a remote work policy that covers when you expect your team to be online or available, how to communicate (via email, Slack, or video call, for instance), and what deliverables each team member is responsible for completing.

[READ MORE: Atiku Abubakar’s son tests positive to coronavirus)

Reduce meetings and travel

Try to keep opportunities for exposure to the virus to a minimum. Postpone team meetings or hold them virtually. Skip conferences or other planned business trips.

Communicate transparently with your customers

Everyone is facing this crisis together, so be transparent about what your business is going through. Customers can empathize with brands facing a crisis, as long as you communicate with them properly.

As Harvard Business Review reports, “When customers are separated from the work that’s being done behind the scenes to serve them, they appreciate the service less and then they value the service less.”

Describe the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk and give them insight into the steps you are taking to help the community. Keep your employees and your customers safe by being as proactive as possible about cleanliness.

Shift your sales strategy to online

As storefronts are shutting their doors and workers stay in place, savvy business owners should shift their sales strategies to avoid heavy losses. If you are closing your store, find ways to keep your employees earning a paycheck by selling on social media, putting your email list to good use or using a video tool to reach new leads.

If your sales previously relied on brick and mortar stores, face-to-face meetings, tradeshows or events, it’s time to re-evaluate your marketing strategy. As cities lockdown and people are forced into isolation, one of their best friends becomes the internet.

This is your chance to move your digital communication to the next level! People will be seeking updates, answers, and ways to improve their personal and professional lives. If your business has a solid digital marketing strategy, you are in a better position to weather this storm.

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READ MORE: COVID-19: MTN Nigeria outlines new measures, staff to work from home

Important questions to ask when it comes to reaching your buyers online

  • Does your business have a reputable online presence and an intuitive and easy-to-use online interface?
  • Have you implemented a Pay per Click (PPC) online advertising campaign to pull in buyers searching for your services?
  • Do you have a social media campaign that engages with your potential customers?
  • Are your website and content optimized for search engines when clients are browsing and researching online?
  • Is your website delivering a superior user experience – making it easy to navigate, explaining your value proposition and how to buy your products and services?

If you have not invested in an Omnichannel digital marketing strategy, with consistently aligned messaging and customer experiences across channels and platforms, it’s not too late to start. If you are already invested in an online presence, consider devoting even more resources to this critically important area.

How to identify, implement and optimize new sales channels

With social distancing being the preventative measure to contain the crisis, investing or reallocating resources to different sales channels may be the opportunity you have overlooked, until now.

[READ ALSO: Coronavirus: FirstBank deploys measures to protect employees, customers and other stakeholders)

Six ideas to help you sell more effectively in the digital world

  • Build e-commerce functionality on your site so customers can order your goods and services directly.
  • Make sure you offer quick, inexpensive delivery to online shoppers’ homes or businesses.
  • Add functionality to your website so users can easily book virtual appointments.
  • Offer webinars in place of face-to-face presentations.
  • Implement an online chat tool so online buyers and browsers have a way to get their questions quickly answered.
  • Post a comprehensive online FAQ on your site, with strong search functionality

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Rack Centre to create West Africa’s largest data centre in $100m expansion

Rack Centre’s expansion programme will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres.

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Leading carrier neutral data centre operator in West Africa, Rack Centre, has announced an expansion programme that will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres, which will pave way for 13MW of  IT power capacity in its Lagos campus.

This was disclosed in a press release by the company, which was seen by Nairametrics.

The expansion is expected to bring carrier neutral scale to West Africa, and this is in response to increasing demand for data centre space from cloud uptake, telecommunication investment and outsourcing of IT facilities by enterprises in the region.

READ: Multichoice, StarTimes, others’ reception increase by 23% in Nigeria- Report

The funding for this expansion will come from a $250m pan-African data centre platform, established by Actis and Convergence Partners, a leading ICT infrastructure investor in Africa.

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In addition to the expansion in  Rack Centre, the platform is also actively developing additional buy and build opportunities across Africa, to establish a network of carrier neutral data centres aimed at catering to carrier, cloud and hyperscale customers. 

Back story:  It is noteworthy that on March 2020, in a bid to pave way for the expansion programme, Actis, a London private equity firm, announced an investment in Rack Centre, taking a controlling stake in the business alongside Jagal.

READ: Are we heading towards a food crisis?

Why this matters

Nigeria is a key entry point for global telecommunications, content, and cloud players seeking access to the region. Despite the potentials of the country; with 138 million internet subscribers, more than any country in Africa or Europe, and the largest population and GDP in Africa, a lack of cost-effective, energy-efficient IT infrastructure, has been a constraint to doing business in the region. 

However, in a bid to create unrestricted connectivity between customers, telecommunication carriers, and internet exchange points within its data centres in the region, as a unique scale carrier neutral player, Rack Centre brings global best practice to Nigeria, as the first carrier neutral data centre in the region, to achieve Uptime Institute Tier III Certification of Constructed Facility (TCCF).

READ: Lagos announces N10 billion public-private partnership for aquaculture centre

The global leaders that the platform has engaged include:

  • Tim Parsonson, Co-founder, Teraco Data Environments – the largest carrier neutral operator in Africa, who joins the Board as Chairperson on the board.
  • Frank Hassett, a veteran of the global data centre industry and previous Vice President of Infrastructure, at Equinix, brings over 1300MW of build and operate experience, to assist with hyperscale expansion.

While speaking on the expansion of capacity, Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Convergence Partners, said;  “Africa is at the start of a critical time in its development, as the 4th industrial revolution offers the chance to leapfrog many of Africa’s challenges, and harness the immense potential of its people. Convergence Partners is delighted to partner with Actis in accelerating the growth of high quality data centre infrastructure, an indispensable part of the foundation of this revolution in the region.”

Dr Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director of Rack Centre, emphasized that the group is proud of the quality and scale bar which they have set in the region.

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“We are proud of the quality and scale bar we have set in the region and are scaling to be the de-facto digital data hub for West Africa

“Mass adoption of digital working models and content distribution is driving growing investment in the region and Rack Centre offers a world class location to house these IT and telecoms facilities,” Coker said.

Supporting this ambition, engineering consultancy Arup, have been appointed for the project.  The leadership status of Arup is uncontested,  having designed over 2,000MW of IT capacity for industry-leading tech giants, and co-location providers across the globe.

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CBN gives up on its policy of attracting dollars

CBN has given up its policy of attracting ‘hot money’ as it selects an alternative way to fight inflation.

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Godwin Emefiele, CBN expands scope of regional banks in Nigeria, gives compliance timeframe

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issued a monetary policy communique explaining why it cut its monetary policy rate from 12.5% to 11.5%, the first drop since May 2020 when it slashed MPR from 13.5% t0 12.5%. The cut in rates means it is no longer targeting foreign investor inflow as a basis for keeping the exchange rate stable.

The CBN has held MPR high for years due to high inflationary pressures believing that higher MPRs could lead to a lower inflation rate. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the increased price of fuel and electricity suggest this is a battle already lost via hawkish monetary policy.

Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data

What they are saying: According to the bank, it believes the higher inflation Nigeria is facing is not due to monetary policy but due to “causal factors” which are outside of its immediate control.

“In the view of the MPC, so far, evidence has not supported the rising inflation to monetary factors but rather, evidence suggests nonmonetary factors (structural factors) as the overwhelming reasons accounting for the inflationary pressure,” the CBN stated.

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READ: CBN offers N1.1 trillion intervention fund to support real, health sectors

The structural factors the CBN is referring to are rising in prices of fuel and electricity as well as cost increases emanating from the devaluation of the naira.

“Accordingly, the implication is that traditional monetary policy instruments are not helpful in addressing the type of inflationary pressure we are currently confronted with,” the CBN added.

These issues mean the CBN faces a quagmire in how to combat inflation as the traditional measures it has typically deployed might not work effectively.

READ: Nigerian banks have written off N1.9 trillion impaired loans in past 4 years

Forgo hot money:  The apex bank toyed with increased MPR to combat the high inflation rate but opined that doing so could lead to an even deeper recession despite the benefits of attracting foreign capital.

“The Committee noted that the likely action aimed to addressing the rise in domestic prices would have been to tighten the stance of policy, as this will not only moderate the upward pressure on prices but will also attract fresh capital into the economy and improve the level of the external reserves. It however, noted that this decision may stifle the recovery of output growth and thus, drive the economy further into contraction.”

READ: CBN Vs NESG: Waving the white flag for the benefit of Nigerians

In 2017, the CBN adopted a hawkish monetary policy stand of increasing MPR and offering interest rates as high as 18% via its open market operations bills.

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  • The policy helped attracted billions of dollars in capital rising to as high as $13.4 billion in 2019. It dropped to as low as $332 million in the second quarter of 2020.
  • Foreign investors have basically stopped inflowing forex into the control as yields have crashed and repatriating it is now a major challenge.

READ: Nigeria’s inflation rate jumps to 12.82%, highest in 27 months

The other option: Deciding against increasing MPR means the CBN had to consider a dovish policy, which requires that they cut monetary policy rates and intervene in sectors of the economy that can address the supply side factors it cited. Supply-side factors are price-related increases emanating from high production, storage, and distribution cost of finished goods and services meaning that price will remain high despite stable or lower demand.

“On easing the stance of policy, the MPC was of the view that this action would provide cheaper credit to improve aggregate demand, stimulate production, reduce unemployment, and support the recovery of output growth. Members were of the opinion that the option to lose will complement the Bank’s commitment to sustain the trajectory of the economic recovery and reduce the negative impact of COVID-19. In addition, the liquidity injections are expected to stimulate credit expansion to the critically impacted sectors of the economy and offer an impetus for output growth and economic recovery,” the CBN stated.

READ: Labour sets September 30th as deadline to go on strike

What this means: By dumping inflation targeting from the demand side, the CBN is betting that spending money on stimulus programs will pay off down the road as cheaper long term credit will reduce cost of goods and services and will eventually reflect in the lower inflation rate.

  • The CBN did not state where it sees the inflation rate and when it will drop to its new target by relying on supply-side management as strategy.
  • The downside of this strategy is that there is very little impetus for foreign investors to purchase CBN securities at very low-interest rates.
  • This shuts the door to the reliance of foreign portfolio inflows to shore up dollar reserves leaving us with investors who may want to return to the stock market.
  • If oil prices fail to pick up and foreign investor inflow is not forthcoming, then there will likely be heavy pressure on the CBN effectively worsening things.

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De facto Government: CBN explains why it will keep funding the economy

The Central Bank of Nigeria provided reasons why it will keep spending on development activies such as its intervemtion funds in the agricultural and energy sectors.

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CBN website states oil price is still $61, Naira under pressure as Nigeria records poor export earnings, 4 key sectors the CBN plans to pump money into

The Central Bank of Nigeria provided reasons why it will keep spending on development activities such as its intervention funds in the agricultural and energy sectors. The central bank has carried on as a form of de facto government in recent years particularly in the Covid-19 months, funding several developmental activities and sectors in the economy.

The explanation was provided in its monetary policy communique read out by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele following the end of the monetary policy committee meeting held on Tuesday.

READ: Despite COVID-19, top Nigerian Banks declare N36.7 billion dividends

According to Mr. Emefiele, it will keep spending because the Federal Government is currently incapable of funding development programs because it is facing revenue shortfalls. The CBN reckoned that the economy is faced with likely stagflation (a combination of an economic recession and high inflationary environment) even as Nigerians still have to deal with an increase in fuel and energy prices. It opined that it had to work harder to combat the pressure the price increases will have on Nigerians.

“The Committee was therefore of the view that to abate the pressure, it had no choice but to pursue an expansionary monetary policy using development finance policy tools, targeted at raising output and aggregate supply to moderate the rate of inflation.

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“At present, fiscal policy is constrained and so cannot, on its own lift the economy out of contraction or recession given the paucity of funds arising from weak revenue base, current low crude oil prices, lack of fiscal buffers and high burden of debt services.

Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data

“Therefore, monetary policy must continue to provide massive support through its development finance activities to achieve growth in the Nigerian economy. This is the reason MPC will continue to play a dominant role in the achievement of the goals of the Economic Sustainability Program (ESP) through its interventionist role to navigate the country towards a direction that will boost output growth and moderate the level of inflation.”

As part of its plans to inject stimulus into the economy, the central bank committed to a stimulus package of about N1.1 trillion through the government’s Economic Sustainability Plans revealed in June.

READ: Banks lay-off 2,477 staff during lock-down

CBN to the rescue: Over the last few months the CBN has been at the forefront of leading developmental activities in the country despite overseeing monetary policy and not fiscal policy.

  • The role it is currently playing should be that of the Ministry of Finance, but with government revenue on decline, it believes it has no choice but to come in as a spender of last resort.
  • The CBN through its development finance responsibilities has the powers to fund activities in the economy that it believes will create jobs and reduce the inflation rate.

READ: UK financial institution to put $5 billion to work in Nigeria, others 

But more recently, it has been criticized for expanding its balance sheets and playing too big a role in backstopping nearly all major developmental programs of the Buhari administration.

  • The CBN is currently spending trillions funding the agricultural sector
  • It has also set aside hundreds of billions of naira in funding SME’s through NISRAL and partner microfinance banks
  • There is also several targeted private sector spending in the areas of power, healthcare, real estate, entertainment etc.

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