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COVID -19: Nigerian companies have records of innovation to turn pandemic challenge to gold

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a serious challenge to the global economy, Nigeria inclusive.

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There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a serious challenge to the global economy, Nigeria inclusive. However, I seriously think that within this challenge, there are opportunities for Nigeria to scale as a nation. The opportunities abound. Such growth will only happen if Nigerian companies and innovators are encouraged to make use of the window of opportunity presented by the crises orchestrated by the pandemic.

Nigeria indeed has the population and human capital capabilities. Beyond population, Nigeria needs a critical ingredient to make use of the chance to succeed presented by this pandemic. Nations like the US, China, and India give us a gleam of what such an ingredient should be. These nations are not just known for their huge populations, but for their innovative ideas. Therein lies the answer to Nigeria’s quest to defeating the pandemic and turning it to a thing of blessing in disguise: innovation that is readily supported by the Federal Government.

Instead of looking inward to explore the natural and human resources available to fight the pandemic, the Federal Government seems to be more interested in promoting other countries’ ideas and innovations.

Let us take the issue of face masks, for example. Nigerians were shocked when the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Nigeria was exploring the option to import one million face masks from China. I find such a plan as preposterous in this era when the government should be creating workable strategies to rescue the Nigerian economy from being asphyxiated. It is said that this is happening at a time when Nigeria is seriously seeking an alternative to crude oil to live on. Worse still, it is happening at a time when millions of Nigerians are set to lose their jobs and other means of livelihood as a result of the harsh economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. By relying on imported face masks from China, Nigeria is inadvertently creating a huge number of jobs in the Chinese economy at the detriment of poor Nigerians.

READ MORE: PWC report details how COVID-19 will impact Nigerian FinTechs

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Simply put, Nigerian policymakers can use face masks as a serious tool to turn around the Nigeria economy for the better. What does it take to produce a face mask? Nothing serious. Believe me when I tell you nothing serious. Nigeria has both the human and natural resources to produce face masks fit enough for local consumption and the export market.

COVID -19: Nigerian companies have records of innovation to turn pandemic challenge to gold

In Ibadan where I live with my children and grandchildren, I can count at least 300 tailors. One sad thing about these tailors is that there is no business for them because COVID-19 has killed the business of tailoring. Nigerians are more concerned about feeding right now than about wearing clothes.

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But the government can turn things around for these tailors in particular and the economy in general.  How? The government can organize these tailors into groups, and make them operate in school halls where they will be supplied with constant electricity to enable them to produce these face masks. I am very sure with such a conducive environment, each tailor can make nothing less than N3, 000 on a daily basis from producing face masks.

This arrangement will not benefit these tailors alone. A lot of other Nigerians are going to gain from this simple innovation. Textile and logistics companies to be engaged in supplying the textiles and transporting the finished products will benefit from this innovation, just as the average Nigerian on the street will gain from this, in the form of affordable, locally produced face masks.

If need be, the government can also derive taxes from these locally made products. This simple innovation in the long run may help to grow the nation’s GDP and reduce unemployment rates. If Nigeria replicates such a set up in every state, the benefits will be too great to imagine.

(READ MORE: Nestle hits N1,000 for first time since March Covid-19 lock-down)

I know some people may be concerned about the efficiency of such face masks at preventing COVID-19. This concern is not out of place. After all, NAFDAC said a few days ago that face masks made from cloths are not capable of preventing the virus. This is my problem with every Nigerian agency: they know how to criticize without proffering solution. What is wrong with NAFDAC collaborating with other relevant agencies to train a number of tailors on how to produce an internationally certified face mask against COVID-19? I do not think anything is stopping the agency, except lack of creativity

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Nigerian companies have records of innovation to turn pandemic challenge to gold

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Every country is searching for a cure for COVID-19. But look at how many Nigerian professors and research agencies are wasting away. If I can recall very well, Nigeria has agencies and institutes capable of producing globally acceptable herbs or drugs for COVID-19.  Certainly, the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRID), Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Nigerian Council of Physicians of Natural Medicine (NCPNM) and various pharmacognosy departments in our universities exist for a reason, such as the one presented by COVID-19.

One would have expected the Federal Government to borrow a leaf from the European Commission (EC) and collaborate with the Private Sector Coalition Against Coronavirus (CACOVID) to fund these research agencies and institutes to formulate curative or preventive drugs or herbs for COVID-19. Madagascar, which has looked inward in proffering solutions to her COVID-19 challenge, has shown that it will be easier to get a quicker solutions to the pandemic in Africa than elsewhere. Nigeria, like many African countries, is blessed with herbs and human resources capable of solving the COVID-19 pandemic.

How shocked I was to see the Chairman of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, a decent and very professional man reportedly saying that the Nigerian government was making plans to import the Madagascar herbs to fight the pandemic in Nigeria! It calls for serious concerns because Madagascar has never hidden the name of the plants used in preparing the herbs from the world. Nigeria surely has such plants in abundance. What is preventing the government to organize researchers of herbal medicines into groups to develop a cure from the herb?

(READ MORE: Ecobank Nigeria Encourages Customers To Obey COVID-19 Rules; Opens More Branches Nationwide)

It is obvious that lack of creativity and patriotism is the only cog on the wheel of Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19. As a commentator once said, Nigerians are interested in promoting other nation’s innovations because of kickbacks and returns. It is abhorring to see how we have allowed our quest for self-gratification to overrule that of our national interest.

Impact of covid-19 on earnings and profitability of Nigerian banks, positives and negatives – report, COVID -19: Nigerian companies have records of innovation to turn pandemic challenge to gold

If you look beyond the public sector, you will see that Nigeria is also blessed with innovative brains doing well in the private sector. There was a time Nigeria used to import bottled water until someone deemed it feet to produce bottled water locally. Today, I have lost count of how many locally produced bottled water companies we have in Nigeria.  You will be marveled by the number of jobs bottled water companies have generated in Nigeria.

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At the early stages of Nigeria’s telephony history, Nigerians were fraudulently billed per minute in the telecommunication industry, until Mike Adenuga came in to change the phenomenon in early 2000.  He introduced per-second billing method to save Nigerians from such unnecessary billings orchestrated by foreign-owned firms in Nigeria. Like Adenuga, Aliko Dangote has gone ahead to show Nigerians how creativity can propel Nigeria to be self-sufficient with basic things of life: salt and sugar, just to name a few.

There are many more of such innovative Nigerians doing great things whom the Federal Government can partner with. If I may use a typical homegrown Nigerian group in this technology age as an example of the power of sustained innovation, it will further elucidate my points.

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(READ MORE: Covid-19: SBM Intel lists out industries that may be out of business post Coronavirus)

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I have been following the innovative ideas of Mr. Leo Stan Ekeh, Nigerian’s biggest digital serial entrepreneur and innovator of our time. I have been following his moves because of the interest of my wife, children, and grandchildren in anything that has to do with technology.  I must mention here that my second and brilliant son worked for Zinox for few years before he moved with his family to the UK. Also, my stepdaughter worked for his e-commerce company, Konga before she left New York last year to further her studies.

Nigerian companies have records of innovation to turn pandemic challenge to gold

Ekeh led Zinox Group to create and domesticate the first African indigenous computer brand.  It seems easy now. But I can recall that when Ekeh started the African indigenous computer project decades ago, many Africans had only seen computers on the television. The Obasanjo administration was smart enough to recognize the Zinox project and encouraged it to scale.

We know the benefit of that smart move by both Ekeh and the Obasanjo administration today. Many Nigerian homes now have access to computers and other auxiliary technologies. Being the first ICT company from Nigeria to be internationally recognized as an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), Zinox has been at the forefront of supplying to the Nigerian market affordable technological solutions, including high-end personal computers (PCs), laptops, power solutions, workstations and now it has even diversified into lifestyle products such as television sets, Home & Kitchen Appliances and other similar products.

Within the Zinox Group, I am told, is a number of tech-driven companies such as TD Africa which has redefined the face of tech distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa, TDiLife which is presently doing the same in the FMCG segment and many others. The Zinox Group is a product of serious innovative thinking which has the capacity to represent Nigeria equitably well anywhere in the world, I must tell you.

 

As a real successful African father, Ekeh has gone ahead to transfer his innovative acumen to his son, Prince Nnamdi Ekeh – the Co-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Konga and his colleagues now driving their new-age vision. I am pleased to see that Prince Ekeh and his colleagues have not taken for granted the opportunity given to them by Mr. Ekeh. They have simply become the leader of the Nigerian e-commerce space today.  Konga, after its acquisition by Zinox, has in less than three years, emerged as the company to beat in the Nigerian e-commerce business. It is heartwarming to see this indigenous brand is winning the war of owning the Nigerian e-commerce market against multinationals. Like Mr. Ekeh would always say – “No nation can claim to be truly independent until it has technology independence.’’ This resonates more now that our educational system is shut down because of lack of technology while other smaller countries are using e-learning to educate their children.

Since it was founded, Konga has never relaxed on its oars. Last week, I was thrilled when my grandson, Tobi, told me that Konga was hosting the first virtual live auction in Africa. It looked simple. However, one thing is to have an idea and another is to make it happen. Konga has shown itself to be a company that thinks and actualizes its thinking.

When others in the private sector were making donations whose outcome were difficult to account for, we saw how Zinox and Konga came up with the innovative idea to directly feed over 7,000 vulnerable Nigerian families every day for two weeks during the heat of the lockdown experienced in Lagos, Ogun and FCT.

This is the theme behind this article.

For Nigeria to overcome the COVID challenge and turn it to a blessing, the Federal Government needs to support innovative companies and individuals ready to give it all to fight the war against the pandemic.

In conclusion, Nigeria is blessed with both human and natural resources. The Federal Government needs to tap into these resources to ensure that Nigeria is not only able to fight the pandemic but also it is able to turn the pandemic into a blessing in disguise for Nigerians with the new normal. It is only then, post-CONVID-19, that Nigeria can remain relevant in the committee of nations again.

 

Ademola Ekun is a public affairs analyst who writes from Benue on the occasion of his 72nd Birthday

 

Nairametrics frequently publishes articles from experts such as financial analysts, economists, researchers and investors. We also feature articles from guest writers and bloggers who wish to push their views and opinions through our platform. To get your articles on Nairametrics, kindly send an email to [email protected] and we will publish it within 24 hours of approval by our editorial team.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. ABIMBOLA DADA

    May 10, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    VERY INSIGHTFUL AND WONDERFUL ARTICLE,KEEP IT UP SIR,HAPPY BIRTHDAY IN ARREARS TOO

  2. Eageleye

    May 11, 2020 at 7:36 am

    This is a wonderful article I must say. Nigeria is highly blessed. We only need to put some basic things in place and we’ll be on the same level playing ground with some countries we envy now.

    It’s however important to note that government should not be waited for else, we end up hoping stars become moon. I can, you can and we all can, an an individual level. If each of us does his part, Nigeria will be great!

  3. Princess Inangha

    May 11, 2020 at 11:51 am

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read this year. I’ve always wished there was a medium to reach out to our youths to be more creative and innovative than looking for quick ways to make money. It’s great to have money but I feel we’re more more blessed as a nation compared to most of the developed countries. We don’t harness these blessings instead we allow them to exploit us and then wait to buy back these processed products from them. E.g crude oil. We don’t believe in ourselves and this has to stop.

  4. Michael Ogunbiyi

    May 11, 2020 at 7:08 pm

    It’s typical of NAFDAC to say something negative about any innovation if it won’t benefit them. Clot masks have a great purpose. If everyone uses a cloth mask then the virus won’t spread whether one is infected or not!

  5. John

    June 6, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Konga has indeed proven it’s worth. I have personally done a lot of business with them. Recently however, the Konga app is not working and the web platform is also plagued with issues. The appropriate authorities need to listen or else what they have built may just come crashing. Just check out Google play store to see what users are saying. Please pay attention guys.

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ENDSARS

House of Reps to make Youth globally competitive

House of Representatives is determined to make Youth globally competitive.

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Closing of Nigerian-owned shops in Ghana must be dealt with decisively - Femi Gbajabiamila, Lagos State needs N1 trillion for reconstruction - Femi Gbajabiamila
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have assured Nigerian youths that they are committed to make them globally competitive.
This was disclosed by the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday.
 In a tweet, which the speaker shared after a meeting with a group of young lawmakers under the aegis of ‘Young Parliamentarians Forum‘, he  reiterated that some of the demands of the youths following the #EndSARS protests would be addressed constitutionally, as part of the decision was to reform the Police, in a quest to accommodate a better Police Force.
On youth empowerment, the Speaker said that a lot still needs to be done, while pointing out that no government had done more than what the present administration has done.
What they are saying
He said, “All of us, every segment of the government, especially the House of Representatives, before the protests took the initiative, debated motions and took far-reaching decisions on the floor. We gave ourselves 30 days, and since then, we’ve been working night and day, especially with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
“We thought the best way to go about it is that we amend the Police Service Commission Act, and that has been done and the report has been concluded and soon, it will be published and be on the floor.
“We are determined to resolve the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) matter, and if we can resolve two out of three issues, I think we would have gone a long way to help the lecturers who are on strike.
“There’s a bill on vocational education, I think from the 8th Assembly that was even my bill. We’ll pick it up again and pass it to you (Young Parliamentarians Group) to polish it up and add it to whatever ideas you have.”
While speaking on the giant strides by the current administration in terms of youth empowerment, the Speaker said:
“I make bold to say that no government, in Nigerian history from inception, and I stand to be corrected, has put in as much in youth empowerment as this present government.”

Facts don’t lie, a government that has devoted N500bn to youth empowerment every year. There’s Trader Moni, N-Power, and several others, they are all there,” he added.

Gbajabiamila added that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has done a lot about youth empowerment and is ready to do more.

 


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Coronavirus

COVID-19: Ogun orders full reopening of churches, mosques, hotels

Religious centres and other public places have been reopened following the success recorded in flattening the curve of COVID-19.

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Coronavirus: Ogun State bans cinemas, night clubs, restaurants, other businesses from operating, COVID 19: Ogun State launches digital classes for students

The Ogun State Government has ordered the full reopening of churches, mosques, businesses, hotels, and entertainment centres across the state.

This was disclosed by the State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, via the state’s Twitter handle on Wednesday.

Abiodun stated that the religious centres and other public places had been reopened, following the success recorded in flattening the curve of COVID-19.

According to him, the government is aware that many people are just recovering from the economic hardship imposed by COVID-19, as their activities had been affected by the lockdown, while necessary measures had been put in place to combat the pandemic.

He stated, “In the process of rebuilding the economy, the State Government was irrevocably committed to the successful implementation of the “Building our Future Together” agenda, and would ensure everything possible for people to have increased prosperity that would place the State on a sound footing towards continued development.

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“Government would improve on testing, just as it continues to monitor the development and not hesitate to do selective lockdown should there be any flagrant disobedience to the set COVID-19 protocols.”

What you should know

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Governor Abiodun had closed religious centres, businesses and schools in March, as part of moves to flatten the curve of the coronavirus.

He later announced the reopening of only worship centres and schools in August.

Abiodun pegged the number of worshippers for each service at 200, and insisted that services must not exceed one and a half hours.

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Financial Services

CBN reveals framework for the N75 billion Youth Investment Fund

The Nigerian Youth Investment Fund will be funded through the NIRSAL MFB window of the CBN.

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CBN reveals framework for the N75 billion Youth Investment Fund, Economic Growth, CBN, Governor, Emefiele, CBN releases new capital base, sanctions for Microfinance Banks, Nigerian Banks broadly positive after naira devaluation, Naira hits N465 to $1, Central Bank begins disbursing $100million to hit at currency speculators

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has revealed the implementation framework for the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund.

This was disclosed in a publication by the Development Finance Department under the auspices of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The CBN stated that the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (N-YIF) would be funded through NIRSAL MFB window, with an initial take-off seed capital of N12.5 billion.

READ: #EndSARS: FG creates new N25 billion Youth Fund, to increase to N75 billion in 3 years

The N-YIF aims to financially empower Nigerian youths to generate at least 500,000 jobs between 2020 and 2023.

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Objectives of the scheme:

  •  Improve access to finance for youths and youth-owned enterprises for national development.
  •  Generate much-needed employment opportunities to curb youth restiveness.
  •  Boost the managerial capacity of the youths, and develop their potentials to become the future large corporate organizations.

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What you should know
Recall that on the 22nd of July, 2020, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of N75 billion for the establishment of the Nigeria Youth Investment Fund for the period of 2020 – 2023.
The fund was created to support the innovative ideas, skills and talents of Nigerian youths, and to institutionally provide Nigerian youths with a special window for accessing much-needed funds, finances, business management skills and other inputs critical for sustainable enterprise development.
  • The fund targets young people between the ages of 18 and 35 years.
  • Beneficiaries of NMFB, TCF and AgSMEIS loans, and other government loan schemes that remain unpaid are also not eligible to participate.
  • Individuals (unregistered businesses) shall be determined based on activity/nature of projects subject to the maximum of N250,000.
  • Registered businesses (Business name, Limited Liability, Cooperative, Commodity Association) shall be determined by activity/nature of projects subject to the maximum of N3.0 million (including working capital).
  • The tenor of the intervention is for a Maximum of 5 years, depending on the nature of the business and the assets acquired, of which interest rate of not more than 5% under the intervention shall be charged annually.
  • The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (FMYSD) will collaborate with relevant stakeholders to identify potential training for training/mentoring.
  • The youths that are duly screened (and undergo the mandatory training where applicable) shall be advised to login to the portal provided by the NMFB to apply for the facility.

READ: CBN raises alarm over fraudulent loan offers, investment schemes with charged fees

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As a huge percentage of youths are engaged in the informal sector, the NYIF will facilitate the transition of informal enterprises owned by youths into the formal mainstream economy, where they can be supported comprehensively, build a bankable track record, and be accurately captured as active participants in economic development.

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