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Columnists

Could lack of power supply be hindering Nigeria’s COVID-19 recovery?

Does Nigeria have the right storage facilities to store these expected COVID-19 vaccines in the right temperature?

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Vaccine storage, Covid-19: Oxford's covid-19 vaccine, EU, Health: Nigeria records first case of coronavirus

A few days ago, a publication made the rounds about the World Health Organisation (WHO) withholding supply of COVID-19 vaccines to some countries, one of which was Nigeria. The reason quoted was, amongst other things, that Nigeria does not have the requisite storage facilities for the vaccines, which are required to be stored at very low temperature – as low as minus 70 degrees Celsius in case of the Pfizer vaccine.

While WHO has through its country representative, Dr. Walter Mulombo, issued a statement to the contrary, it is hardly news that Nigeria does not have the cold chain equipment required to deliver vaccines to all its citizens. This much could also be read into the statement given by Dr. Mulombo.

READ: FG publishes numbers of another 100 passports for COVID-19 protocols default

Research has shown that energy security and access are key drivers of healthcare. In one of its reports, WHO confirmed that delivering the vaccines to the last mile user in developing countries will prove very challenging, particularly because of infrastructure and power deficit.

With the loss of vaccines (non-COVID) around the world due to temperature fluctuations amounting to $US34.1 billion annually, it is hardly rocket science to decide not to give limited vaccines to a country without the requisite facilities to store them.

The vaccine supply chain does not stop at the central medical repository but goes all the way to the states and cities, towns and villages and the vaccines would need proper storage to stay viable. Sustainable power supply can meet this demand. Yet many Nigerian healthcare facilities do not have access to power supply and for those that have, the supply is epileptic, merely reflecting the country’s poor power outlook. While the cold chain challenge equally affects most countries, with energy poverty already prevalent in Nigeria, it leaves the country’s over 200 million population extremely vulnerable.

READ: Covid-19: EU says it will force vaccine companies to respect supply contract

Nigeria should not be sitting on her hands and crying wolf about WHO not giving her Pfizer vaccines, she should be working tirelessly to put the vaccine cold chain infrastructure in place and become vaccine-ready. The government should roll out strategic and effective plans to deploy renewable energy (particularly solar) solutions in form of solar fridges and freezers to healthcare centres up to the last mile. Sufficient funding should also be deployed towards scaling innovations around renewable energy (RE) cooling technologies to drive COVID-19 recovery.

Nigeria’s situation is reminiscent of the Holy Bible’s parable of the ten virgins, five of whom were foolish and five of whom were wise. For the foolish, even though also expecting the arrival of a bridegroom, unlike the wise, they failed to keep their lamps up with extra oil. They just waited and “hoped things would work out”.

READ: Why Nigeria may not access COVAX Pfizer vaccines in February

As a country, we cannot continue to act out that role. With almost 150, 000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and about 1,600 deaths, there is a need to act fast. Perhaps it is worth mentioning too, that the recovery process for COVID-19 will have countries that fall behind on vaccinating their population facing differentiated treatment like continuing restrictions on travel while other countries are allowed unrestricted travel. This will have economic consequences.

With grid power getting to only just 40% of Nigerians, off-grid electrification and cooling is key to beating the country’s COVID problem and deploying the vaccines effectively. It would be counterintuitive too if the off-grid solution is one that adds to environmental pollution as that would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. WHO’s statistics show that air pollution kills up to 7 million people worldwide every year, so any solution for storing vaccines should be targeted at also reducing emissions. Apart from RE options being cleaner, they are also efficient and more affordable than fossil fuel alternatives.

A proper renewable energy program and policy guidelines to encourage investment should be put in place at the Federal, State and Local government levels, particularly for underserved and last-mile communities who may otherwise never be able to access the vaccine. With rural populations being more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections and often lacking adequate healthcare to drive recovery, attention must be paid to them in all of this.

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While India has rolled out a massive vaccination-ready programme with about 29,000 cold chain points, excluding walk-in coolers, walk-in freezers, deep freezers and solar refrigerators, Nigeria cannot honestly claim to be ready for the vaccines. The government should ramp up collaborative efforts with private sector and non-profit organisations, institutes of technology and vocational centres and entrepreneurs innovating around clean energy to drive COVID recovery through clean energy. Lessons can also be drawn from countries like Rwanda that have set up functioning climate-friendly cold chains for vaccine delivery. There is no escaping massive RE funding and support if Nigeria is to achieve vaccination and recovery for its population, so we might as well start now.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    February 22, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    Very instructive. How would this get to those at the helm of affairs

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Columnists

One year after Nigeria’s index case, what has her energy sector learned?

A critical question is, has the Nigerian energy sector learned anything from the oil shock?

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On February 27, Nigeria confirmed its first case of COVID-19 which at the time had infected just about 80, 000 people with a little below 3, 000 dead as a result. Exactly one year later today, with over 113, 000, 000 people infected and over 2, 500, 000 dead globally, the pandemic has radically transformed the way of life of the world. There has been learning across various sectors and a re-imagination of how things are done. A critical question is, has the Nigerian energy sector learned anything?

In early March, only about a week after Nigeria’s index case, the world was greeted by oil shocks resulting from the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, further aggravated by falling demands resulting from lockdowns, flight restrictions and the general apprehension about movement and the pandemic. Countries dependent on oil exports, like Nigeria, were concerned about the toll it would take on their economy.

Oil went to an all-time low, the lowest it has ever been in 18 years and many economies went into panic mode. It was not long before the Nigerian government removed petroleum subsidies at the tail end of Q1 as it was costing the country up to $2 billion a year. The end to subsidies -or what we assumed was the end, led to market-led pricing for petroleum.

READ: Shell Foundation and DFC mobilize $145 million for renewable energy in Africa, Asia

Around the same time, the marginal field bid rounds were launched, with the various fees to be paid by prospective investors rising exponentially from what they were under the last bid rounds, and required to be paid up front. The country also witnessed increased divestment in oil and gas assets by major oil and gas companies. At the start of Q4, the government introduced what it called service-reflective tariffs which were about twice the initial costs previously paid by customers.

There was equally a significant peak in renewable energy projects as many were turning to it for succor due to increased petroleum prices and utility power tariffs. The Federal government also launched its solar power strategy to electrify 5 million homes with solar power. We saw a heightened commitment to gas utilization, with the Central Bank introducing the N250bn intervention facility to stimulate investment in the local gas value chain.

The Minister of Petroleum for State, Chief Timipre Sylva had also promised that gas-powered cars would begin operating in October 2020. In his words “The alternative we are now introducing is gas, which is definitely going to be cheaper than the subsidised rate of PMS”.

READ: Could lack of power supply be hindering Nigeria’s COVID-19 recovery?

He went on to say that Nigerians were urged to convert their cars to dual fuel. Four months later, we are yet to see any auto gas cars ply our roads. There were also very swift moves to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) last year, and indeed many stakeholders waited expectantly for it, but the legislature failed to deliver.

Soon, the Federal Government launched the Nigerian Gas Expansion Program at the tail end of Q4, a month after the news of the country officially entering recession broke. The aim of the Program was to increase gas development from three streams- Liquefied Natural gas (LNG,) Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

With initial reports of a vaccine rollout, the oil price that had crashed to lower than $30 per barrel last year began a steady and somewhat magical rise and currently has gone as high as $67, with predictions that it could rise to as much as $100, particularly with the release of more vaccines and easing of lockdown.

READ: Dangote Group kicks off $150 million solar project

With things looking good for the country again, we see a return of the petroleum subsidy in the locked pricing of petrol. A return of fuel subsidy means heavily increased subsidy payments for the country and similarly an increased propensity for corruption and misuse of funds which has characterized Nigeria’s subsidy regime for long. We cannot claim to have learned much as a country if we think all is well, and we are out of the woods.

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It would be counterintuitive to wait on another oil shock to begin to quickly diversify our portfolio and heavily invest in gas and renewables. Like the Biblical story of Joseph and Pharaoh, we should save during our “seven fat years” for the “seven lean years”.

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This is not the time for Nigeria to sit back and gloat in its rising oil fortunes, but a time to invest in improving energy access for its citizens by funding renewable energy research, aggressively supporting a solar drive, entering into public-private partnerships for gas development and providing incentives for businesses working in the energy transition space. Perhaps climate change and the decisions made around it will be the next price cruncher for oil. Whichever way, we cannot afford not to be battle-ready.

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Columnists

5 successful ways to increase profits in your business

Constantly working on these areas of your business, you are more likely to have raised profits.

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Development Bank of Nigeria , Companies Allied Matters Act (CAMA)

Most business owners are required to make certain changes to their business operations to achieve more profits. It is a fact that it is not possible to raise the profits directly, therefore, you need to increase them indirectly. It is not going to be possible without having a specific strategy in place. The only thing that is possible is improving the variables of your business and this can lead to an increase in profits and a higher bottom line.

Lead generation and conversion

A process that is used for attracting interested prospects to the business is lead generation. Suppose five people out of the ten coming to your business place end up purchasing the product or services from your business, you can try to raise the number of people coming to the business to fifteen. This allows you to make more money by increasing the profits by 50%. Lead conversion is a process used for converting the leads into paying customers. It is a measure of the effectiveness of your sales efforts. If it is possible to raise the conversion rate from 1 out of 10 to 2 out of 10 it is likely to double the sales figures and get you raised profits. There is no replacement for continuous sales training sessions. It applies to the owner and everyone that speaks to the clients.

READ: How scammers use SIM cards to rob your bank accounts

 Transactions

The number of independent sales you make to the customers you have acquired can be increased by raising the frequency of the purchases by say ten percent. You will thereby increase the number of sales and also rise profits by the same amount. Think about the things you could do for getting your existing customers to purchase more from your business and also make these purchases frequently. The size of the transaction and the profit you make from every one of them matters as well. You need to be on the lookout for ways of up-selling all the customers so that this person will buy more every time.

Profit margins

Profit margins could be the gross profits you make from all the sales of products or services. By finding out the ways of raising the price or lowering the cost of making the product and services without reducing the quality you will be able to raise the profits per every sale. All the money you save while holding the costing constant flows straight to the business bottom line as profit. Every time you decrease the expenses and at the same time, if you can hold the sales and revenues constant, money is going straight to your pocket as net profit.

Reach a global audience

In the modern scheme of things, all cities are turning into global economies. Therefore language translation services can be used for increasing the profits of any business big or small. It might be a good idea to translate the content on your website to reach a global audience. The global language services industry is rising quickly and can touch a figure of $50 billion by the end of the year. Most of these services these days are used by both private and government sectors alike. With rising globalization, the demand for translation is also increasing.

Customer acquisition costs

Consider the amount of money you have to spend to acquire every paying customer. You need to continuously be on the lookout for creative ways of improving your promotion and advertising so that there is a reduction in the money you have to spend to get a new customer. This will have a positive effect on the profits of your business. You can also try to increase the number of customers that come to you as a result of referrals from your existing satisfied customers. Developing single or multiple referral systems can impact the business positively and in turn, can help in making more money for your business.

Conclusion

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When you are constantly working on these areas of your business seeking improvement in all of them, you are more likely to have raised profits. You will make more money and it will contribute to the success of your future financial endeavours.

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