A Nadir Of Hope In ‘The New Normal'?
Forbes Africa|October - November 2020
A Nadir Of Hope In ‘The New Normal'?
As Africa’s biggest economy marks its diamond jubilee, there are mixed views for its post-pandemic recovery forecast. But there is reason to be hopeful about the hyper-competitiveness and resilience of the country’s middle class and youth through the fog of uncertainty.
Muyiwa Moyela

OCTOBER IS CELEBRATION SEASON IN NIGERIA. A historic excuse for some dining, sober reflection and bouts of national moaning.

As Africa’s largest economy by GDP marks her diamond jubilee independence anniversary on October 1, the theatrics of the political class, the floundering economy and the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the polity occupy the mind of most Nigerians.

Every October, Nigerians unite to engage in the pyrrhic ritual of collective nostalgia and wishful thinking. They embed their hopes, patriotic aspirations, pains and perforated potential in long speeches. This October, they will also ponder the fate of their personal and collective economy in the emerging post Covid-19 world.

Some 42% of employed Nigerians surveyed had lost their jobs during the pandemic, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

By July 2020, inflation had accelerated to 13%, the highest in 27 months. The pandemic showcased Nigeria’s (and also sub-Saharan Africa’s) underinvestment in her public infrastructure, housing, education and healthcare sectors.

Nigeria’s physician-to-patient ratio is four doctors per 10,000 patients, according to World Health Organization data. Statistically, a third of Nigerians born in 1960 may have already died.

The country has the world’s third-lowest life expectancy rate of 55 years, only better than Central African Republic (54) and Sierra Leone (53), according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). War-torn Afghanistan has 65 years, Somalia, 58 and Syria, 73.

As this edition of FORBES AFRICA goes to press, over 56,478 Nigerians have been infected with the coronavirus, with 1,008 deaths, according to the website of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

The actual impact of the disease may be significantly more.

“This year is a lost year,” Ade Ayeyemi, a Nigerian and Group CEO of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, told me in July, from his Lome, Togo base.

“From an economic and investment mobilization perspective, 2020 has been lost… we must now begin to focus on optimizing resources and taking advantage of the situation.”

Even before the lockdown, Nigerians were grappling with endemic unemployment and brain drain, the Boko Haram insurgency in the north of the country, disgust and semi-indifference to nepotism, religious intolerance, corruption, productivity hiccups and local and foreign currency constipation.

When Covid-19 arrived, the aviation, transport, retail, entertainment and hospitality services were hit. Income for artisans, street traders, event venues, cooks, cleaners, taxis, cab-hailing operators, beauty salons and barber shops dried up.

A sub-economy driven by Covid-19 relief initiatives emerged from the doldrums of the economy. The government set up a Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 to coordinate relief efforts nationwide. The International Monetary Fund approved a $3.4 billion Rapid Financing Instrument for Nigeria in April. Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja also received a $104 billion World Bank Covid-19 support facility. The African Development Bank, the African Export-Import Bank and a plethora of multilateral organizations, private and state-owned enterprises, high net worth individuals, local and international non-profits including the Aliko Dangote Foundation, Jack Ma Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation all contributed to federal and state Covid-19 relief funds.

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October - November 2020