A National Conversation:
Mapping Nigeria's response to Covid-19
On 16 – 17 June, BusinessDay will gather senior global and Nigeria policy decision makers, thought leaders, and leading minds in business and industries for two days on online dialogues to share a deep knowledge of how the current global economic crisis is evolving, how the disruption is shaking every foundation of economic prosperity laid over the last century, and make a sense of what the future holds.
With the shutdown of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun States and many others, on account of COVID-19, the Nigerian economy is virtually on lockdown and could lose up to $1 billion daily, dividing for $476 billion, the value of Nigeria’s economy by 365 days. This virus is fast morphing into a seething crisis....
A growing list of global policy, business and finance leaders.
Schedule All times in (GMT+1).
This session seeks to set the stage for the economic, political and social analysis that will follow over the next two days. The panelists using their medical and health expertise will provide an update on where we are in the management of COVID-19 in Nigeria and Africa, deal with issues around the trajectory of Nigeria and Africa’s numbers, and provide understanding of its peculiarities in relation to pre COVID-19 healthcare systems, and map the end of the pandemic in Nigeria and Africa. The panelists are also expected to draw on historical lessons from Ebola in Africa, provide parallel comparisons and debate on lessons learnt. The panelists will discuss the progress made on the discovery of a cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
When compared to the period at independence, the Nigeria population is more impoverished today. As we approach 60 years of independence, Nigeria has failed woefully in in the management of its vast oil resources and in people’s participation in the country’s decision-making process. How has governance, the absence of it or the weak and inappropriate structure contributed to Nigeria’s poor economic performance and development? How has COVID-19 exposed or made the country vulnerable at ? For instance, how has the structure or its underlying weakness contributed to poor contact tracing?
In addition, while Nigeria has migrated from a parliamentary system of government, through military rule and a presidential system of government, the result of Nigeria’s governance since independence is best reflected in vast poverty indices – no water, no light, no good roads, and widespread inequality. Worse still, is the lack of accountability, its politics marred by the unbridled appetite for corruption and cronyism. Nigeria’s fiscal arrangement has been largely dependent on the sharing the proceeds from an exhaustible resource, oil, which is inadequate to cater for the needs of its population. What reforms will allow states to grow and diminish their dependence on the sharing of diminishing oil revenues? What structure will work and how does COVID-19 speed up that process and does this mean federalism has a future?
This session is about the policies, the choices and the strategy available to the government. As COVID-19 started to unravel, oil prices started to fall and at one point reached negative. In the face of dramatically dwindling revenue and even lower capacity to borrow, what are the options and choices available to the government? So far, the federal government has hinted of two specific strategic directions.
First, it has said consumption of petrol will no longer be subsidised. Second, it wants to merge some agencies and scrap others to reduce the cost of governance. However, the last five years has demonstrated that the government is more comfortable expanding the state as against providing the required incentives for private investment in Nigeria. It has pursued relative socialist policies and borrowed extensively. COVID-19 leaves very few options.
How is the government responding and how should it? Will subsidy return after COVID-19 if oil prices go up? What are the social, political and structural difficulties hindering its response to COVID-19, and will these difficulties prevent the adoption of critical policy reforms after COVID-19?
At the end of 2019, Nigeria recorded growth rate of 2.3%, the largest growth rate since 2015, but lower than the growth rate of the country’s population. As we expect Q1 2020 growth data, this section looks at the two critical questions that currently play on people’s minds – how deep and protracted will the recession be?
There are three possibilities: a V-shaped economic recovery, a U-shaped economy or an L-shaped economic recovery. What are the drivers and determinants of each possibility? This session will thus compare Nigeria’s past recessions in 1987 and 2016 to provide an understanding. It will also look at previous economic crises of 2009 and 2010 and draw on historical lessons in the context of the most severe economic disruption of the last 100 years.
This is an all-encompassing session on energy. It will consider together the dynamics of oil and gas – investments, production, policies, prices, and governance—to meet the energy needs of Nigerians. How can the domestic energy needs of the country be balanced with required investments and policy imperatives that drive export, increase long term government revenues, reduces wastes, improves local content, and enables community participation.
How do we improve power and improve the governance in the sector? Before the emergence of COVID-19, the power sector suffered from considerable confusion in governance, attracted no significant new investment since Azura Power and stalled on vital tariff reviews. COVID-19 has increased cost, weakened the exchange rate, and made the investment environment more uncertain.
Understanding the impact and response of Nigeria’s education can be seen from three important points.
First, is to look at and examine the condition of Nigeria’s education before the shock of COVID-19:
(1) Nigeria’s education from primary to higher education has become increasingly polarised, along wealth, ethnic, and religion.
(2) Nigeria’s education, especially higher education has failed to keep up with the rest of the world in terms of quality, teaching, curriculum, and research.
(3) COVID-19 also met the poor enrolment of children in schools, especially in the North, with over 13 million children estimated to be out of school.
Second, the session will analyse how the pandemic has disrupted learning across all our institutions of learning, how all examinations have been postponed, and how children have remained at home. Even in this situation, there is evidence of polarisation, as most private primary and secondary schools in urban areas attend online schools but their counterparts in public schools and rural areas are left to their fate. Then thirdly, how will COVID-19 shape the future of education and learning in Nigeria?
What is required to feed 200 million people daily? How much of it is produced in the country? What is growth rate of food production in Nigeria? How has that growth and expansion been met – through the use of more land or through increased productivity? Is the investment in agriculture appropriately applied? How can these investments be appropriately integrated, through smallholder farmers or large agribusinesses? What should be the focus: n domestic consumption or for export? What is missing in the agriculture value chain? How about storage? How about security of crops and properties? What other sectors outside agriculture affects the industry the most? What has COVID-19 taught us about food security and how should we respond?
This panel will bring together young people who have gone on to excel in various sectors and are portraying Nigeria in a positive light on the global scene. These individuals represent a beacon of hope for the nation’s large youth demography. Despite all the shortcomings of Nigeria as a nation, we can indeed begin to change the narrative by deliberately investing in our youth and projecting the right role models.
Discussants will speak about their individual successes in the light of new challenges and opportunities posed by COVID-19, with discussions cutting across education and skills migration, citizenship, governance, and civil society etc.
This session seeks to provide a reminder that Nigeria recorded big and huge successes in the past in relation to the attraction of investment, providing policies and incentives for growth, and driving job creation. Examples include, but not limited to the banking consolidation of 2005, telecoms sector liberalisation in the early 2000s, the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) project, and the oil price benchmark rule (though now poorly implemented), the establishment of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) etc. What are the lessons from these successes and how and can they be replicated?
Our BusinessDay journalists are experts in their fields and will moderate all of the discussions taking place over three days.
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