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Year 2020: Glimmer of Hope for Nigeria Amid Recession and Pandemic

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Timi Olubiyi Recession and Pandemic

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

The year 2020 has been fully eventful world over for governments, businesses, and livelihoods particularly with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which has continued to ravage the global economy leading to shocks and recession.

The COVID-19 recession is a major ongoing global economic crisis and many countries (advanced and emerging) have been impacted.

According to reliable data, leading economies like the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Russia, the US, and Japan as well as emerging economies, have all suffered a devastating economic decline which has left them recessed as a direct result of the pandemic.

However, the UK’s recession is by far the worst of any of the world’s major economies even though France and Germany are almost out of recession.

In comparison, the UK had a 20 per cent downturn in GDP throughout the first quarter which is the worst since records began in 1955.

Significantly, so far, the COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences more on the emerging economies, particularly African countries.

The World Bank predicted that overall sub-Saharan Africa’s economy would shrink by 2.1 per cent to ⁠5.1 per cent during 2020.

In the same vein, Nigeria’s economy has officially nosedived into a recession for the second time in the last five years. However, the impact has been visible even before the official pronouncement, with the increase in the inflationary levels and rise in food insecurity, including deficit in health care, education, among others in the country.

Unfortunately, these shortfalls are likely to surge concurrently with a spike in the prevalence rate of crimes and criminality, especially if measures are not drastically taken to forestall a reversal of the trend.

The recession might worsen the already alarming poverty and unemployment rates in the country and could lead to an economic depression if the attendant negative implications are not addressed with holistic government policies, spending, and economic stimulus packages.

Agreeably, a recessed economy comes with a contraction of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for at least two consecutive quarters and this was unavoidable because the Nigerian economy has been somewhat pressured from March 2020 as a result of the novel coronavirus and the attendant consequences particularly the lockdown and border closures.

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According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report, the first quarter of the year 2020 showed a slow-paced growth of 0.68 per cent as GDP contracted by 1.87 per cent when compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

However, the economy shrank in the second quarter of the year as the GDP fell by 6.10 per cent, compared with the growth of 1.87 per cent in Q1.

On Saturday, November 21, 2020, the NBS released the latest GDP numbers and it showed that the nation’s economy recorded a contraction of 3.62 per cent in the third quarter of 2020.

Despite the contraction witnessed so far in the year, commendation needs to go to the government for being able to close the contraction gap from 6.10 per cent to 3.62 per cent within just a quarter, it gives a glimmer of hope.

Even though the contraction and slide into recession was a long-awaited reality considering the quivering economy and the multi-impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which includes a significant downturn in consumer activity, food insecurity, low disposable income, weak consumer spending, inflation, high unemployment, a decline in crude oil demand and drop in price, shrinking government revenue, forex volatility, and the general lull in business and economy activities in the country among others.

Already, the COVID-19 pandemic is life-threatening and a huge health risk, however, the socio-economic impact has been devastating, with many workers facing job losses, job cuts, salary cuts, and redundancy.

This, coupled with the recession, it is evident that businesses, particularly SMEs, will struggle and many Nigerians will more than likely slip further below the poverty line as the majority are in the informal business sector.

In my view, negative GDP growths and decline in economic activities have been a global issue due to the pandemic, however, as a nation, the over-reliance on importation and its value chain has grossly contributed to the current realities in the country.

This portends a stiff climate for businesses, households, and livelihoods. However, the government can encourage consumer spending with policy responses and also stimulate investments particularly foreign direct investments and inflow of strategic funds for infrastructure investment and development to assist in the reversal of the trend.

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As a people, we must invest in capital expenditure expenses and strategic infrastructure to reflate the economy.

More so, to cushion the effect of the impact of the recession, harmonization of both fiscal and monetary policy is essential. The economic stimulatory measures targeted at taxpayers to save their businesses from collapse should be strengthened by the government.

Perhaps, the government might need to consider more pragmatic palliatives such as social and fiscal policy palliatives, concessions on import trades, duties, and port charges waiver to reduce the value chain disruption.

At this time, cutting taxes to increase and improve disposable income needs to be considered. From observation, most SMEs run their businesses on loan facilities and the current situation will impede on their capacity to service these loans effectively, so government intervention is required to forestall massive business shut down.

Key sectors like manufacturing, maritime, aviation, education, hospitality, financial services, and the creative industry, need target bail-outs, relief, and supports to stimulate the economy to avoid business closures and huge job losses.

Further to this, to assist and support these real sectors and businesses at this time, regulators and tax authorities can also come up with critical policy actions and economic palliatives to keep businesses in operation.

Point of note is that if these efforts are not rightly channelled, we might be heading for a long haul which might be depressing.

In fact, the headline inflation or (Consumer Price Index) was 13.71 per cent year-on-year as at the month of September 2020, according to data from the NBS, up from 12.20 per cent in February 2020 (It stood at 14.23 per cent in October 2020).

Food prices remain a major driver of inflation in Nigeria especially with the rise in the composite food index. Consequently, priority attention and adequate policy response by the CBN monetary policy committee is required to address and stem the growing inflationary trend.

Nigeria derives close to 85 per cent of her foreign revenue from crude oil exports according to data from the Federal Ministry of Finance.

As a result of the price shocks occasioned by COVID-19, crude oil receipts have gone down and are no longer able to sustain the economy. Therefore, a thorough expansion of the revenue base is crucial at this time.

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As a nation, we can leverage and emulate the United Arab Emirates which diversified their economy by reducing dependence on oil receipts from 100 per cent to only 35 per cent by considering investments and expansion of their non-oil sector- particularly service, tourism, real estate, and smart industries.

In Nigeria, some sectors can be considered to diversify our revenue base, they include – agriculture, transportation, information technology, and digital economy, If put in place it will reduce millions of dollars if not billions spent yearly on importing basic goods and food commodities that can grow locally.

Further attention should equally be given to our trade policy and SMEs which are the bloodline of most economies.

Trade policy refers largely to standards, goals, rules, and regulations that pertain to trade relations between countries. Basically, it governs international trade and encompasses imports, exports, tariffs, duties, etc.

Having and strengthening a strong trade policy will help create millions of jobs, grow local industries, and expand the economy.

In simple terms, it will help with the industrialization of the country and rejigging the economy in the long term. Though the ease of doing business initiative is essential, the rule of law and efficient legal and regulatory system is also required for simple contractual disputes to be resolved.

Investors, both local and international, will not likely consider investing in a country where simple contractual disputes take between 2 to 15 years to resolve.

In conclusion, the anti-corruption drive of the government needs to be stiffened, so that all social intervention, strategic plans, policies, and economic stimulus packages can be managed judicially. Good luck!

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?

Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration. He is a prolific investment coach, business engineer, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and a financial literacy specialist. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments.

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Christianity, Economics, Politics & Why Education Does not Work

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Education Does not Work

By Nneka Okumazie

There are at least two guarantees of most education – procedure and profile: a procedure that shows how to reach an outcome and a profile that shows that the procedure was passed. There are other possibilities with education, but many get through both destinations and park.

There are lots of places around the world, developed and developing, where people rail about education quality or inefficiency. But, maybe those aren’t the ways to look at education if procedure and profile are achieved.

Looking broadly at education – there are 3 Fs to consider: fiction, fusion and fission.

There are many things anyone can read, learn or be taught but not understand. There are things that are real that can be explained but would seem like fiction to many.

It is possible to explain how telecommunication works to anyone, but many may not get the concept of waves. It is possible to see rockets and explain the science to many but would be too complex to understand.

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There are lots of new technologies, advances that people can be told about and shown, but would remain as fiction to them.

There are people who learn many procedures, get the profile, but remains fiction to them.

Knowledge – in general, is fusion, information coming together to become a unit or adding new units to existing.

Procedures – are a fusion of stuff. Fusion is common, happens often and can be informal.

Fission is the hardest and rarest of education.

Though people have spikes of fission on some aspects of what they have learned at some point, splattering and effervescing of extraordinary magnitude is the origin of major paths of advances through time.

It is true that many advances take years with continuous tests and efforts, but the intellect of fission does much at any time in the process.

Thinking about one thing and having several spectrums of it – towards accuracy is the height of the result of learning that the world needs more of, but gets less and less of.

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Quality of education may guarantee some fission, quality of tutor, sources, or mentor may try, but sometimes, it is either innate or something electrifies at some point.

Intellect fission results in hyper passion, courage, etc. different from those possessing procedural education that have to passion – [positive or negative] or courage – [positive or negative].

There are people with passion against something who don’t know much, only swinging around procedural knowledge.

There are others too, with some courage to hate, for wickedness, greed, factionalism, etc. that have procedural education, but not intellect fission.

They may get information, but they are not the intellect of fission for progress.

So how is intellect fission achieved?

How is it possible to learn something and the immanent mind reams, flips and sprawls it towards what others cannot just see?

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Maybe focus on how fission intellect.

As progress has glided in the world, so have troubles.

There are solutions and answers needed that education of fission would have provided, or education to spark fission.

But because profile education or stage is in demand – there is less and less care for the education of fission.

Many positions are filled with people who have profiles, but unlikely to move anything forward.

Though some curiosity, observation, creativity, analysis, understanding, great memory and insights may be results of some fission – but just like rungs of a ladder, difference abounds per reach and height.

Criticism is mostly a procedure. Deceit is a procedure. Getting rich is mostly procedural as well.

There are many things that are procedures – input and output.

[Proverbs 20:13, Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.]

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Christianity, Government, Ideology, Dumbness & Politics

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Cambodia Tyrant

By Nneka Okumazie

Is falling for false information dumbness or a factor of human limitation? Assuming this, in the most difficult to verify situation suggests human limitation, there are limitless amounts of things that people fall for – signifying dumbness.

It is easy to get people provoked, happy, moody, emotional or whatever expression is desired, by characteristic twists or turns for those outcomes.

It is almost impossible to be smart all the time. It is rare to be smart most times, but it is possible to be dumb most times – with few flashes of smartness.

Dumbness is probably the nucleus of behaviour – with smartness as the shells. Dumbness pulls many but smartness takes work.

Dumbness sometimes is the default of thoughts, sight or other senses. If it appears or speaks like this, it means this; if it acts or moves like that, it is that – without question.

It is far easier to predict that people would be dumb than to predict they’ll be smart. Lots of irrationalities come from dumbness. Deception, though a popular tool, uses dumbness.

It is not often the smart or sensible paths that draw many, but the simple, or feels part. Something can feel so good to taste, smell, or other senses, but does not mean it is good for behaviour, health, etc. Many take the feel-good and damn the consequences.

Something may be so good at present, so easy, so advantageous, so acceptable, but does not mean it is good for the future. Some answers may seem so right, so appraisable but dumb, cheap and impractical.

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It is possible to have gone somewhere to get something at some point, but – would – years on, cause major problems for the people.

There is so much dumb thinking – so much outsourced thinking that turns out to be wrong.

One of the most common spots of dumbness is power. It is often assumed that people in powerful positions manoeuvre to get there and stay there, but predicting the behaviour of the powerful is quite easy because of how power drives dumbness because many assume that just being powerful means smart or better than others – it doesn’t. Ideology can take over power so dumbness can be the leader.

Do whatever you like as long as it does not affect anyone is another dumb statement that does not account for the possibility that private habits can be triggered externally depending on the situation, or say calculation – that assumes it is possible to get away with it, or not get away, but to do it regardless.

In science, evidence determines much. In justice, evidence matters a lot. But some justice failed because the evidence was not presented, or was countered, or ignored not because the crime was not committed. So the supremacy of evidence as the determinant of real true or false – isn’t that smart, it’s just the established rule.

Be careful what you think, or guard thy heart with diligence may seem odd to some, but the heart is the point of pull or plan for most wrongs. Thinking in certain ways is to have done it.

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Selfishness – or the best for one person or group, seems like what is preferred by most, but this classic dumbness becomes a loss, starting from the ones who think it’s of maximum benefit.

The present in all its hardship for many – is a matrix from the past, in how some took to selfishness, for the advantage of the day, to become the loss of the future for things linked to them.

The circuitousness continues.

There is the smart spectrum and there is the dumb spectrum. Some choose or it chooses them. There are those in the dumb spectrum that no knowledge, exposure or information does much to get them away from it. As a fact, as some get more exposed, their dumbness deepens.

Some people often feel others are smart while others feel others are dumb. Smartness or dumbness is not often determined by sides. Most times, dumb people throw dumbness to everyone else, as in the playbook of critics. Criticism – most of the way – is dumbness repackaged and responsibility defenestrated.

Understanding is relevant in how smartness navigates, but dumbness convolves into what many would choose.

Though technology was supposed to make smart, it powered mass social media that lets dumbness go wide. Most people hear, see or read there, they sometimes forget about it, but sometimes end up behaving in ways that express those actions – without tracing it back there.

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Also, most people say stuff as themselves, but often just channelling from that source or acting in ways that blend with what the source would like.

It is important to have internal strength, not just seeking always for the external, but to have this strength to wait a bit or a little, to process things through and properly, before going along the easy, one-way-think option available to all.

Though smartness is far better than dumbness and maybe should not be compared, but smartness at its best is limited. It is possible to be smart, using the information available and be wrong. So even at the peak of smartness, it should be understood that limitations abound.

God is a spirit.

This means God does not exist in the physical or cannot be seen, or instruments used to find distant physical object cannot be used to find heaven or see the Almighty God.

God ways, thoughts and judgement are different.

This means using statements like if God loves why to suffer – isn’t an expression of that understanding.

Genuine Christianity is what Christ wants, but many combine their Christianity with sin and all kinds of acts. Christianity as an ID is not answering the call to be truly born again.

Everyone can be right in their own eyes, but the Creator of the world, Jehovah Almighty knows all.

[Matthew 22:29, Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.]

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Encouraging Girls in Science to Bring Fresh Perspective to Problem-Solving

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Tolu Oyekan Inclusive Economic Recovery

By Tolu Oyekan

Over the years, the study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has increasingly gained grounds across the world.

Nigeria is not left out as many young people are becoming more interested in studying science subjects at secondary and tertiary levels of education.

This is no surprise as our world today is largely driven by technology. Technology encompasses practically every facet of our lives.  Life has become easier through the application of technology.

For instance, Information and communication technology (ICT) has proven to be invaluable as the world tries to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic challenges. The application of ICT tools kept people connected made essential services accessible and sustained businesses.

The 21st century brought about lots of scientific innovations which have propelled the need for students at different levels to become more proficient in the knowledge of STEM. Besides Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics; other STEM subjects include Actuarial Science, Statistics, Psychology, Robotics, Information Science, Atmospheric Sciences and Educational Research.

Experts have discovered that early exposure of students to STEM and technology-related subjects will help young people develop a passion for technological pursuits and eventually help them pursue a job in a STEM field.

Right now, the fastest-growing job categories are related to STEM with recent studies indicating new jobs in areas such as data analysis, software development and data visualization, virtual reality, artificial intelligence etc.

However, girls are highly under-represented in STEM and ICT classes; globally the percentage of young girls undertaking ICT courses range from 8.9% in Switzerland to 20.0% in the United States, except for India with 50.5%. What this means is that except this trend changes, women will remain under-represented in future workplaces.

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This year, the International Girls in ICT Day held on April 22 with the theme: ‘Connected Girls, Creating Brighter Futures’. On this day every year, stakeholders in the technology space and indeed all of us should seek opportunities to empower girls to develop digital skills so as to pursue careers enabled by technology.

As these young girls move on to take up various careers in the ICT sphere, they are faced with several challenges, particularly finding a perfect work-life balance. Conditions like pregnancy, breastfeeding and child care pitched against rigorous work hours put many women in disadvantaged positions. In many cases, childcare centres are not found close to places of work resulting in women working part-time or accepting lower-paying jobs to focus on their homes or quitting their career early.

There is also the glass ceiling issue affecting females in ICT such as gender biases during appointments, promotion and career improvement opportunities as well as harassment, biased evaluation by peers along familial responsibilities, which could cause increased stress.

There could be several factors that account for the under-representation of girls in STEM. One which is quite obvious, is the issue of the environment, culture as well as the emphasis on gender equality and encouragement of growth mindset. A report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that the learning environment and social belief system affect girls’ interest and achievements in STEM/ICT subjects.

Another study showed that in countries like Sweden and Iceland where gender parity prevails, girls perform better than boys on Math tests. On the other hand, girls from countries like Turkey where gender discrimination is greater don’t do well in math tests.

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Research also shows that majority of people view STEM fields as which should be ideally dominated by men; a view which still holds sway to this day. Society views women in science and engineering jobs as less competent than men unless they are exhibiting success tendencies.

No doubt, there are many women who are excelling in science and ICT-related fields.  Some examples of women excelling in ICT globally include Sheryl Kara Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org; Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet Inc and its subsidiary, Google and Ginni Rometty, Former Chairman, President and CEO of IBM, In Nigeria, worthy role models for girls are Funke Opeke, founder, Main One Technologies; Omobola Johnson, former Nigerian Minister for Communication Technology; Juliet Ehimuan, Country Manager Nigeria, Google; and Cherry Eromosele Group Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Interswitch, to name a few.

The beautiful thing is that girls definitely bring a fresh sense of perspective to problem-solving in the classrooms and workplaces as professionals. One of such ways is using her ‘voice’; by this, I don’t just mean talking. It is when a girl challenges the status quo, excels at her studies, contributes to making policies or suggests an idea that moves their schools or organisation towards a new course of action.

Some studies have shown that teams with women as leaders were more successful when facing tasks that are more mentally challenging and required complex problem-solving abilities.

But this good performance only showed if the women spoke up if the men believed that women were capable contributors, and if the team acted on the women’s suggestions.

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To ensure girls are more interested in STEM and ICT careers, women already in these fields should get more involved in the development of STEM policies that will favour and encourage girls to develop an interest in these subjects. These will include exposing girls to STEM fields, encouraging participation in STEM programmes, providing scholarships, as well as supporting learning opportunities in communities.

And men can be effective allies in gender equality conversations. They can start with listening to their female counterparts and taking their concerns seriously. Men in a position of authority can bring their influence to bear by amplifying women’s voices, educating other men against stereotype, credit women’s work and ideas fairly, advocate for policies that remove bias and advance equality. More importantly, men should show their support, at home, the workplace and in other social circles.

At Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the education and encouragement of girls to fit adequately into the future of jobs is a core aspect of our ‘Back to The Future’ agenda. Currently, there are more women in the BCG workforce in Lagos, than there are men. Working with this crop of brilliant women has brought interesting and insightful perspectives to problem-solving. So, I know first-hand that women bring a fresh perspective to problem-solving.

I hope that more girls will begin to have an affinity for STEM subjects and capacity will be built in ICT-based endeavours to gain new skills and enhance problem-solving.

Tolu Oyekan is a partner at BCG

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