By Gregory Kronsten
The international media have picked up on the theme that Africa has done all right in the fight against COVID-19.
This is understandable in terms of the number of cases and deaths: 1.3 million cases out of 35.8 million globally and 37,000 deaths out of 1.0 million globally according to the EU’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. As many as 680,000 cases and 17,000 deaths have been reported from just one country (South Africa).
We hear the rejoinder that the data are suspect and that the number of cases for Africa appears low because the scale of testing has been relatively low. The release of data has been fiercely contested in advanced economies due to different methodologies. The point about testing is more valid.
In the past month airports, schools, restaurants and places of worship have been reopened in many African countries. We can say that Africa has done all right if it is not subjected to a second wave (as much of Europe has).
Public resources were already stretched before the emergence of COVID-19 and have been hit since by the fall in tax revenue across the continent. Governments have not been able to throw money at the problem as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states have done. However, they entered the crisis with some transferable expertise from combating Ebola in West Africa and in eradicating polio.
That said, the economies have taken a hammering from COVID-19. Taxes on spending, income and commodities have all plummeted. The support from multilateral agencies, led by the IMF’s conditionality-free facilities to tackle external shocks such as COVID-19, has not been adequate to cover the gap. The result is that worthwhile infrastructure projects, which are one of several proven routes out of underdevelopment, have often been deferred.
With a few exceptions such as gold, commodity prices are far lower than they were pre-COVID. Tourism, particularly at the high end, is vulnerable to changing trends. Expensive holidays in, for example, Namibia, Rwanda and Mauritius have become much harder to sell. We are talking carbon footprint as well as COVID-related fears.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows are expected to decline by between 20 and 40 per cent this year according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
For remittances, the World Bank anticipated a fall of 20 per cent for emerging and frontier markets in March. In this uncertainty, these are brave forecasts but the multilaterals are expected to make them. Q2 2020 data for Nigeria show remittances down by over 30 per cent year-on-year although the picture is much better in Kenya.
For foreign portfolio investors, there was initially a huge exit from all emerging markets, put at US$90bn in March alone. This is the estimate of the independent Institute of International Finance in Washington, which thinks that about half has been recouped.
There are some obvious winners in terms of industries for Africa as elsewhere. Payment platforms, mobile operators and e-sales in general spring to mind, and we should mention the opportunities for offshoring as multinationals identify the savings from moving back-office functions to new and cheaper jurisdictions. Sadly, there are losers too, horticulture in Kenya being one of many.
We will feel more comfortable if Africa avoids a major second wave. The youth of the population may prove critical in this respect. The economic damage has been huge, however, and the resources to drive recovery are limited.
This is the time for the settling of differences between states and the pushing of bold reforms. Where better to start than a grand project about which we have had many doubts, the African Continental Free Trade Area which is scheduled to become operational soon?.
Gregory Kronsten is the Head of Macroeconomic and Fixed Income Research at FBNQuest
Stanbic IBTC Pushes for Innovative Financing Solutions for Healthcare
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The healthcare industry in Nigeria can compete with others in advanced countries if stakeholders work together to create innovative financing solutions.
The Head of Specialised Sectors at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Ms Jane Ike-Okoli, said the market is big enough to attract more investors.
A few days ago, Business Post reported that a global research firm, Agusto & Co, projected that an increased foreign interest would drive growth in Nigeria’s healthcare system, especially through the acquisition and establishment of health facilities in the medium term, helping to bridge the healthcare infrastructure deficit estimated at $82 million.
For Ms Ike-Okoli, this goal can be achieved as Nigeria is Africa’s largest healthcare market. She said the country only needs an effective collaboration among stakeholders to boost the sector.
Speaking during the panel session at the Medic West Africa Conference, Ms Ike-Okoli argued that effective collaboration between the financial industry and healthcare organisations was key to advancing Nigeria’s health sector.
She also mentioned that the sector is yearning for innovative financing solutions to address the nuances of lending to healthcare businesses.
“Nigeria is Africa’s largest healthcare market, and despite this, we have inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which gives rise to weakened health systems.
“It is in response to this that Stanbic IBTC has decided to partner with key players in the healthcare sector to improve access to healthcare finance and provide robust yet flexible funding options for healthcare businesses and providers.
“Our healthcare solutions are tailor-made for players in the sector who need working capital to expand healthcare operations, acquire medical equipment, facilitate medical research, and grow their healthcare businesses.
“One of such solutions is the recently launched unsecured short-term loan with a 12-month tenor, which is aimed at directly supporting providers with funds to improve their offerings and, by extension, grow the healthcare sector in Nigeria,” she stated.
Other panellists featured at the event included Dr Folabi Ogunlesi, Managing Partner Vesta Healthcare; Dr Idorenyin Oladiran, Medical Consultant, Human Resources, MTN Nigeria; Dr Leke Oshunniyi, CEO, Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN) and Professor Akin Abayomi, Commissioner of Health, Lagos State.
Pharmaceutical Company Introduces Affordable Blood Tonic for Nigerians
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The harsh economy in Nigeria caused by high prices of items amid low purchasing power has made it difficult for Nigerians to afford the basic needs of life, especially drugs to replenish their body system.
As a result, the rate of suicide triggered by depression and others has increased. Also, the number of people falling sick in the country has skyrocketed.
But things may soon change for the better as a pharmaceutical firm, Sterling Biopharma Limited, has introduced a new product called Fejeron Blood Tonic into the Nigerian market to support the country’s about 66.8 per cent economically active population.
Fejeron Blood Tonic contains iron, Vitamin B12 and folic acid, all essential components that help to facilitate adequate blood supply and replenishment to the body with vital vitamins while enabling a strong immune system.
“Fejeron Blood Tonic is the latest proof of our commitment to this mission. Despite its premium quality, Fejeron, at the moment, is one of the most affordable blood tonics you will find in the Nigerian pharma market, and this is deliberate. All Nigerians should be able to take care of themselves,” the chief operating officer of Sterling Biopharma, Mr Adebayo Adepoju, said at the unveiling of the product in Lagos on Thursday, September 15.
He said the drug was formulated due to the nature of stress and fatigue that Nigerians encounter daily, which requires that their physical and mental well-being is well supported to function at its best.
“At Sterling Biopharma, we believe that everyone deserves to be able to buy simple prescription drugs without breaking the bank. This is why from the moment we entered the Nigerian market. With our wide range of products, we have made our intentions clear, and that is to make quality pharmaceutical products affordable for all Nigerians,” he stated.
Since its market introduction, Fejeron has quickly become one of the well-sought-after new brands in the pharmaceutical category. The Product Manager, Olumide Ogunremi, linked the warm embrace of the product to its quality and appeal to the needs of Nigerians.
“The quick acceptance of Fejeron Blood Tonic in Nigeria is not surprising. The enthusiasm to try out the product and the return purchases across the biggest pharmaceutical markets in Nigeria validate the quality of the product and timeliness of its emergence.”
On what makes Fejeron Blood Tonic unique, Mr Ogunremi promised that both the young and old would love the taste of Fejeron, adding that extra effort has also been put into ensuring that the product has fewer chances of causing common side effects like metallic after-taste, staining of the teeth; constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and others.
Agusto Foresees More Foreign Investments in Nigeria’s Healthcare System
By Adedapo Adesanya
Global research firm, Agusto & Co, has forecast that an increased foreign interest will drive growth in Nigeria’s healthcare system, especially through the acquisition and establishment of health facilities in the medium term.
Agusto said in a report that these foreign investments would help the country bridge the healthcare infrastructure deficit estimated at $82 million.
According to data, Nigeria is largely underfunded in terms of its health system and, as a result, is faced with a significant infrastructure gap.
The industry is currently challenged by outbound medical tourism, deteriorating medical infrastructure, low government budget allocation, and poor compensation for public healthcare workers, all of which have prompted many skilled medical practitioners to relocate overseas in search of better employment opportunities.
In addition, brain drain is also contributing to this as approximately 2,000 doctors leave the country each year, and at least 266 Nigerian doctors were licensed in the United Kingdom between June and July 2022, according to the National Medical Association (NMA).
Nigeria has also not been playing its part, with the health sector receiving only about 4 per cent (N546.98 billion) and 5 per cent (N724.6 billion) of the total budgetary allocation in Nigeria’s 2021 and 2022 budgets. This undershoots the 15 per cent expected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and African Union (AU).
Agusto noted that the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020 saw an increase in diagnostic facilities and, albeit insufficiently, an increase in public investments in the health sector with efforts from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Despite this, there remains more to be done, especially with the country’s large population facing a high burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, resulting in many people constantly seeking treatment.
Foreign investors have found the Nigerian healthcare system to be an attractive investment opportunity, and in 2021, the healthcare industry attracted around $2.3 million in foreign direct investments (FDI).
For instance, in February 2021, Evercare Group, through its emerging market health fund, established Evercare Hospital Lekki, a 165-bed multispecialty tertiary care facility.
Agusto predicts that the industry’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) will reach N480.6 billion by 2022 from N470.5 billion, based on the country’s high birth rate and the spread of communicable diseases as well as other common ailments such as malaria and respiratory tract infection.
It also expects that a lower rate of outbound medical tourism, as a result of the naira’s continued depreciation, will boost the industry’s contribution to GDP in the medium term.
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