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COVID-19: How entrepreneurship saved lives amid a pandemic

Like health workers, medical experts, government officials and security operatives who are spearheading the fight against the global coronavirus pandemic, the impact of entrepreneurs who push to sustain the lives of many cannot be undermined.

Nigeria, recording over 7000 cases of the coronavirus disease, is predicted to go into recession if it comes out of the crisis soon.

Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, says the economy will head into a recession in 2020, projecting that the extent of the recession can be mitigated if the economic stimulus plans are implemented.

Recently, the President and affected states’ Governors, have ordered various lockdown measures to contain the virus. These measures have had commensurate effects on transportation, social gatherings, businesses and organisations not involved in the production of delivery of essential goods.

However, observation has shown that as the pandemic worsened, entrepreneurs and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises devoted to their skills and local investment towards creating alternatives for residents to survive amid the pandemic.

These alternatives have been centred on preserving public health and educating residents during this period. So far, they have involved the buying and selling of food items, transactions of funds, the creation of the alternate Ankara face mask, movement of properties, sale of educational materials, webinar programmes and chat rooms for skill acquisition and development.

Sale of Food Items 

Before the inception of the pandemic, the country relied on the importation of goods and local agricultural produce as the primary means of feeding citizens. Although, President Buhari, in October, ordered the closure of its borders to curtail the smuggling activities of goods into the country. Sequel to this, some food production and processing firms have attributed their successful expansion to the closure, thus, giving rise to local investments in agriculture and cultivation.

The lockdown further exposed alternative opportunities to farmers, traders and local dwellers on how to sell agricultural goods.

One Mrs Alaba, who sells the local food called ‘fufu’ said: “Although transport fare is on the high side, I still get my share of grounded cassava to make ‘fufu’ and sell for people.”

Another woman identified as Mrs Esther, a food vendor, said: “Sales have not been really impressive but, I sell local rice and beans for people. I have to pack it every day so they can eat it and that’s why residents still enjoy my meal. At least I still make my sales and get my products from farmers.”

Transaction of Funds

The lockdown measures also closed down the banking sector in the country for a period of time. Nonetheless, residents could still pay bills, send and receive money, without going to the bank, through the Point of Sale (POS) transactions and Quick Money transaction outlets established by some banks.

One Mr Tunde said: “I send and give money to people on a daily basis with charges from 200-500 depending on how much you want to receive or send. I still have interactions with the banks despite the lockdown to the withdraw some cash to help in my daily transaction.”

Ankara Face Mask 

As part of the preventive measures against COVID-19, the federal and state governments issued a mandatory face mask law for people moving around.

This move created an idea for tailors and designers to alternative cloth-nose masks, Ankara Mask. This Ankara mask is carefully knitted to cover both the nose and mouth with its elastic bands attached by the side. The advantage of this mask is the affordability and durability.

One Mrs Alake said: “I am a fashion designer and since the lockdown would not allow me to go down to the shop, I decided to work from home. Then, I realized the rapid increase in selling in nose mask and the idea came to make one with a cloth. Days later, I had noticed everyone with the same idea selling Ankara mask and I decided to toll the same line since I could also do it. Getting material was not an issue for me.”

Movement of Properties 

Upon its relaxation, the President announced the allowance of movement, partially, between 9 am and 6 pm. This announcement followed the reopening of some business as instructed by the state.

According to the schedule announced by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, all non-food related businesses are to open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm while food-related businesses are allowed to run on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, between 8 am and 6 pm.

Nonetheless, dispatch and contract riders have aided the transportation of products to unit destinations.

One Mr Segun said: “Since people are not allowed to move around, we get calls to help send, receive and deliver their products. Some people reach us via our various applications while the locals contact us on phones to pick up their products.”

Webinar and chat rooms 

Observation showed that while many stuck to consistent production and sale of goods, others organised primary developmental and masterclasses online for interested persons willing to learn certain skills or transact trade. These teachings are done on various online platforms including Whatsapp, Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter among others.

Just as Nigerian employers are fighting to keep staff on their payrolls amid the financial pain inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of no doubt that entrepreneurship has, through several adopted alternatives, contributed to the survival of many during this pandemic.

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