COVID-19: Support for informal sector a priority, says Osinbajo

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Though Nigeria’s massive population constitute a challenge in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic, the advantage of being able to manage the issues in smaller measure through the states and to develop best practices has enabled authorities to reassess responses across sub-nationals and adjust where necessary.

Equally, providing support to small businesses in the informal sector should be a priority for all economies aiming at lessening any adverse effect of the pandemic on the economy.

These views were expressed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, on Wednesday at a virtual conference entitled “How Africa’s Informal Sector Reacts to COVID-19”, organized by Africa.com.

Besides the Vice President, others who spoke at the webinar were President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana; Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna; Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, Professor of Economics, Yale University; and Amandla Ooko-Ombaka, Senior Engagement Manager, McKinsey & Co.

Mr Hakeem Bello-Osagie, a Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer of Business Administration, and Teresa Clarke, CEO of Africa.com, moderated the discussions with participation by several thousand who signed in across the world.

According to Prof. Osinbajo “perhaps we have the advantage of being able to manage our problems in smaller measure, or by dividing them, of course, we run a federation, which means that Gov. Nasir could do some very excellent work there in Kaduna, Lagos could do some excellent work, Ogun state and others could also do some excellent work.

“But of course, by the very nature of this pandemic, it also means that you run the risk of everything going south if some state isn’t doing as well as it ought to.

“I think, in the end, we have that advantage that we are able to almost isolate responses, and even look at best practices across the various states and try and ramp up wherever we find that there are deficiencies.”

Speaking specifically about some of the measures that are currently being implemented to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the economy, the Vice President said “We have done a lot on conditional transfers especially within the context of our social investment policies, but we are now looking at how to possibly enlarge the scope of that and do more.

“We are looking beyond using cash transfers as if it were some incentive for staying at home. We are trying to see whether this can address some of the increasing problems of poverty that we are likely to find now given the disruptions in the economy.

“Aside from the lockdown, just the disruption in the economy has meant that the daily paid worker simply has no means of working and many laid off.”

Governor El-Rufai also spoke about the efforts of the Kaduna State government in containing the spread of the disease as well as mitigating the effect of some of the measures adopted by the government to check the spread.

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