The Covid-19 pandemic has been a monumental disaster for all the nations on the planet. In Africa, the economic effects of the pandemic are substantially more serious, compared to other parts of the world, due to endemic poverty that has existed in many economies on the continent long before the coronavirus disease outbreak.
Globally, the pandemic has created simultaneous supply and demand shocks. China, the world’s manufacturing hub, is where the novel coronavirus was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in the country’s Hubei province. The lockdown that was put in place in China and subsequently in other countries to reduce the spread of Covid-19 infections has caused massive disruptions in global supply chains.
The fallout of this has been mass unemployment. Consumers and companies’ ability to spend has been massively decimated. The future economic outlook is fogged by uncertainty. Added to the demand and supply shocks has been the global stock markets rout, particularly emerging markets stocks. Indeed, the scale of the current economic downturn is the worst since the Great Depression, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Nigeria and other nations in Africa must be creative in planning their recovery in the aftermath of this pandemic. This is not the time to simply copy what the Western economies are doing. The African Union (AU) estimates that, under its “realistic scenario,” Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) will shrink by 0.8 per cent in 2020, while contracting by 1.1 per cent under a “pessimistic scenario.” The AU projects that Covid-19 will result in 20 million job losses across the continent.
The Nigerian economy, which was already experiencing weak growth before the pandemic, certainly requires urgent and coordinated responses if the country must avoid a prolonged recession that will wreak more havoc not just on the economy but also on social cohesion. So, the question then becomes: What are the strategies and areas that businesses and governments in Nigeria need to focus on to regenerate the economy and exploit the new opportunities this unfortunate pandemic has collaterally created?
Despite the rising economic and human toll caused by Covid-19 and the lockdown, I believe there is some green shoots of hope for the Nigerian economy post-Covid, if citizens are quick to identify business opportunities around the 25 themes I have outlined below after the pandemic has ended.
The key post-Covid business and economic trends I believe will emerge are as follows:
1. Buying Stocks of Companies in Relevant Sectors
Certain sectors, particularly travel and leisure, have been badly hit by the pandemic. This has made the stocks of companies in those sectors a lot cheaper than they were a few months ago. Investing in some of these stocks at the current low value could turn in appreciable gains in the months and years ahead. This may be a good opportunity to own shares in specific companies that were otherwise unaffordable until now. So, look for these cheap stocks and grab a bargain.
2. More Remote or Home Working Will Lead to Less Demand for Office Spaces
The post-Covid economy will involve a massive increase in remote working. This will especially be the case in Lagos and Abuja where some companies would have seen the effectiveness of their staff working from home. With more people working from home, it will reduce the many hours of daily commute. I am forecasting a resultant reduction in the need for large office spaces by companies. Some companies can even become office-less. This will enable businesses to save on office rental costs, while getting more productivity from staff who will not have to deal with long hours in traffic journeying between home and the office.
People can also get into businesses that help companies plan and execute remote working as a form of business process transformation.
3. Greater Use of Automation in Industries
The Covid-19 lockdown has shown companies what can happen to businesses that are wholly dependent on humans to function. After the pandemic, I predict there will be more drive towards automation of business processes and activities as a future business continuity and survival strategy. As a result, companies in the business automation trade will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.
4. Greater Need for Technologically-Skilled Workers
With increase in remote working and business automation, there will come a higher need for a better-skilled workforce. So, acquiring the relevant skills and competencies will put you in high demand in the business environment of the future. It is time to move away from the era of analogue into digital.
5. Greater Need for Portable Hardware and Devices
As businesses increase their agility and remote working, the need for the hardware and devices to make that model succeed will surge. Hence, there will be an increase in demands for laptops, tablets and other mobile devices. Businesses that sell these devices and accessories will see increased demand in the post-Covid era.
6. Demand for Applications That Enable Remote Working, Conferencing and Remote Learning Platforms
There will be increased demand for secure applications to enable and support remote working, conferencing and remote learning in the post-Covid economy. If you are an applications developer in Nigeria, you may be about to experience a boom in business. This is particularly pertinent because almost all platforms in existence (such as Zoom, Skype, Team, etc) are Western in origin. Using local alternatives will be more affordable and easier to support locally.
7. Increase in Small Unit Travels and Holidays Rather Than Large Group
Holidays The Nigerian overseas holiday industry has been growing over the past few years. But I foresee a reduction in demand for packaged group holidays as I believe social distancing will remain a recommended practice for some time to forestall new waves of coronavirus. However, I also foresee a boom in individual holiday trips as well as packaged trips for very small groups (immediate family members only), as opposed to the pre-Covid large group travels. Travel companies may need to change their business models to reflect this reality if they are to grow in the postCovid era.
8. Greater Demand for Personal Protection Equipment and Cleaning Products
Pandemics can take years to eradicate. As a result, I believe there will be high demand for personal protection equipment for the foreseeable future. Producing equipment such as face masks, gloves, sanitisers and cleaning products generally for individuals and medical establishments will be a good business to contemplate in the post-Covid era.
9. Tax and Income Planning Consultancy
Broke governments in Nigeria and all over the world will become more emboldened and aggressive with taxation and other revenue collection drives to keep afloat. This means tax consultants will be in high demand for years to come.
10. Increase in Covid-related Legal Disputes
Lawsuits and legal disputes after the lockdown will increase the workload of lawyers. There will be complaints and lawsuits aimed at addressing the many disruptions to contracts, relationships and partnerships caused by the pandemic. It will be a good time to be corporate and family lawyers.
11. Spike in Demand for Hospital and Medical Services
Many people would have suppressed minor medical conditions during the lockdown for fear of catching Covid-19 in hospitals or in order to avoid overloading the heath system. After the lockdown, they will need to address their various medical challenges. This will be a boon for hospitals and related services.
12. Increase in Funding for Immunological and Medical Research Governments, pharmaceutical companies and other businesses are expected to be more generous with funding research that will make the world better prepared for future infectious disease outbreaks. Researchers in these fields will be happy with increased funding and donations.
13. Boom in Baby Products and Services
I am projecting increases in demand for baby products and services as the lockdown will inevitably lead to more pregnancies and babies born later this year and early next year. Nigeria, which already has a high birth rate, will experience a spike in number of children born in the immediate future. Makers of maternal and children products, from clothes to toys, will experience increases in business.
14. Boom in Raw Food Retailing
The lockdown would have forced a lot more people to cook food at home. Coupled with the need to eat healthy, many people will want to continue eating home-cooked meals, thereby maintaining a high demand for food products at supermarkets and grocery stores. This will also have collateral positive impact on farming businesses.
15. Online Retailing
Online shopping that experienced a boom during the lockdown will continue to grow post-Covid. The continued need for social distancing may sustain the need for online shopping, boosting the e-commerce sector.
16. Online Learning and Education Delivery
There will be increase in the number of organisations providing remote education and training. Many educational institutions were being forced to modernise and digitise their teachings even before the lockdown. These massive investments will not just be put aside after Covid-19. The pandemic would have helped to promote more online training, teaching, skill acquisition and education in general.
17. IT Security Consultancy
Information technology and web security practitioners will be in high demand as more businesses move online and automate. The demand for such professionals would increase to keep hackers and security breaches at bay.
18. Mental and Emotional Health Experts
Mental health professionals will also be in high demand as some people would be negatively affected emotionally and mentally by weeks, if not months, of isolation and social distancing. Depression and emotional difficulties would have increased. Experts in these areas will also be in demand post-Covid.
19. Career Planning and Life Coaching Businesses
Career planning and life coaching will also be an area of business that will be revived post-Covid. With millions of people out of job and the changing nature of work, there will be lots of people who need career advice and life coaching to help redirect the focus of their lives. This will also include mentoring services.
20. Business Consulting Services
Business marketing and consulting will be on the increase post-Covid. Millions of people will be starting their own businesses either out of necessity or as new opportunities emerge. This could lead to a spike in demand for marketing and general business consulting services.
21. Virtual Entertainment Events and Activities
From virtual night clubs to online casinos and other online spaces; Covid-19 has created new momentum for online engagements across the world. This will only increase even after the pandemic.
22. Vitamins and Supplements Businesses
I am predicting a boom in vitamins, herbal medicine and supplements usage as many people try to boost their immune system to stay healthy and protect themselves against infections from future outbreaks. The sales of vitamins and supplements have been growing in Nigeria even before the outbreak.
23. Specialist Cleaners
Demand for specialist cleaning services will be on the rise for the foreseeable future as more organisations and governments will require decontamination and disinfestation of locations and offices.
Some office cleaning materials
24. Party and Event Planning
There will be an immediate boom in party and event planning, catering and related businesses after the pandemic. After months of no social activities, many people will be eager to kick-start social activities.
25. Relationship and Counselling Services
These services will be needed by many couples to mend relationships that weeks or months of lockdown could have strained. The stay-at-home orders would have caused all manner of problems for relationships that were barely getting by before the lockdown.
Covid-19 can potentially change the Nigerian economy for the better. The likely trends identified above will improve efficiency and productivity of the workforce, potentially reduce the cost of doing business in the long-term and boost economic growth in the country.