At some point we would have to get back to work, maybe it’s next week or next few weeks, we would eventually have to return to work. And when we do, the pandemic will not be over.
I am aware we are taking the coronavirus issue seriously, but If there is one aspect of this pandemic I feel like most of us have not grasped, it is that the pandemic does not end when the lockdown is over.
The lockdown has slowed down the rate of infection. But when we get back to work, infections will rise. That is certain. And this lockdown will need to be done a few more times throughout the pandemic, until a vaccine or cure can be mass produced and distributed.
In Nigeria, our pandemic problem, which is a serious problem because of our poor health infrastructure, is now compounded by 3 issues.
Falling oil prices. (We can’t sell to make money)
Our inability to process our own oil. (We don’t have to consume)
Eroded foreign reserve. (We don’t have any savings)
It’s crazy. It is like being sick and broke at the same time. And this is not your typical broke, where you are expecting money soon. I mean piss poor. No money, and no hope of getting money.
So we don’t have the money to build an hospital in 3 days or mass produce drugs when we need it. What happens when we get back to work? We know there will be accelerated infection spread. And we know there is no vaccine coming till early next year at best.
Well, first world countries like the UK plan to put in place social restrictions for the remainder of the year 2020 (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-52389285), and that is just what is going to be moving forward. Everyone will get back to economic activities, but measures will be put in place to limit the spread of the virus. There will be restrictions and limitations. And here in lies new opportunities.
How do you help a pandemic world create a new normal? Because the old normal is gone.
Here are my top 10 business opportunities that will be created by the coronavirus pandemic, in Nigeria.
1. Local Tourism.
International travel will become a real pain. Most countries will put in place tough restrictions, no one wants visitors to come trigger another infection spread. The upper middle class who love to travel out just to relax will weigh their options. But they will need the options.
Those who have been promoting national tourism should rev up their promotions. There are exciting places to relax in this country. The amazing ladies at Visit Nigeria Now already do a great job showcasing the best of Nigeria, I would expect increased business as families look to have fun without being in crowds. I am pretty sure they offer packages for families and small groups.
2. Event Live Streaming service.
Since crowded spaces will still need to be avoided. It isn’t just churches that will be doing live streaming now. Weddings will have to be live streamed. Birthdays too, and corporate events. This is a service that is easy to setup and provide, just some initial investment required.
If you can do an Instagram live, you have most of the equipments you need. See this site for all you need to setup an event streaming service – https://www.epiphan.com/blog/live-streaming-events/ .
Since I am on this topic, there is a problem I anticipate. Since we have to avoid crowds and invite fewer people to our events, how do you choose who to invite to your wedding and who to send to the live stream? I foresee some major conflicts between brides-to-be and mother-in-laws. If you are the groom, your allegiances will be tested. Sorry.
3. Food Transportation and Logistic.
Did you know that over 50% of the tomatoes we produce go to waste? That is about 28.4 Billion Naira annually. Same could be said for Cassava, and if you are into reports, this one from Rockefeller Foundation and PwC are good reads. After all the reading, I wanted to find out if it was really that bad. So I gave a call to Ayoola Oluga, CEO, Agrecourse Integrated Services Limited, an Agriculture investment management company. Here is what he said.
It is sad. In developed countries, food waste comes from over-consumption, in Nigeria, it is simply because it can’t be transported. This is an area entrepreneurs can provide value, and people like @FoodJaar are already helping their customers take advantage of low-price, direct-from-farm produce.
4. Food Processing and Storage.
This is the other leg to the point above. There are lots of food that can be processed and stored. There is no reason why 900,000 tons of tomatoes should go to waste every year, when salt, sweetener, garlic and spices, is all we need to convert tomatoes into ketchup. It is so simple to process tomato, it is ridiculous.
Imagine what life would be like if we didn’t have our local method for processing cassava into garri? Same could be done for many other farm produce, and a lot of the machinery required can be sourced locally. You might not have an automated processing line, but you will process and you will make money. Thanks to now being broke, we can no longer afford to keep wasting food or importing non-essentials.
Speaking of which, everything along the agricultural value chain will be good business. So if you are into agric, can I be your friend? I do know how tech stuffs work 😉
5. Micropayment Solutions.
The coronavirus survives on paper from a few minutes to up to 24 hours. So an infected person could easily transmit infection by exchanging cash. While we can do cashless for most transactions, the plantain woman will give you the eye if you don’t show her cash and start speaking English. This is where Kenya is way ahead. Market women, and most of the informal economy use a cashless payment service called M-Pesa.
This is the time to have ours. We need financial solution for micropayments of 500 Naira and below. It has to be simple, no need for cards or bank accounts. Something anyone with a mobile phone can use.
6. Premium Branded, Normal Priced Clothing.
It is amazing that we don’t have our own fashion label that makes cloth for everyone. The few local fashion labels I know either focus on native wear or focus on upscale customers. I don’t know anyone doing mainstream stuff. No one is making jeans we can wear everyday, or shirts we can wear to work. But wait, I might be wrong. We already make them but we slap a foreign brand on top of them. So the opportunity here is actually a marketing opportunity. The opportunity to create a local brand that people will want to identify with. Why should I wear a Levi jeans when Chike jeans looks great and cool to wear.
Remember those middle class people that won’t be able to travel abroad, well how will they now do their annual summer shopping? There is a lot of opportunity here for those who are willing to look deeper.
7. Local Data Centres.
Why do we spend so much on data to watch Jenifa’s dairy or our favourite local content, when we could actually watch it for a fraction of the data cost? I am talking almost-free data cost. Well, that’s because Jenifa’s dairy is on a server located in United Kingdom. And why does it matter? Because what we call the internet is really just a bunch of connected cables. Yep. 420 cables running under sea, connecting countries across continents. As it is, we have only 5 cables connecting us to the outside world compared to 55 for the United States. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_international_submarine_communications_cables)
Anytime our internet service provider needs to transmit data over that cable they pay a fee to the owners of that cable. Glo owns one cable. MainOne owns one. MTN co-owns two, and Nitel/Ntel co-owns the fifth. If Jenifa’s dairy was put on a server in Lagos, you wouldn’t need to view it over that cable, you would watch it without buffering while paying a fraction of what you currently pay.
A lot of our local content sit on servers in North America and Europe. We don’t need more cables connecting us to the world, we need local content to be on local infrastructure, and this is what China has done. Based on the Quora answers here about internet speed in China, you can see that accessing Chinese content is blazing fast 50 – 100MBps, but international content is no-where as fast. That is local network infrastructure at work. I will explain later.
8. Infection Testing as a Service.
Everyone will need to get back to work and testing is certainly one measure that must be put in place. People who work in large companies will need to be tested, periodically. Imagine going to a company and saying you could offer to test employees every week for a small amount per week. It would be like a subscription service.
Those who have flu-like infections can be picked early and told to work from home. The test for flu virus will also apply to corona even if most of those with viral infections may not have coronavirus.
Organisations can share this cost between the business and the employees, but make no mistake, frequent testing will be a necessary measure to put in place, so you young folks don’t kill off the directors with your asymptomatic infections.
9. Communication Tools built on Local Infrastructure.
I remember while I was in University, there was this popular war strategy game called Age of Empires which I would play for hours with friend in other parts of the hall. We were all on our computers playing a multiplayer game without the internet. We all simply connect to a central local network and played a real-time multi-player strategy game without issues.
Same thing can be done on a national scale, and it is exactly what China has done. China created its own internet. Remember those under-sea cables I spoke about earlier, China has 15, but China can afford to restrict access to those cables without significant impact on their economy. As a matter of fact, it is what they already do. The world may be saying China has restricted access to the internet, but most of its citizens do not notice, much less complain.
That’s because everyone can still communicate with each other, video calls, chat and even emails work. As long as you are communicating with someone in China, it works fine.
For us, there is no reason why a call between someone in Lekki and another in Victoria Island, should be done by Zoom, when it can be done by a local app that wouldn’t need to route the service through a server in the United States.
We could wait for Zoom to setup a datacenter for their communication server here in Nigeria, or we could just build our own communication tools, and enjoy video calls at HD quality.
10. Insurance Brokerage Service.
What happens when everyone is afraid of getting sick? They look for insurance. Most of the Nigerian population is uninsured. Most of the workforce in the SME sector have no health insurance. This is a great time to start an insurance brokerage service business, if you are willing to target communities and trade associations. Insurance brokers simply help people find insurance cover and purchase insurance on behalf of their clients.
(Bonus) 11. Freelancer Platform.
These are uncertain times. Some businesses are closing, and some are downsizing. Which means there will be more professionals out there, who are out of jobs. It is a sad situation. Most professionals are aware of freelancer platforms like Upwork, but guess what, that would be filled with other out-of-work professionals from around the world. We are going to need our own local directory of professionals. A platform with this listing and the capability to facilitate digital collaboration, and more importantly support payments in Naira, will be very useful now.
These times are unprecedented, as a country, we will have to look inwards and to our neighbours to survive. Unfortunately, we have been great at neither of those things. The international community who we usually look up to for help, will not be able to save us this time, they have their own issues to deal with too.
Unlike in previous crisis, this one affects the entire world, so every country will have to learn to deal with their own problems. If there is ever a time for the African Union to gain relevance, this is it. Right now, the best form of support will come from neighbours. Africa has all the resources it needs to thrive, we should know this by now.
People are going to loose jobs, and again unlike before there is no international opportunity to pursue, since a lot more people over there have also lost their jobs. If you ask me, this is the time for everyone to pull whatever savings you have together into starting some small business or investing in one you believe in. Please remember to sign contracts and involve lawyers.
It is my sincere hope that this post has got your blood pumping and idea juices are flowing. If you have some related ideas, feel free to write to me or discuss it in the comments section below. Also let’s be generous and share this post. There are so many opportunities, but we are going to need each other.