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COVID-19: Forum calls for opportunities in Start-ups to save economy



Mrs Hauwa Yabani, Chief Executive Officer, Abuja Technology Village, has called for the evaluation and optimization of start-ups in line with the post-COVID-19 realities.

Yabani made the call at an online news briefing of the World Business Angels Forum (WBAF) on Wednesday in Lagos.

The theme of the conference is: “Pandemic Impact on Women Entrepreneurship.

Yabani, who is also Nigeria’s ambassador at WBAF, said: “While times remain tough for start-ups, the crisis have created opportunities for evaluation and optimisation of the post-COVID-19 reality.

“Start-ups that are resilient, repositioning technology as a major enabler, and participating in various capacity building programmes are increasing their chances not only of survival but also of attaining sustainable growth.

“Start-ups in some sectors such as the health sector, logistics and other essential services have seen spikes in the demand for their products or services.

“We have struggled to meet this demand due to the corresponding funding requirements which are not readily accessible.

“It is not surprising that some start-ups have had to fold up while others are grappling with appreciating the importance of digital literacy, establishing online presence to retain or gain new customers, and utilising the various emerging transaction channels,”she said.

According to her, Nigeria, like other countries, is facing enormous challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on all sectors of the economy.

“With an economy that is highly dependent on global crude oil demand for foreign exchange and government revenue, the crash in crude oil prices has devastated public finances, further exacerbating the situation.

“The resort to state-wide lockdowns to control the spread of the virus has led to a major slowdown of economic activities.

“The fragility of the health system has been exposed and employers are actively pursuing cost-cutting measures, including reducing remuneration and laying off staff.

“While the public isolation centres for COVID-19 positive patients are yet to be overwhelmed with a relatively low level of fatalities recorded thus far relative to the population, the same cannot be said on the situation of the economy, “she said.

Yabani said that in response to these challenges, President Muhammadu Buhari had constituted an Economic Sustainability Committee (ESC) to develop a concrete plan of action to address the impending economic crisis.

“The committee has put forward several recommendations including fiscal and monetary measures such as tax reliefs for start-ups and, loans for micro, small and medium sized businesses (from the Central Bank of Nigeria).

“Many private sector organisations have also made significant contributions in response to the crises.

“The general expectation in Nigeria is that the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually wither, as the Ebola, Zika, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) viruses have in recent years.

“However, the socio-economic impact on the economy, especially on the start-up ecosystem, will remain for long after especially for those that fail to adapt to the new normal. It is a time for optimistic pragmatism,” she said.

Also speaking, the Executive Chairman of WBAF, Mr Baybars Altuntas, said that there were expectations from governments as a response to COVID-19 and urged them to develop smart policies to convert cities to smart cities, ease access to the internet.

“We believe that COVID-19 demands that every municipality or government must consider converting their cities to smart cities.

“City authorities can make the data gathered from their own monitoring systems available on an open-source platform. Municipal and private companies could then analyse the data.

“Facial scanning for body temperature, but without revealing identity, could improve infection control at railway stations, airports, and at events where many people come together, such as concerts, he said.

Altuntas said that governments also needed to develop better bandwidths for faster internet connections, ease access to healthcare and financial services.

“Governments must invest in the digital infrastructure of their communities such as internet speed, Fintech, healthcare and smart cities as a response toCOVID-19.

“These all will lead to a better digital transformation of communities, better healthcare systems, more financial inclusion and more equal opportunities in education,”Altuntas added

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that WBAF is an affiliated partner of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI).

The organisation committed to collaborating globally to empower the economic development of the world by fostering innovative financial instruments for start-ups, scaleups, innovators, entrepreneurs and SMEs.

It also aims at promoting gender equality and women’s participation in all sectors of the world economy.

Edited By: Wale Ojetimi
Source: NAN

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