Your Finance and You During a Pandemic

Bekeme Masade-Olowola (Host):    Hello everyone! How are you doing today? This is Bekeme and you are listening to the Good Citizen Radio Show. The Show as you know it is brought to you by CSR-in-Action. CSR-in-Action is everything to everyone but basically we are concerned about collective social responsibility and work with businesses and different institutions to drive good corporate governance, whether it is through consulting or advocacy. We bring you the Good Citizen Radio show because we believe that everyone of us is a leader and this is the vision that is supported by Aspire Coronation Trust (ACT) Foundation which is a grant making organisation established in 2016 to support local, regional, and national non-profit organisations working to address the various national challenges across the African continent. How are you all doing today? I hope you are feeling good and encouraged.

             I know its not been easy, especially during this COVID-19 era and I know that we have said that it hasn’t been bad in this part of the world, thankfully, but it still has had seriously dire consequences and as our show last week referenced, we still haven’t reached the peak talk more of entering the second phase of the infections and so you know people need to be very careful because many people are dying and it doesn’t seem like we have been reporting everybody that is dying because how do you explain Kano who once had about a hundred and fifty people dying in a couple of days and now what is it being reported is the odd two or three persons dying in Kano, what does that mean? It means that no testing is being done or inadequate testing is being done and there has been a lot of hiding and concealing of information from different governments and so we don’t really know the action on this but we do hear that people are dying so its still very bad and people have to be careful.

            We know that people must survive this period and so we are talking about something that is very critical across the different WhatsApp groups that I am among. People are discussing how they can either make money in the first instance or find alternative sources of income during this period. So we are talking about Your Finance and You During a Pandemic and as I have said before, most of us have never been through a pandemic before, so, we don’t know what happens after a pandemic and we don’t know what it feels like. I just know that we just have to do something because we can’t just sit and look and before I forget, I just remembered reading a writeup by Richard Quest and he was saying that he contracted COVID-19 symptoms but which eventually went away, but it does seem like his body hasn’t actually gotten over it, so he is still bumping things over, his body doesn’t feel right, he still feels fatigued even though his doctor has assured him that he doesn’t have COVID-19 anymore and that he has developed the antibodies to it but it just doesn’t feel right and this is why I keep on saying to people that usually says ‘if I get it nothing will happen to me’, you don’t know what it is like. You know what they say about viral infection – it never really goes away and your body and medication just actually manage them, so its better not to contract it if you can avoid it.

Back to our topic, ‘Your Finance and You During a Pandemic’, we all agree that times of crisis can bring uncertainties for many reasons and this current coronavirus pandemic is no exception. The National Bureau of Statistics actually states that over 42 percent of Nigerian workers lost their jobs as a result of the impact of COVID-19, which has also diminished the incomes of 79 percent of households in Nigeria. This is a country that is already being touted as being one of the poorest, at least its people with a low GDP and now we are saying 79 percent now has diminished income. So,  whether you have experienced a change in your financial situation because of layoff or reduced hours or wages or through increased medical expenses,  it is important to take stock of where you are and ensure your financial success now and in the future, because money is going to be tight right now, which makes budgeting even more important than ever. If you are one of those who didn’t have a budget around things, now is a good time to create one. I have a budget around food and if that makes me facinorous, then so be it but I have a budget around food. I tell myself this is what I would spend in the entire month for food and once I have surpassed it,  I would make do with whatever else is left. I am not putting myself under pressure to do whatever I am not supposed to do. It is the same with clothes and eating out – anything that you need to cut back on, now is the time to do so. If you do have a budget, now is the time to revisit it even though your job has been retained. Are there ways you can cut down? You don’t know what’s happening next, it might get worse or better, so you need to be more careful. Knowing where to go for help, what to ask, and how to document your situation is key to successfully managing your finances and recovering once the crisis is over.

One of the silver linings of self-isolation and not being able to go out to bars and all of that is that we likely won’t spend a lot of money, so that’s good news. But with reduced income, many of us will need to make cutbacks. So I suggest that you review each item of your plan and then take out the non-necessities that you need to cut out. You need to focus on paying your necessities first, and anything else later. Once you have identified resources you need to acquire, then you need to evaluate your budget and create a priority-based spending plan. Just make a realistic list of your expenses, prioritizing what you must have and leave the rest in order that you are able to save up more because you don’t know what might happen next. I am not wishing you bad luck, it is not your portion but wisdom is your portion too. So if you are one of the lucky few that haven’t had your cash flow reduced in anyway, still do it.

And as the government have begun putting in place measures to help Nigerians cope with loss of income and other stressors, you do realise that the COVID-19 pandemic has also created a perfect storm for scammers seeking to defraud panicked, isolated, and emotionally vulnerable targets. These people are looking for people who even want palliatives and are looking for food. For example, scammers will seek banking information and try to trick victims to transfer upfront payments by claiming a small fee is needed to process a COVID-19 palliative. Imagine that somebody is actually hungry, and you are taking the little left with them and then when they kill themselves how do these people feel? And when they find out they even insult you. But you need to protect yourself and be very careful. Don’t click on any link, don’t be too anxious, and don’t fall prey to one of those people. Endeavour to confirm that the information is coming from a verified source. 

It is important that we continue to look at the things we can do to help put ourselves on stable financial footing – because none of us know how much longer this new normal will last. So, from basic budgeting to handling debt, to making investment decisions during turbulent markets and maximizing your tax savings, we have to plan as planning is key this period.

We have the right person to help us break this down further on the show. I will call him a friend as he is a friend of the house. He is part of the Good Citizen think tank WhatsApp group – as I like to call it. He is an Investment and Project Finance professional. He is a VC and Partner at LoftyInc Capital Management. He has worked with big finance multinationals and he is also an entrepreneur and a committed contributor to many social impact initiatives. So please join me in welcoming Oluseye Bassir to the Good Citizen Radio Show. Thank you so much for coming on the Show, Seye.

Guest: Thank you for having me on the programme and it is a delight for me to be here, joining you and your fantastic audience. Good evening Lagos.

Host:    You are welcome, Seye. Okay. So, we are going to go right into it as we never have enough time on this show. So tell us, are there really opportunities for businesses during these times, when globally businesses are shutting down? If so, what are the available opportunities for individuals and businesses to survive at a time like this?

Guest:  Thanks, that’s a good question. Yes, there will continue to be opportunities for businesses and for individuals in this current times so one of the first things we need to do is to recognise the scale and seriousness of the problem. So we have a global pandemic that is raging and has the potential to infect and kill millions of people, now though that hasn’t happened in Lagos so far, and it doesn’t seem likely to happen. Nevertheless, it is within the range of possibilities that we can have that scale of a problem. Now when you have a disease that is that infectious and that deadly, it forces people to change their behaviours. So for example, it means that people are not comfortable to hop on a plane and be in a cramped cabin knowing there is a risk of being infected with a disease that can lead to their death within a couple of weeks. This makes people then change their behaviours and it is that behavioural change that then forces us to adapt and that adaptation is just really having the discipline to do what is necessary for one’s survival as a human being, but also the continuity of one’s business and overall way of life in the long term and it does take discipline and it is in that adaptation that the opportunities emerge. So, we know for example with a lot of people working from home because of covid-19, a lot of people are consuming far more data and internet services than they ever did and that’s consuming more and more entertainment contents, more electricity at home and probably snacking more often. So that forces the behavioural change and which have the potential to become cultural changes in the long term. So, if you are looking for opportunities, one of the things you then need to do is look at the current situation and identify what trends is starting now which will translate into changes over the next 6 months or 1 year and possibly the next 5 years. It is from those adaptation that those opportunities will come, in addition to pre-existing opportunities that exist generically in Nigeria.

Host:    You are absolutely spot on, Seye. I was just reading about a couple on LinkedIn who are already millionaires in dollars because they started producing sanitizers during this period and that is a lot of money. I know that seems a little opportunistic but you have talked about data and internet services all them zoom and other technological platform are making money from. but then if you don’t have any technical skills, you may not be able to benefit from such opportunities. I read somebody say again on LinkedIn that we actually need more comfy cloth now more than ever. There are all sort of things you just need to stop and think. People are snacking more so could you be producing more locally made snacks that we cannot import anymore, especially now that we have a reduced access to dollars? So you just really need to stop and think, what would you have or what would you need at a time like this, you can then transpose it to others around you. Just do a small survey to find out how they can be useful. And like Seye said, it does require a lot of discipline to really do the things that needs doing at any point in time.

So Seye, the federal government obviously has plans for stimulating the economy – whether or not they have the resources is another matter, but If you are to advise one on choice of investment for a budding entrepreneur, which areas would you advise them to invest in?

Guest: Oh yes, it is a good question. About the stimulus programme, I think I have spent a bit of time looking at the economist sustainability plan and in many ways it is a very dense plan, meaning that it has quite a lot of initiatives in it. It is a plan of tens of initiatives that cover many things like physical measures that aims to improve how much money that drops in the treasury based on existing and new arrangements, it also have a bit of cost cutting measures in it which is not enough from my own point of view but it does have them and in addition to that it now has a number of programmes and schemes across sectors,  some of those are a pay roll protection programme.  Essentially what that means is if you are an SME  and you employ people, then you will get support from the government for keeping them employed. Another scheme that they have is the scheme where they plan to buy merchandise and products from Nigerian producers in the SMEs. This current scheme has designed and identified things like face masks and sanitizers but I can imagine that the list of items that fall under the scheme will change and evolve as time goes by. There is an intervention programme for artisans, there is a 500 billion naira intervention programme for the health sector and that covers different measures; there is a programme where they aim to improve agriculture, rural and farm roads with the potential that these can have on the cost of food because in Nigeria. One of the biggest components of the cost of food is transportation and inefficient transportation.  So it does have a lot of things amongst it and the scheme is a three trillion naira programme.

If I was a young entrepreneur and was looking at what I could invest in now, I would look at just about anything. There are unique opportunities, for example, agriculture, but it is a very difficult sector but it continues to be an opportunity because people are best able to invest in things that they understand and agriculture is one of the practices that people understand in Nigeria. I would also look at food, fashion and entertainment, urban living, or anything that makes it easier for people to run their business or that meets peoples basic needs. Anything in this current health crises that provides opportunities for people in health.

Host:    Very interesting Seye. A few things that struck me is the fact that our government isn’t communicating well enough sadly. Yes we keep complaining about a lot of thing but I think its not for want of trying on the part of government, its just really unpacking the solutions, the programming they have for the populace, giving us in doses they can utilise. One minute you hear that there is a COVID-19 fund from CBN and the next minute you hear its over and then people are asking oh I heard and then you are saying its over already. So there is not enough for it being done, to really unpack it and get it to the people. You know I am just for the first time hearing that we actually have the relief package that the UK has which basically support you If you are an SME in other that you do not have to let people go. I didn’t know that and thank you for pointing out the fact that there is opportunity to buy Naija. It doesn’t stop you from buying what you might need maybe a global brand but every time I think of this, I think why aren’t all government vehicles produced by Innoson for instance, why not? I saw this fantastic utility vehicle that Innoson did a couple of years ago and I was so pleased and pleasantly surprised at the quality of it. And for those who don’t know, agriuculture still continues to be interesting. As Seye has said, we know about it because we have been farming forever as a continent and then its interesting that more and more people are getting into food, fashion and entertainment and these are the things we must have. It does not have to be high end but there is stuff to do and don’t say its money because often times I can assure you its not much money.

So on that note we would go on a short break and we would be right back on the Good Citizen Radio Show.

{Break}

Welcome back to the Good Citizen Radio Show. We have been talking about the opportunities for investment for budding entrepreneurs and Seye made some fantastic suggestions and he says look into the health sector, agriculture – as we do really understand agriculture, there is food, there is fashion and entertainment and I was talking about the fact that government seems to have lot of initiatives that we don’t usually hear about and one of such initiative is the 50 billion naira bailout fund by the CBN. There is 50 billion naira bailout fund promoted by CBN, there is a special moratorium pension for businesses in terms of loan repayment and then there is special funding facility in the health sector amongst others. How can SMEs and entrepreneurs explore and benefit from these opportunities? Is there room for those seeking alternative sources of income?

Guest: About the 50 billion naira bailout fund by CBN a lot of people have been beneficiaries and it had two components and I think it has now closed. Part of it was for households who have had  their incomes affected by the crises and the other  part of it was for SMEs who had opportunities arising from the crises or who had responded to problems caused by the crises. A lot of people have benefited and a lot of people did not apply and wasn’t aware of it. Part of what has happened in Nigeria is because of the low level of trust in the government. A lot of people have stopped listening to the government and because of that in this case, many people didn’t apply for something they would have benefited from and I think for all the programmes and opportunities that exist now, you should key in very actively with a sense of entitlement. You should research and use every connection you have to making  sure that you can benefit from these programmes .

Host: Basically we just need to realise that we are Nigerians and this is for us. We need to take advantage of it no matter what we think about it and whether or not we trust government. If I were you my fellow Nigerians listening out there, I would apply regardless. I have seen things work in mysterious ways. It could be that somebody has planned for it to go elsewhere but somehow you still get the opportunity. So I would advise you that you not just turn your eyes away, thinking that its them, they have arranged it – you don’t know that, so I suggest that you keep your eyes opened as Seye has said and actively seek these opportunities with a sense of entitlement and make sure that you are putting forward your best foot.

       So I hope that you have learnt a lot from this discussion with Seye and even more importantly, I hope that you take those actionable steps to make things work. Thank you again, Seye. Its been fantastic having you on the show. We have been wanting to have you on the show and the opportunity came so thank you.  God bless you for coming on the show.

Guest:  Thanks for inviting me.

Host:   So guys there are four tips I want you to take note of during this COVID-19 pandemic – remember you have to analyse available resources and create a priority-based spending plan. You have to budget – emphasis on budget. I am a saying I sleep peacefully every night because I work within my budget always. I never go beyond my budget. I can never do things I cannot afford, so I can sleep well. Identify your necessities which is  number 3 – shelter and food are your priorities right now and you must cover those and then finally, take that bold step into either entrepreneurship or intra-prenuership, if you work within a business you can actually help that business grow whilst enjoying the income that is being provided for you in that business.

       Alright guys, this has been an interesting conversation and you have been listening to the Good Citizen Radio show. I hope you have enjoyed it and I want to encourage you to follow us @gooditizenng and if you have any suggestions whatsoever, please do reach out to us as we are always willing to listen to comments and suggestion and let me use this opportunity to beg big businesses that continue to owe smaller businesses up and down the place. You drive smaller businesses out of business by doing that. If you are listening to me and you are the MD of a business or you are in procurement, you need to repent because some things need to happen very soon because you can’t be going up and down shouting ‘I have sustainability plans, I do CSR’ and yet your value chain is suffering from your indebt to them. So it has to stop.

       This show happens every Friday at 8pm on Inspiration 92.3 FM. Do tune in every Friday to listen to the show and we do have podcast that you can listen to on SoundCloud. Just go to the Good Citizen Radio Show and you would find us there. I am your host, Bekeme, and you have been listening to me on the Good Citizen Radio Show brought to you by CSR-in-Action and sponsored by ACT Foundation. Have yourself a good enjoyable Friday in the cosiness of your home.

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