In 1918, barely two decades into the century of technological advancement, a flu known as “Spanish Flu” dealt the world an impactful blow, one that took a while to recover from. The industrial revolution in Europe was only beginning to fully find acceptance and for that reason, there was no much that could have been done to curb the devastating impacts of the pandemic. The pandemic did not only take away millions of lives globally, but it also wrecked the economy and social activities, too.
Between 1918 and 2020, the world has evolved and the global civilization the world has recorded between these years cannot be overemphasized. Between these years also, the world experienced the Second World War and several other viruses such as SARS and Ebola among others. Unlike the time of the Spanish Flu, one thing the world has during SARS, Ebola, and Covid-19 is the internet.
One significant importance of the internet is that it connects the whole world on a virtual space. While the whole world continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, death rates increase, systems and structures are dismantled and the psychological effects are felt on people who are suddenly reduced to a sedentary lifestyle. Like every pandemic the world has ever battled with, it has also disrupted social lives, the economy and continues to challenge health care systems throughout the world.
In Nigeria, the impact of the Covid-19 on the economy has been nothing short of wreckage. The informal sector suffers most of these challenges because of the many roles it plays in the economy of the country. Like most governments of virtually every country in the world, the government of Nigeria has taken drastic measures in a bid to control the pandemic from spreading across the nation.
One of these drastic measures is the lockdown of markets, businesses, trade centers, places of religious worship, schools, and airports, among others. The restriction of movement, social gathering, and physical contacts are also parts of the effective measures believed to help reduce the spread of the virus.
The above-mentioned strategies have affected the informal sector the most. The informal sector in Europe and America has and continues to record loses because of the restriction of movement. But a lot of organizations and companies in the informal sector in Europe and America are still able to conduct their daily businesses through virtual platforms, especially for businesses that do not necessarily need physical contacts. Operations also run within the organization with the aid of communication tools used among workers.
In Nigeria, the effects of the Covid-19 on the informal sector are devastating and discouraging. In other parts of the world, as mentioned earlier, businesses are now moved to the internet. Conducting business on the internet is a tad difficult for the informal sector in Nigeria for three major reasons: unstable supply of electricity, poor internet network, and limited exposure and knowledge of eCommerce.
Unstable supply of Electricity: One of the major problems responsible for the underdevelopment of Nigeria and most parts of Africa is the unstable supply of electricity. Conducting flawless businesses on the internet requires stable electricity. In Nigeria, electricity remains a major challenge of the people and as such, it is quite tedious and difficult for the informal sector to succeed and thrive on the internet, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Poor Internet Network: Most of the internet services in Nigeria are epileptic. This makes it difficult for businesses to thrive in the virtual space. For any business to survive on the internet, such a business needs good internet. This challenge is not limited to business alone, but education and every other digitalized social platform. This is one of the reasons why some organizations and companies are skeptical about digitalizing their businesses in Nigeria. Their fear is legitimate and understandable, considering the poor internet services provided by the different internet providers in the country.
Limited Knowledge of Ecommerce: Nigeria, like a whole lot of other African countries, is yet to fully take advantage of the internet. There is still a limited number of things we still do with the internet. A lot of entrepreneurs and business owners still believe in and practice traditional mode of transaction, where employees must go to the office every day of the week, even for businesses that can easily operate remotely on the internet.
The three challenges highlighted above are some of the reasons why the informal sector in Nigeria is being dealt a terrible blow by Covid-19. Throughout the whole world, the effects of the Covid-19 reverberate, especially on the economy. While these effects take a toll on business owners, employees also get affected directly and indirectly. Some workers are being laid off while the salaries of others are significantly reduced. The effects of this pandemic on the informal sector are a snowball that has gotten to the formal sector and a larger population of Nigeria and the world at large.
This article was written by Noah Oladele. He is a theorist, poet, and writer who lives and writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
He is a content writer at The Young Leaders Council