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Action plan for job creation during COVID-19 in Nigeria

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The COVID-19 pandemic has cascaded into multiple layers of crisis and if we are to emerge stronger and better, this hydra-headed catastrophe must be tackled comprehensively,

Understanding the problem:
The health catastrophe has triggered several crises:
•Economic Business have lost customers, jobs lost, economic recession set-in
•Social: Increased, mental health problems, domestic violence and rape cases
•Security: Rise in crime as palliatives are poorly distributed and youth are frustrated

PROPOSED SOLUTION FOR JOB CREATION DURING LOCKDOWN:
Government needs to present job opportunities that give hope to the most vulnerable. Through farming and construction works, we can create a system of jobs that will keep a significant number of able bodied men working and many women cooking for them on site. With proper education about COVID-19 in local languages, awareness will be increased and behaviours adjusted accordingly. Essential jobs can however progress without disease spread, by ensuring people are taking immune boosters such us vitamin C or local alternatives like bitter kola, wearing face-masks when outdoors and proper social distancing. Details follow:

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•Farming: As we cannot afford to stop food production to avoid famine, farmers must continue to work, while social-distancing. Further, as food exports from other countries are now less available and as travel restrictions increase, there is a need to work towards food sufficiency. This creates job opportunities along the entire value-chain, which includes; farming, processing, packaging, warehousing and distribution. Each of these aspects present job opportunities. Many area-boys and able-bodied men can be engaged in farming and food processing, while providing them with shelters near the farms and immune boosters to keep them healthy. This will thin out low-income neighbourhoods to allow social distancing, and reduce instances of crime, domestic violence and rape, which are currently rising.

•The boys can be paid a daily stipend and they can receive a promise to buy everything they produce. This should be an incentive for them to produce more, so they can sell more. Government can work with big private sector farmers to provide the land in clusters, so that mechanisation can be leased and introduced to enhance productivity.

Action points: Build shelters around the farms to accommodate workers, along with good toilet and shower facilities. Engage local women to cook for the farmers (another job opportunity). Ensure social-distancing and provide face-masks as they work. Pay farmers a daily stipend. Also provide local immune boosters (bitter-kola).

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•Herbal gardens to provide immune boosters: This is important for the vulnerable population who cannot social-distance as they live in crowded accommodations and usually do not have direct access to running water to wash hands frequently. Also key for all those who are on essential services. The most proactive way to prevent infection among this population is to boost their immunity, while providing water taps and good sanitation facilities (toilets and showers) in these areas. This will proactively ensure Isolation centres do not get over-crowded.
The above presents another range of business opportunities.

Sources of immune boosters apart from pharmaceuticals like vitamin C, include natural herb combinations such as bitter-kola, bitter-leaf, ginger, turmeric, garlic and lemon. Others include; cloves, negro pepper (uda), Benin pepper (uziza) and neem (Prof Iwu can verify these). This provides another opportunity for the development of herbal gardens (more farming opportunities), and businesses that can package and distribute these immune boosting herbs, possibly in packaged powdered form, such that those on the go, like logistics drivers and farmers, can conveniently utilise these packages. Considering that Nigeria has quite a number of herbs that boost immunity and mitigate the severity of COVID-19 infection, the production and packaging of certified African herbal remedies may become a significant new line of business

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•Food Distribution: Creating a system to get food to the vulnerable creates a value chain of job opportunities: From farmers, to logistics providers (drivers and trucks) to caterers (hotels and restaurants can also be used to prepare the food), to packaging companies (to prepare food packaging and nylon bags to carry the food), to people who can be engaged to distribute to the various neighbourhoods. GIGM and Kobo 360 are doing a great job of providing logistics services. They are likely to need to increase their capacity.
CONSTRUCTION: So many opportunities here to simultaneously curb disease spread, create jobs, create wealth and create a better society.

•Restructuring our several dirty open markets all over Lagos: Idumota, Balogun, Apogbon, Computer village, Oshodi market, Alimosho etc. in addition, organise drainage system in Lagos, to end the perennial yearly flooding.

•Clearing drainages in flood prone areas: Every year, Lagos experiences flooding. This is another area of engagement that will create jobs and a better Lagos Post-COVID.
Action points: Commission currently idle Architects/engineering companies on a Build-Operate-and-Transfer (BOT) basis to redesign these markets that have been filthy for decades. Once design is approved, they can build shelters for the construction workers on site and begin work. This should keep another significant group of able-bodied men busy. Each site will have women preparing food for the workers and also providing the local immune boosting herbs.

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OTHER JOB OPPORTUNITIES:
•Logistics: As lockdown persists, shopping online will rise, necessitating more drivers/riders and consequently increasing demand for more mechanics and spare-parts dealers. Youth can be trained for all these positions

•Tailoring: Increase production of facemasks, PPEs and uniforms, to make Nigeria self-sufficient.

•Manufacturing: Sanitisers, disinfectants, gloves, pharmaceuticals (Vit C), and other local immune boosters, which are both preventive and curative.

•Security: Hardship and rising poverty triggers increased crime rate. Train youth to be security agents.

We must avoid getting people used to handouts and engage them productively while they earn. The above are some of the many opportunities the new post-COVID world presents. It is important that government works with private sector players to engage our restive youth ASAP, as no-one can truly predict when the lockdown can safely be called off.

More ideas are contained in the article: Surviving and thriving through COVID-19 and beyond. in LBS website: https://www.lbs.edu.ng/lbsinsight/surviving-and-thriving-through-covid-19-and-beyond/
Dr Henrietta Onwuegbuzie, Senior Lecturer, Entrepreneurship is the Director, Owner-Manager Programme at Lagos Business School
Email: honwuegbuzie@lbs.edu.ng

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