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CACOVID: CBN, banks sustaining lives, livelihoods with N32bn

Looking beyond profitability, Nigerian banks in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the private sector have focused on sustaining livelihoods impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic through Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

CACOVID is a Cbn-led private sector initiative that has contributed over N32 billion to fight Covid-19. Access Bank is at the centre of the project, helping to improve the livelihood of people badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is a further demonstration of the bank’s philosophy of looking beyond profits as the motive for its existence. The initiative, which has brought together the biggest players in Nigeria’s private sector, is a notch higher than the bank’s normal corporate social responsibility activities in such areas as women and youth empowerment, and sports.

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The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on Monday commended the CBN coordinated CA-COVID – Private sector intervention scheme – which had mobilized over N32 billion to support the economy, lives and livelihoods.

Since early 2020 when the Coronavirus became a global pandemic, countries around the world have been battling to contain the challenges of keeping people alive and safe, and also preserving livelihoods. The need to save livelihoods became an imperative in the early days of lockdowns that were imposed to slow down the spread of the virus, when it emerged that the exercise could trigger widespread hunger, as it forced abrupt closure of economies, in some cases bringing about outright job losses.

In Nigeria, the need to save lives and livelihoods was no less compelling. This is what spurred private sector organizations into forming a partnership with the federal government for the common objective of saving lives and preserving means of livelihood, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the virus from the country. The partnership, known as the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), involves about 50 corporate organizations and the government, including agencies such as the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control ( NCDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The intervention of the private sector has been in the areas that touch the lives of Nigerians directly, as far as the fight against the pandemic is concerned, namely, building and donation of fully equipped isolation and treatment centres across the country, awareness campaign to get Nigerians to adhere to the safety guidelines as stipulated by WHO and NCDC, and distribution of palliatives to poor families that have been worse affected by the lockdowns.

At a micro level, the initiative involving distribution of palliatives is aimed at providing food and other essentials to economically vulnerable Nigerians. The food items include rice, beans, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, bread, etc.

The huge impact of this exercise on the people of Nigeria could be seen from the fact that the coalition sees the whole country as its constituency, the reason the exercise is being carried out in all the 774 local government areas of the country. This has given Nigerians in all parts of the country a sense of belonging in a time of crisis such as the world is currently passing through, as no part is left out. The direct involvement of officials of the coalition in the exercise guarantees transparency and accountability, and ensures the items get to the people to whom it is intended.

The palliatives intervention is borne out of the need to ensure economically disadvantaged Nigerians do not face hunger while staying at home during the lockdowns, especially those whose ability to put food on the table depends on the income they earn daily. This came as there was widespread fear that many people could die from what was generally referred to as hunger virus, even if they managed to stay safe and free of Coronavirus.

At macro level, the private sector intervention in the fight against COVID-19 has helped to keep the economy running, while preserving means of livelihood. It has, in some cases, created jobs, at a time thousands of jobs have been lost around the world. The exercise has impacted on some sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, agriculture, agro-allied and food processing, pharmaceuticals, packaging, transportation, fashion and apparels, etc. The end result is that organizations and individual workers are still paying tax to provide revenue to the government, even with partial re-opening of businesses, which means not operating at full capacity.

The regular distribution of rice has contributed in no small measure to keep the business of rice farmers going, while preserving the jobs of thousands of ancillary workers employed in the industry. It has kept production lines running in factories where sugar, salt, vegetable oil are produced.

The addition of bread to the list of palliatives distributed by the coalition makes this exercise quite unique. It is the only one of several of such exercises throughout the country that includes this very important food item. The importance of bread on the list must be viewed against the background of the fact that it is made available to families that may not ordinarily be able to afford it in normal circumstances.

Apart from the health benefit to individual families, distribution of 5, 000 loaves of bread on a daily has undoubtedly boosted the business of flour mills and bakeries across the country. A fresh angle to the distribution of bread is the business it creates for transporters who deliver the item to families.

Wearing of face masks is one of the safety guidelines for COVID-19. It is one of the surest ways of preventing the spread and contracting of the virus. But it has also opened a new line of business for people in the fashion industry, as the piece of clothing has become an important fashion accessory.

“Face mask is going to remain an integral part of everyday dressing for a long time”, says Felix Umofia, a public affairs commentator. “This is an area that will keep the business of those in the fashion industry going, at a time people are thinking less of buying new dresses. In any case, with the restrictions on mass gatherings like weddings, burials and other social engagements, the need for new and expensive dresses has drastically reduced”.

He said the involvement of the private sector in the fight against COVID- 19 has helped to keep businesses going, apart from the social benefits of the intervention in the health sector. “These days you see people on the streets wearing branded face, with names and logos of manufacturing companies, banks and other service providers. This is going to sustain the business of fashion designers during this pandemic”.

The intervention has taken a huge burden off the shoulders of government in a fight that is bound to stretch resources to no end, especially as no one can predict its duration. It has raised the standard of healthcare delivery in the country in relation to the fight against the pandemic, with availability of treatment and care that is comparable to what obtains in other climes. It has helped to minimize the impact of the pandemic

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