Expert Promotes e-Commerce

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By Emma Okonji

A Lagos-based Development Economist, Adeola Seyi-Smith, has stressed the need for the federal and state governments to encourage e-Commerce and support online shopping among Nigerians, with the outbreak of the COVID-19.

He, advised governments to encourage and promote online shopping among Nigerians, in order to stop the spread of Coronavirus.
However, he faulted the recent decision by the federal government to shut down economic activities in some states of the country, as measures to stop the spread of virus.

Reacting to Sunday’s nationwide broadcast of President Muhammadu Buhari, where the he ordered a total lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states, Seyi-Smith

Seyi-Smith said: “Hundreds of jobs have been wiped off like almost all the value chains including manufacturing, sales, and marketing, distribution, wholesale and retail, governance, aviation, tourism among others have been impacted negatively by COVID-19.
“The aviation industry, one of the worst-hit as a result of travel restrictions imposed by many countries, has recorded more job losses. For instance, WestJet has laid off 6,900 workers due to a downturn in business because of COVID-19. In a similar circumstance, Air Canada has put 600 pilots on compulsory unpaid leave pending improvement in the situation of things.

“Coming home, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated that the restriction on air travel by the Federal Government aimed at curtailing the spread of coronavirus would cost the aviation industry $434 million in revenue, 2,200 lost jobs, and loss of approximately 2.2 million passengers.”

According to him, The Wall Street Journal puts the US job losses at around five million while experts have predicted that economic shortfall arising from the effects of COVID-19 could hit up to $1.5 trillion across the US and a probable economic recession.
He said as travel bans, restrictions on large gathering and enforcement of social distancing among other preventive measures to curb the widespread of the deadly virus intensify, both the federal and state governments in Nigeria are even rolling out stricter measures to halt the spread, some of which may hurt more in the long run.

Given that the number of infected persons in Nigeria has risen significantly, Seyi-Smith said it became pertinent to advise the government to exercise caution in pronouncing total lockdown or shutdown of the entire system especially the e-commerce operators that become the obvious lifesavers in time of lockdown.

He said the best option was for government to encourage and support online trading for all commodities.
While insisting that the Nigerian economy was largely driven by the informal sector, he said about 70 per cent of the working people earn daily wages, and total lockdown or shutdown would create ripple dysfunctions including worsening the current high unemployment level and inflation in the country.

Considering the high unemployment rate in the country, Seyi-Smith said countries like Nigeria whose economy depends largely on oil even face dire consequences amidst falling global oil price, which is around $25 per barrel, down from $65 at the start of the year.
He said Standards and Poor, credit rating agency has even warned of a further slide in the oil price to $10 amidst falling demand for crude oil due to coronavirus.

“This can trigger job cuts, especially in the Nigerian public sector as the federating states depend largely on revenue allocation from the central government,” he added.

According to him, in spite of the gloom and impending recession staring Nigeria in the face, the e-commerce industry could help reflate the Nigerian economy at this time, especially if well leveraged to serve as a buffer for hunger, starvation and job creation as demand for essential daily needs rises and scarcity of goods and services loom in days ahead.

He added that logistics remained a critical factor in lockdown or any emergency situation, which COVID-19 is heading to, if not urgently nipped in the bud.