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Cancel that Owambe, Priorities and...the Rona

Welcome to this week’s episode of The Brief where we bring you news from across Nigeria and Africa! C
Cancel that Owambe, Priorities and...the Rona
By TheBrief • Issue #49 • View online
Welcome to this week’s episode of The Brief where we bring you news from across Nigeria and Africa!
Comment from the Editors: You guessed it. This one is the bumper edition on the Rona. We hope you’re all staying safe wherever you are.
Quote of the Week:
If an emotion can’t change the condition or the situation you’re dealing with, it is likely an unhelpful emotion […]. Real strength lies in the control or, as Nassim Taleb put it, the domestication of one’s emotions, not in pretending they don’t exist.”
- Ryan Holiday

The Rona
There is only one thing on everyone’s minds and lips. The coronavirus.
The Rona arrived relatively late on the shores of sub-Saharan Africa, with new case counts still minuscule in most countries. But we are proud to say that more than a dozen countries have already reduced most international flight routes or closed borders completely. In Lagos, Nigeria’s premier city and one of the world’s most populated cities, schools have been closed and gatherings restricted. In cities from Cairo to Khartoum restrictions are being placed on gatherings such as mosques and churches in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.
Social distancing is a concept which will be especially difficult to practice on the African continent due to the relative poverty in many of the countries. Individuals make money for their sustenance on a day-by-day basis. To cut off this source of income/livelihood puts a large percentage of the population in an untenable situation.
CBN responds to the Rona
As the COVID-19 outbreak has begun spreading in Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria (the “CBN”) has decided to take a number of measures to soften the blow on our already struggling economy. Amongst other things, the Bank has: (i) created a stimulus package worth N1trn towards local manufacturing and import substitution; (ii) reduced the interest rates from 9 percent to 5 percent to make it cheaper to borrow money; (iii) provided credit support for the healthcare industry; and (iv) provided loans worth N100bn to pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and healthcare companies. We must say that we are pleased to see these efforts by the Bank and hope for more of the same as COVID-19 continues to spread in Nigeria.
Cancel that Owambe
This week, the Lagos Government decided to crack down on public gatherings in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, schools have been closed (both public and private) and public gatherings of more than 20 people have been banned - particularly religious congregations and night clubs/bars. So, yes, that means no more Owambe (Editor: A popular Yoruba word for parties/festivities). This response has been echoed by State Governments across Nigeria. Generally, this proactive response is promising.
This article does a deep dive into what the African response to the 2015 Ebola pandemic can teach the rest of the world.
Shame to Waste a Good Crisis
The CBN is finally unifying their exchange rate regime. On Friday, the apex bank announced that it would devalue the official currency rate by 15%.
For the past 5 or so years, the CBN has been running three parallel exchange rates to the US dollar. One for select companies such as petrol importers, Dangote and other businesses (normally N306), a slightly higher rate for foreign portfolio investors bringing much needed foreign exchange into the system (around N350) and then the actual rate which veers from the first states rate by as much as N100-150 (~ N450).
This has given ample opportunity for arbitrage and corruption, created uncertainty in the market and aided in burning through Nigeria’s foreign reserves (16% in a year, but who’s counting?) in order to artificially keep the Naira at a stable and strong exchange rate. With the current ongoing crisis giving the CBN the ability to take unpopular decisions in order to refocus the economy, they have made the right choice,
Priorities
It is important to note that the Office of the President has more funding for operational vehicles (N253m) than the entire ANNUAL capital expenditure of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) (N145m). A National Assembly member will earn more in a year than total capital allocation for the NCDC.
What's Going On Across Africa?
Scammers
South Africa’s central bank has warned citizens against scammers visiting homes to “recall” banknotes and coins they said were contaminated with the novel coronavirus. These scammers provide false identification and receipts for “clean” money.
Even with the world in a crisis, there are some who would rather profit from the suffering of others than help.
Guinea Decides
Voters in Guinea are casting ballots in a contested referendum and parliamentary election held against the backdrop of deadly protests and the coronavirus pandemic.
Read more here.
A Little Bright News `
The African black rhino is a little less endangered. The latest figures show there’s been a modest annual increase in the black rhino population over the last six years, to more than 5,600.
We all needed some good news to lift our spirits :)
What in the world??
(our segment where we highlight the most outrageous story we have come across while scraping the web for news articles for you). We have taken to using what we call the Ehn scale. The longer the Ehn the more incredulous.
Will the Real President Buhari Please Stand UP!
It has been mind-boggling to us at the Brief that at the time of writing, we are still yet to see a direct response from the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. It has gotten so bad that we are unsure if he even knows about the virus.
Calls were made by the public and various senators for the president to address the nation via a live TV broadcast, to which the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement that such calls were nothing but cheap politics. Do we not deserve to have our worries assuaged by the man we voted to lead us as Commander-in-Chief?
Editor's Corner
What matters seems to have sharply come into focus. What truly matters: what our values are, the relationships we have in our lives and the impact we would like to have on our world have come sharply into focus against the backdrop of a global pandemic the likes of which we have not seen during our lifetime. We leave you with the following stoic thoughts, apt for these troubling times.
Daily Stoic
Some Stoic Reminders In Times of Coronavirus

- Premeditatio malorum - have a plan if things get worse
- Summum bonum - act virtuously, don't put your convenience above other's safety
- Sympatheia - we’re all in this together. Be kind, help each others, don't’ be selfish
1:22 AM - 15 Mar 2020
We cherish and appreciate each of you our readers. Please stay safe.
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