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Making Cuts, Mali Decides and Your (54) Gene in a Bottle

Making Cuts, Mali Decides and Your (54) Gene in a Bottle
By TheBrief • Issue #50 • View online
Welcome to this week’s episode of The Brief where we bring you news from across Nigeria and Africa!
Note: During this time, most news generated will be about the Coronavirus and its second order effects on the economy and the world around us.
Quote of the Week:
A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.
- Lao Tzu
Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.
- Jack London
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”
- Seneca

What's the Palava? (What's going on in Nigeria?)
With 97 confirmed cases and 1 death at the time of writing, Nigeria has seen more than a 200% increase in confirmed cases since our previous publication.
The COVID-19 Bill
Last week, we highlighted some of the key interventions from the Central Bank of Nigeria. Since then, we have seen other interventions from the Federal Inland Revenue Service and from the House of Representatives (the HORs). In particular, on March 24th, the HORs passed the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill, 2020 (the Bill) which looks very promising. Amongst other things, the Bill seeks to: (i) protect people from losing their jobs because of the outbreak by granting a 50% income tax rebate to companies that retain their employees from March 1st through to December 31st; (ii) suspend import duties on medical equipment, medicine, and personal protective gear for 3 months from March 1st; and (iii) introduce a temporary prohibition on mortgage obligations.
We must also note that the Federal Government recently announced a reduction of the price of petrol from NGN 145 per litre to NGN 125 per litre to counter the effect that the outbreak has had on oil prices.
I Can Be Your (54)Gene In A Bottle
54Gene, a Biotech startup, has raised US$500,000 for a fund aimed at improving Nigeria’s ability to carry out COVID-19 tests. It is no surprise that Nigeria’s testing capacity is significantly low. As at March 22nd, Nigeria had only tested 152 people. This rose to 262 tests on March 27th after a donation by Jack Ma, CEO of Ali Baba. However, this is still far off the mark, particularly when compared to South Africa which has tested over 20,000 people. That said, this development is very welcome. 54Gene has said that it will be able to conduct up to 1,000 additional tests a day and is seeking funding to increase this amount to 5,000 tests per day.
Our verdict: Not all heroes wear capes!
GTB moves into Fintech
In non-COVID-19 news, GT Bank is restructuring to develop more financial tech (“fintech”) products and build out its payments and fintech arms. This is a follow up on Segun Agbaje’s presentation in late February at the Lagos Social Media Week which was covered by Fola Pinheiro in Issue #46. GT Bank is already a big player in the fintech space with its digital lending service (QuickCredit), payments service (GTPay), and a superapp. This development will ensure that GT Bank continues to lead the incumbents in the competition for the Nigerian fintech space.
Keeping Up To Date
The good folks at Stears business have started a live monitoring tool for coronavirus cases in Nigeria. Give the link below a click and stay up to date!
Live Monitoring: Covid-19 Cases in Nigeria - Stears Business
What's going on across Africa?
Stimulus Shot
Nigeria has said it will pay $2.7 billion in stimulus packages, while South Africa is expected to allocate $1.7 billion for business support from its Unemployment Insurance Fund. Other countries around the continent have come up with similar initiatives on a smaller scale.
Yet according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, a stimulus package of $100 billion is required for the whole continent to avoid a recession. (In other words, Houston? We have a problem)
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced that the country will go into lockdown from Monday in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus. This comes on the heels of neighbor South Africa’s 21 day lockdown which has already been implemented.
A Plague
The coronavirus pandemic is hampering the fight against locusts in East Africa as the cost of shipping pesticides rises and equipment is delayed. Kenya has experienced the worst swarms in 70 years, threatening food supply.
Doing What You Can
Above is Gonzaga Yiga, a 49-year-old in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, who goes up to tallest building in his area every morning and evening to warn people about the spread of coronavirus. 
Making Cuts
Kenya’s executive arm of government has agreed to pay cuts as fears of the Coronavirus continue to rise. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy will take an 80% pay cut, while their ministers and their assistants will take pay cuts ranging from 20% to 30%.
The President also announced a series of policies aimed at saving jobs and by extension the country’s economy.
Mali Decides
Despite everything going on, Mali has decided to go ahead with its parliamentary elections today (Sunday 29 March). The parliamentary election has been delayed several times since 2018, mostly over security concerns.
Candidates were able to campaign until Friday, however their efforts were restricted by the policies put in place to limit the spread of the Coronavirus such as a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.
Unidentified gunmen also kidnapped leading opposition figure Soumaila Cisse on Wednesday in the volatile centre of the country, killing his bodyguard in the process.
Read more here
Ready For Lift Off / Beam Me Up Scottie
After two years of tests and bureaucratic delays, Google’s Project Loon has secured government approval to operate in Kenya.
The aim of the balloon-powered internet project is to bring high-speed internet connectivity to underserved and unconnected locations globally.
Google partnered with Telkom Kenya, the telecom company, to develop the technology. According to the government, the approval process was accelerated because of the current pandemic, as more people are forced to work from home.
Changes Abound
Guinea has voted overwhelmingly for a change in the constitution, according to the provisional results of a referendum, an outcome that the opposition fears will allow President Alpha Conde to govern for 12 more years.
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.
How Low Can You Go?
In the last episode of the Brief, we criticized the fact President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria had yet to address the Nigerian public on the Coronavirus epidemic. Since then, we have been told by Mr Femi Adesina, Mr Buhari’s special adviser on media and publicity, that addressing the public directly is simply not his “style”?
To follow this up, after rumors had passed that President Buhari was down with the virus, another top member of the President’s media team posted the tweet above.
Rating: Nigeria? Good luck to us all.
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