May 27, 2020. News/interview
Speaking with our Afrikanwatch Network Head of News and Strategy, Daniel Njienue in a telephone conversation last week in Asaba is, Olorogun Lucky Oghene-Omoru, the Director-General, Delta State Investments Development Agency (DIDA), who noted that the state government has put up more efforts in curbing the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as measures to boast the state investment while ensuring that more opportunities are tapped and utilized judiciously.
Sir, regarding to the high level of economic down fall, we are experiencing in all sectors in Nigeria. What is your assessment on Delta State Trade And Investment in this pandemic period?
Covid-19 led to lockdowns and movement restrictions resulting to closure of businesses and partial operation of businesses all over the World and Nigeria including Delta State. Consequently, there have been job losses especially among those who make their living by doing daily labour, tourism, entertainment, restaurants, buying and selling and disruption in supply chains of goods and services leading to wide ranging scarcity and hike in the prices of goods and services.
Do you see Delta State labour market coming back to normal regardless of the fall in oil price, knowing full well, that the state’s major resources is oil production.
Once the COVID-19 is under control, lockdown and movement restrictions are lifted, normal business operations will pick up and employment will begin to rise. But it will take some time to attain the previous level of employment before the COVID-19 period. The adverse impact of oil price fall will not be too long as the price of oil is expected to pick up due to increase in demand after lifting the lockdown and movement restrictions world-wide, including resumption of airlines, sea, railways and land transportation. In addition, as industries strive to make up for lost production and the world approaches winter, the demand for oil and gas will increase leading rise in global price of oil with salutary effect on the revenue of Delta State. Already the price of oil is rising as we speak and I expect that by the end of year. Certainly, the price of oil will rise to the pre-Coronavirus era baring any unfavourable adverse global events.
What do you think is at stake for Delta State Trade And Investment in this pandemic period
The lockdown/restrictions have impacted negatively on investment preparation and implementation of on-going investment projects. Some businesses will suffer from the negative impact of the pandemic, while others will spring up to take advantage of the new normal COVID-19 investment opportunities like changing lifestyle, e-commerce, emerging businesses based on distant communication, etc.
What are the possible relief measures in which reputable establishment and organizations in Delta State can adopt to sustain in this covid-19 pandemic period.
Some organizations carried out review of the mode of their business operations by adopting measures to ensure safety of life of their staff and re-strategized to ensure that constraints to supply chains and market access are removed to facilitate smooth and successful business operations. Some reputable organizations paid their workers for staying at home during the lockdown. Most of them provided Face Masks, personal protective items and sanitizers for their staff.
What are some of the measures Delta State government has implored to curb the effect of covid-19 pandemic on the state labour market?
In trying to manage the spread, curtail and contain the pandemic, Delta State Government took many positive pragmatic steps including allowing agriculture, manufacturing, hospital, medical, pharmaceutical establishments and other critical businesses to operate as well as allowing the movement by all those performing essential services including transporters of agricultural produce, food, raw material for factories and other vital items necessary for sustenance of people. Moreover, the state government provided markets in wholesome locations such as school compounds as alternatives to the usual crowded local markets. Well organized shopping centres were asked to administer social distancing and hygiene protocols to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Moreover, the state government implemented the following measures such as: effective and sustained publicity to educate the people about the pandemic, lockdowns and restriction of movement to contain and curtain the spread of the virus, distribution of face masks to protect Deltans and provision of food as palliatives. And designated convenient locations close to communities as special markets for the convenience of Deltans.
Tell us more strategies adopted by the DIDA to curb Covid-19
The pandemic had opened up new ways for Delta State Investments Development Agency (DIDA) to do things differently by employing innovative methods and ICT. DIDA appraised investment proposals by evaluating soft copies instead of waiting for hard copies proposals. The staff of the Agency were working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown by using internet and WhatsApp to obtain documents for evaluation. We held meetings with investors from different parts of the world by using video conferencing facilities like ZOOM, Skype and Team according mutual preferences thereby overcoming the limitations imposed by world travel ban.
The effect of COVID-19 has led to realignment of global investment flows to Africa and Nigeria in particular and this requires urgent paradigm shift in DIDAS’s investment promotion strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Moreover, DIDA employing securitization and asset based financing strategies in structuring new investment projects in order to reduce undue reliance on government funding in view of the difficult times. In addition, existing investment proposals will require revalidating to ascertain whether they are still relevant in terms of viability, sustainability, project funding conditions, obligations of parties and make necessary modifications if considered necessary.
DIDA shall structure projects to take advantage of national investment palliatives, identified offshore funding, compete to access international cross border financial flows and hedge funds seeking higher returns on investments by packaging investment projects in conjunction with local investors based on the principle of comparative advantages. The Agency shall form alliances with foreign and local investors seeking new terrain to make them invest in Delta State as well as partnering with selected commercial banks to access on-lending funds to establish projects in the preferred sectors namely, agriculture, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, tourism, exports and some import substitution industries.
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