Long before the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019, the phrase ‘new normal’ was bandied about across many sectors of human life, especially corporate working life – in finance, in manufacturing, in technology, in entertainment, and everything you could think of.
Guess what, life was normal then. But since the virus outbreak in Wuhan became a pandemic, the phrase ‘new normal’ has taken a whole real and new meaning. And that’s because beyond just being about the way the world sees and does things, especially in relation to how we experience life normally, it’s also about how humans stay alive and how they relate and treat one another.
Yet, at the centre of the whole notion of staying alive to know how the new normal will play out, is healthcare – its nature, its quality and how it’s delivered.
Across the world right now, health is at issue, with nations, rich and poor, striving to make sure that their citizens are kept alive, preventing the pandemic, COVID-19, not only infecting, but also from cutting short more lives than it has already done. For rich nations, who have built up substantial financial war chests, they have had to dip into their reserves to tackle the increased financial resource commitment that the pandemic has placed on the world. For poor nations without such reserves, it has meant a further strain on their meagre resources, exposing their lack of capacity to deal with emergencies such as COVID-19 has placed on them.
For Nigeria, classified as a higher low, perhaps middle, income country because of its oil resources, a weakened economy, which was already exposed by fast dwindling revenue before the pandemic came to town, as a result of low oil prices, it has found itself in even direr state as it faces even more catastrophic financial conditions. It is the state of its financial affairs that has led to a rallying of individual and corporate responses that have been expressed through numerous financial donations to support government efforts to deal with the challenges posed by COVID-19. And the pandemic is, indeed, formidable in its ability to drain governments of financial resources, because even as governments deal with it as a health outbreak, it is the extended challenges it poses to the economic well-being of citizens and country, and also its aftermath, that opens up an understanding of what it really means when people now talk of the ‘new normal’ under COVID-19.
So, apart from the government trying to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, as it should do, that being its responsibility, the broad approach has been through the numerous donations by individuals and corporates. But the dynamics are changing, especially with this particular change that’s birthing next month in Nigeria, involving the teaming up between Global Citizen, the world’s largest movement of action takers and impact makers dedicated to ending extreme poverty by 2030, and Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), which manages the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).
The combination is finalising all the processes needed for the introduction of a fund it has aptly named Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund. The size of the fund, according to Global Citizen, is put at $50 million. Global Citizen will deploy its capabilities to mobilise for the fund-raising, while NSIA will act as manager of the fund.
Global Citizen has over 10 million monthly advocates whose voices, the organisation says, have the power to drive lasting change around sustainability, equality, and humanity. Its work has resulted in commitments and policy announcements from world leaders valued at over $48 billion (N18.7 trillion), affecting the lives of more than 2.25 billion people across the globe by 2030.
Michael Sheldrick, the organisation’s chief policy officer, said its on-going commitment to Africa, in particular, Nigeria, is motivated by two key factors: The shift in geopolitical power towards emerging markets, and the recognition that developing countries want and need to have agency over their own development, which makes a presence in the sub-Saharan region vital to the long-term success of any initiative seeking to end extreme poverty.
A note made available to business a.m., explained that the “Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund will be incorporated as a non-government charitable foundation. In line with global best practices, it will be professionally managed and transparently governed through a strong Advisor Board comprising eminently qualified men and women to ensure that the funds are effectively used and properly accounted for.”
It further noted that, “This stakeholder led-and-resourced mechanism will provide tools to augment on-going efforts to respond to COVID-19 in communities across Nigeria, as well as to strengthen health systems in the aftermath of the acute pandemic response.”
There are four core COVID-19 response, mitigation and recovery areas the fund will target. These are (i) Supporting the most vulnerable populations; (ii) Strengthening the domestic healthcare systems; (iii) Expanding access to rural and community focused universal healthcare access; and (iv) Re-skilling and re-tooling for the “New Nigerian Renaissance” post COVID-19
On May 14 when the first public glimpse of the Fund was made through a virtual event hosted by NSIA, prominent speakers included Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance; Jide Zeitlin, chairman, NSIA board; Uche Orji, managing director, NSIA; Michael Sheldrick, chief policy officer, Global Citizen; Babatunde Folawiyo, chairman, Global Citizen Nigeria; and Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, vice chairman, Global Citizen Nigeria. It underscores the seriousness of the effort to establish the Solidarity Support Fund.
As if justifying the setting up of the fund, the statement said: “Given the unprecedented nature of this global pandemic, both in its impact and severity, it is clear that this is a challenge that the public sector cannot tackle alone.
The virus can only be defeated through careful coordination and collaborative efforts of the public sector, private sector, and philanthropists. As the pandemic’s impact is unprecedented; so too is the commitment of Nigerians both at home and abroad who have rallied to help one another and stand in solidarity against this deadly virus.” It added that with “this global pandemic, both in its impact and severity, it is clear that this is a challenge that the public sector cannot tackle alone.
A strengthening of this commitment is shown in the following pronouncement by Tunde Folawiyo, chairman, Global Citizen Nigeria: “As we embark upon our work in Nigeria, Global Citizen will mobilize Nigerians, Nigerians in the diaspora, global partners, together with the philanthropic and private sectors in our nation’s fight against COVID-19.”
The fund has been welcomed by the vice president, who sees it as a new funding vehicle for COVID-19, noting that “The Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund (NSSF) will provide support to our most vulnerable communities in the fight against COVID-19.”
On its part, NSIA says it plays a leading role in driving Nigeria’s sustained economic development through the careful implementation of its three core mandates; building a savings base for the Nigerian people, development of infrastructure and providing stabilization in times of economic stress.
“As the SWF of the most populous country on the continent, it is important for the board of the NSIA to support collaborations of this nature which further strengthens the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The unprecedented challenge posed by the outbreak demands that we embrace flexibility as never before in partnerships with the right organisations to help mobilize support for the fund, as well as building sustainable systems in our communities,” said Jide Zeitlin, board chairman, NSIA.
Uche Orji, managing director of NSIA, said the COVID-19 pandemic has strained the nation’s health, social and economic systems, adding that, “yet our resolve to work together to contain it remains unflinching. Against this background, we are thrilled to partner with Global Citizen in launching the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund, as the Fund Manager.”
It is expected that the participation of NSIA will help extend its primary care footprint in healthcare with the Solidarity Support Fund enabling the expansion of primary health care, thereby improving access, building capacity, and enhancing the resilience of Nigeria’s health delivery, especially in rural and underserved communities.
But it is in looking ahead to post COVID-19, in particular, the fourth target area that talks about the “New Nigerian Renaissance” that one can find even greater accommodation for the new normal. For as Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, vice chairman, Global Citizen Nigeria, puts it:
“Our efforts must ensure that we are able to envision and meet the demands that will emerge in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is imperative as the nation adjusts to the realities of a changing economy, transitions to a “new normal” and embraces the Nigeria of the future”.