Chambers of commerce operations in the wake of coronavirus pandemic

By Victoria Akai

It is no longer news that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected international trade and disrupted supply chains. The economic impact has continued to take its toll on businesses across the globe. Factories and markets were shut for a protracted period of time leading to businesses being closed or production scaled back. The inevitable declines in trade and production has had painful consequences for businesses, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), in addition to the human suffering caused by the disease itself.

Nigeria has been particularly affected due to over reliance on imported goods. China accounts for nearly a quarter of our imports, oiling much of the country’s supply chain and funding bulk of the nation’s infrastructures. Most SMEs in Nigeria are still grappling with the difficulties in sourcing supplies and materials from China as borders remain closed and commercial flights yet to resume. While this remains a difficult time, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) took strategic steps to assist its members overcome the enduring crisis.

One of the first steps the Chamber took immediately the lockdown and social restrictions were announced by the Federal Government in April was to request for Movement Permit for some of its members that were involved in businesses categorized as essential services. Members involved in pharmaceuticals and other healthcare service provision were the main beneficiaries of the Movement Permit, allowing them to move freely while transacting their legitimate business during the lockdown.

Another key step to ameliorate the pandemic situation was to engage the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria to relax the conditionalities for accessing the COVID-19 Targeted Credit Facility. It is a known fact that government intervention funds are usually fraught with procedures that are always too stringent for many SMEs to fulfill, thereby defeating the good intensions of government in most cases.

The Chamber, led by Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, proposed and got approval from the CBN to provide collective guarantee for its members under the COVID-19 Targeted Credit Facility. 

Furthermore, as the lockdown ensued, the Chamber ensured that there was constant engagement with its members even in the face of movement and social restrictions placed by government.

Virtual workshops and capacity development programs, including webinars were adopted to ensure that members were constantly kept abreast of the transformational effect of Covid-19 on businesses.

ACCI has also established an online platform to continue its business networking activities, which is being implemented in collaboration with NACCIMA and other local and international business organisations. Strategic efforts were made through these channels to encourage members to explore opportunities available in e-commerce, such as online marketing and distribution, since the pandemic has altered consumer trends.

Members were also encouraged to diversify by seeking new locations for sourcing of goods in order to sustain their supply chains. 

Finally, as economies are gradually reopening after the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, governments and private sector organisations around the world have continued to deploy resources to stimulate economic growth to offset the damage inflicted by the pandemic which includes a reshaping of the global trade agenda. Businesses will have to further innovate and prepare themselves for new demand volumes, patterns and trends, and Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, on its part has continue to engaged its members, government at all levels and multilateral organizations to foster pathways for speedy economic recovery, post Covid-19.

Victoria is the Director General of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Nigeria.

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A prolific writer of about two decades standing experience
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