The Nigerian entrepreneur and banker, a former FORBES AFRICA cover star, has founded a think tank to catalyze his country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was not until February that Atedo Peterside, Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank and Chairman of Anap Jets and Anap Foundation, began to take the global coronavirus pandemic seriously. Until then, he had received several reports from his Vice President at the Anap Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to promoting good governance in Nigeria, but like many others, believed this was a foreign issue that would not make its way to Africa.
He is of the view that Nigeria should have acted sooner in its Covid-19 response.
“This is a race against time. If Nigeria had stopped international flights coming into the country maybe two weeks earlier than we did, it would have been 520 people who would not have entered the country,” says Peterside.
“There is a saying that when Nigeria sneezes, the rest of Africa catches a cold and this is true. With falling oil prices coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, we will be lucky if we have anything close to the 2008 financial meltdown,” says Franklin Cudjoe, founder of the IMANI Center for Policy and Education.
To curb the spread of Covid-19, the Nigerian government imposed lockdowns and curfews but the restrictions were short-lived as it put pressure on many of the country’s 200 million inhabitants, who were struggling to survive.
“I think it is important to emphasize that a complete lockdown is not sustainable in Nigeria. I believe we are dealing with a marathon and not sprint. If it is a marathon, a complete lockdown is not sustainable because people will not cooperate after a while. They will die of hunger,” says Peterside.
According to him, the science suggests that the fight against the coronavirus may last between 15 to 18 months and the only way to control the spread is by ramping up testing.
“The Covid-19 fight in Nigeria is a campaign to get people to change their behavior and you cannot achieve that in one day or one week. It is something that has to be sustained. There is a reason why the governor of New York is on TV every day. In most of the countries where this has been successful, there has been effective communication and it is not enough to just come out to threaten people with a full lockdown,” says Peterside.
That need to change behavior and provide a solution that will help contain the spread of the virus is one of the reasons behind the Anap Foundation Covid-19 Think Tank.
“We established the Anap Foundation Covid-19 Think Tank on the 22 of March 2020, as a catalyst to help Nigeria respond to the coronavirus disease. The Think Tank is comprised of 18 members drawn from across the six geopolitical zones and the diaspora (US and Germany),” says Peterside.
Collectively, the Think Tank has a wealth of expertise in medicine and logistics amongst other areas of specialization that Peterside hopes will aid the government’s fight in testing and best practices to tackle the pandemic.
“The Covid-19 fight in Nigeria is a campaign to get people to change their behavior and you cannot achieve that in one day or one week. It is something that has to be sustained.”
“Lagos cannot feed itself so you can never have a complete lockdown. The reason why a complete lockdown worked in China is because the Chinese government can deliver everybody’s needs to their door. If you cannot do this, then we can’t have a complete lockdown. This means we need Think Tanks like these to come up with other innovative solutions that are specific to our individual needs,” says Peterside.
One of the areas where the Think Tank is hoping to make an impact is to act as a mediator between the government and private sector to resolve certain key issues that will aid in its fight against the pandemic.
“We entered this battle without having enough doctors and yet it seemed as if our doctors were rejecting offers of health from Chinese doctors. We have one of the lowest doctor-to-patients ratio for any large country in the world. Italy, a country with a very large doctor-to-patient ratio, still took doctors from Cuba and China to help in its fight and Nigeria must also accept help if it is given to us,” avers Peterside.
A key goal for the Think Tank is to advocate the adoption of all health measures and behaviors necessary to ensure that Nigeria keeps the infection rate down, a feat that may prove difficult given the many infrastructural and health challenges facing many countries in Africa.
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