By Olukayode Kolawole
One of the major fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic is the massive restriction of human and vehicular movements in the most affected countries of the world. Governments, in their bid to curtail the spread of the disease, have enacted various laws that affect, not only movements but also most economic activities in their areas of jurisdiction, leading to what is now ubiquitously referred to as lockdown.
In Lagos, for instance, when the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, initially announced a series of restriction including the closure of markets and stores around the state, at the escalation of the number of confirmed cases of the disease in the state, people got into a frenzy and besieged the markets and supermarkets to stock up their houses with products they think would be needed over the period the order was to subsist. The governor’s order that exempted those shops and markets that sell foodstuff, medicines, water and other essential commodities, did not deter the impulsive buyers. This led to various outcomes including an increase in prices of items, hoarding and scarcity of food items. Then came the president’s address that not only buttressed the governor’s order but even expanded both the restrictions and enforcement.
The concept of lockdown and the experiences of other countries who had earlier implemented such measures made Nigerians very apprehensive of the state of affairs in the period the order would be in effect in Nigeria. How would they buy their personal and household needs – food, water, medicines, petroleum products and other essential commodities during the period of the lockdown? How would people in the country, especially day-pay earners and small-scale business owners survive during this period?
Being at home could be very boring and challenging for the average Lagosian whose lives have always been mobile – various sceneries, meeting various people, various menus from assorted caterers etc and the excitement such variety brought. For more than one week, we have been subjected to one scene – the home, food from one caterer – the wife. Most of us are adopting many suggestions on how to cope with the new realities that come with the lockdown, daily indoor exercises etc.
Recently, I stumbled on one reality. Looking out from my window, I noticed a heavy presence of delivery men on the roads as they moved around the town delivering people’s orders – food, medicines, water, and other essential goods. I quickly did some google search and found out that most of the e-commerce operators are very much in operation and that I could order for my needs and have them delivered to my house even in this period of lockdown.
I found out that Jumia Nigeria, for example, is not only in full operation but has even expanded its scope of operations in order to satisfy its customers during the period of the lockdown. Jumia’s customers can log on to its platform and do all the shopping they need, including food, medicines, water and other essential goods, pay for them and have them delivered to their doorsteps using a contactless approach, all in the comfort of their homes.
I called on other members of my family and we logged on to the Jumia food App and placed orders for our individual favorites away from the home cook which was becoming boring – main dishes and desserts and made the payment online. About one hour later, I heard a knock on my gate and it was a box containing our orders and the delivery man, standing about three meters away.
The delivery man explained that the distance is in compliance with the social distancing rule by the National Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC). From the way my family members relished their meals that day it was obvious everyone was tired of the home dishes that we all used to look forward to. Variety is the spice of life, they say.
The experience also exposed me to another reality – how Jumia and, maybe, other e-commerce platforms, are assisting owners of micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) stay afloat in this period of the lockdown – running their businesses and providing for their families by doing so. And another reality, how the operations of the online platforms provide sustenance to the citizens doing daily paid jobs. Most of the delivery men are paid daily and would have lost out on providing for themselves and their families, were it not for the operations of Jumia and its likes.
In conclusion, the operations of the online trading companies and their logistics partners are one of the major reasons Nigerians are not feeling the negative impacts of the lockdown like their contemporaries from most other countries of the world. It would be a reason some MSMEs may not record many losses as a result of the lockdown.