This has been a challenging year for business in Nigeria. It’s been coloured by a pandemic that has swept through the globe, forcing lockdowns and shrinking economies in its wake. Every part of our commercial landscape has felt its impact, from giant multinational corporations to street vendors.
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The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has been the dominant concern. But a lot more has happened in its shadows.
New public finance and corporate laws were introduced this year. Businesses participated in a social justice movement that reached large swathes of the country. And there were wins (and potential wins) for Nigerians in the spheres of international trade and finance.
This article looks back at these events, plotting a path through what has been a peculiar year in the world of business.
Top Business Highlights from the Year 2020
- The 2020 Finance Bill Signed Into Law
The 2020 Finance Bill, which proposed significant changes to Nigeria’s tax regimes, was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in January.
Notable aspects of the law include an increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5% to 7.5%; exemption of small businesses from paying Company Income Tax; and a 2% tax bonus for early payment of Company Income Tax.
- Business’s Battle to Survive the Coronavirus Pandemic
Nigeria had its first confirmed case of coronavirus infection in February. Late in March, the Federal Government announced a lockdown of Lagos, Ogun, and the FCT. Other states followed as infection rates soared across the country.
Most businesses were prohibited from opening for weeks. The resulting revenue loss from that period has left its mark on the balance sheets of many companies. Not a few have closed shop permanently. But some managed to carry on operations by having their employees work remotely.
- Corporate Nigeria’s Coronavirus Response Efforts
The CBN rallied some of Nigeria’s biggest corporations to support efforts aimed at combating the coronavirus. That coalition included the likes of Access Bank, Zenith Bank, GTB Bank, and the Aliko Dangote Foundation, among others.
These companies, as well as others acting independently, contributed to the setting up of isolation centres and the procurement of test kits, protective gear, and other medical supplies.
- The Federal Government’s ₦2.3 Trillion Economic Sustainability Plan
By the end of the second quarter, it was clear that Nigeria was drifting into a recession. The COVID-19 pandemic had taken its toll on the economy. And the fall in the price of crude oil, Nigeria’s to earning export, had made the situation even worse.
The country needed some sort of measure to make the economic downturn less severe than it was shaping up to be.
That measure came in the form of the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP), a set of policy measures suggested by the Federal Government’s economic sustainability committee. Among other things, the plan proposes that about ₦2.3 trillion be set aside to fund various economic recovery programs.
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Some of these programs are already being implemented. They include payroll support for selected MSMEs and the reduction of NAFDAC registration costs by 80%. Others include the cultivation of several thousand hectares of new farmland, a large scale solar home project, and the construction of several hundred kilometres of roads.
- Companies and Allied Matters Bill 2020 Signed into Law
The Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 replaced an earlier CAMA Act and introduced changes aimed at improving Nigeria’s business climate. These amendments could make the registration and regulation of businesses more efficient, and reduce the challenges that MSMEs face in trying to comply with legal requirements.
- Akinwunmi Adesina Secured a Second Term as President of AfDB
In August, Nigeria’s Akinwunmi Adesina was re-elected as president of the African Development Bank. But his path to this was anything but smooth. A report questioning his credibility as president of the institution had surfaced this year, accusing him of corruption.
Eventually, he was exonerated by an independent team of experts set up to examine the allegations and was unanimously reelected soon after.
- Africa’s Biggest Business Event Went Virtual
This year’s edition of the Connect Nigeria Business Fair was held online. A global audience tuned in to hear top entrepreneurs and corporate executives share their best insights for business success. These speakers provided useful tips for thriving in a post-COVID commercial environment.
- Nigerian Businesses and the #EndSARS Protests
The #EndSARS movement swept through some of Nigeria’s major cities in October, driven mostly by young people who were protesting police brutality. Several businesses supported the movement, raising funds, and providing other resources to aid the campaign.
Flutterwave, Paystack, Softcom, BudgIT, Bundle Africa, and PiggyVest were among the brands that got involved with the movement.
- Stripe Acquired Paystack
Nigerian fintech company Paystack was acquired by Stripe, international payments giant, in a deal worth $200 million. This was one of the biggest acquisitions to have happened in the country.
Paystack was founded by Ezra Olubi and Shola Akinlade in 2015. It’s said to service over 60,000 customers, including small businesses, major banks, educational institutions, government agencies, and other organizations.
- Ngozi Okonjo Iweala’s Path to the WTO DG Position
She’s not there yet, but Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is now favourite to become the World Trade Organization’s next Director-General.
The former finance minister and World Bank Managing Director gained the support of a majority of WTO’s member nations. Her journey to the position has however been slowed by opposition from the United States, which has supported the South Korean candidate Yoo Myung-hee.
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