Knowledge Dispatches

COVID-19 Edition

  1. I have argued in these pages that we really need to know more about Nigeria's strategy in fighting the pandemic. Not much has changed since then except that we have done a little over 10,000 tests (in a month!) and the case count is now over 1000. Still, nothing prepared me for DG of NCDC saying "I would rather go a little bit slower and get it right than speed into a situation that we will end up regretting" in this Bloomberg story. I still do not know what this means. Are countries that are scaling testing faster than us somehow getting it wrong in a way that we will not? What exactly is the inherent advantage of our approach? What exactly is our approach? We are not testing enough, and we are not clustering as a testing strategy (as far as I know). I insist we need to know more, but it looks like answers may never come.

  2. Former governor of the CBN Prof Charles Soludo posted a long essay on why we cannot "afford" a lockdown strategy. It’s a good piece, but he is not making a new argument. Others have been saying the same thing for over two weeks - so I will file that under "duh". Soludo epitomizes something I find puzzling about technocrats in Nigeria. Why do they serve (and hence their presence legitimizes) administrations that give them little to no influence? Remember when the Economic Advisory Council was supposed to moderate some of the government's bad impulses on economic policy? I have seen pictures of the EAC members laughing with the president. So maybe that is progress. Meanwhile, this is a pandemic policy piece from a scholar that actually studies poor countries.

  3. My good friend Adedayo and Joachim Enobong argue that we need more economic cooperation even with the widespread supply disruptions from the pandemic. it is a simple yet powerful argument. Economic historian Vincent Geloso made a similar argument. My intuition here is that given the scale of the economic impact of the pandemic, a desire for some growth to forestall domestic unrest will lead to more global economic cooperation not less. I will admit that political rhetoric may not reflect this,

  4. There are fierce debates about whether countries should reopen their economies. There have been protests in the U.S stoked by the president. Ghana has lifted its lockdown, assured that it has a working testing protocol. Paul Romer has laid out his plan for how the U.S can responsibly reopen. Some European nations are reopening schools and this is a good analysis of when developing countries can consider following suit.

  5. Urban densities have come under fire for being harbingers of infections in a pandemic. This is not a new fear, but density is not the enemy. It was good to read sensible defenses of densities. In the African context, slums and not density poses a bigger threat in the event of an epidemic. Urban forms in Africa need to be rebuilt, and slums should be upgraded.

  6. The state of scientific knowledge on COVID-19 is still developing. One study from JAMA claims the common comorbidities are hypertension, obesity, and diabetes(this might be a problem for Nigeria). Another JAMA study discussed anosmia (losing the sense of smell or taste) in relation to the virus. The New York Times has a very informative piece on the virus and pneumonia.

  7. Entrepreneurs have been flooded with advice on how to cope during the pandemic. We still do not know how things might turn out or even come close to measuring the impact - most advice just drums up the hustle of their purveyors. But McKinsey has some good advice on how to run your manufacturing plant during the COVID-19 crisis. Also working from home might be more productive - "just not during a pandemic".