2021 in review
What a year 2021 has been! As with many people, I am looking forward to 2022 with optimism. But before we close the year, I thought to share some musings on five topics that have either inspired or intrigued me.
“Expose yourself to as much randomness as possible” — Ben Casnocha
Randomness — As I think about my life and work experiences, I often flashback to the random conversation I had with a friend in 2012, which pretty much changed the course of my life. He was doing his PhD and I was working at a health economics consulting firm in the UK at the time.
I often helped with some of his analysis, and we bonded over our passion for Nigeria. In one of our conversations, we deliberated over the lack of evidence used for decision making in Nigeria’s policy space. I recall mentioning to him that there were some bright sparks in government and gave a glowing tribute about Dr Muhammad Pate, then the Minister of State for Health.
My friend looked at me intently and said “do you know Muhammad is my elder brother?” That single statement changed everything.
A couple of days later, I was in Abuja to see Dr Pate and a few months after, I had the privilege to join his team as a Technical Adviser on health financing.
Coming in right at the leadership level, changed my perspective on a lot of things. Being able to contribute to policy decisions at the highest levels meant I had to absorb and churn information quite rapidly, read the room to understand the power dynamics and temperaments and offer insights in a compelling but non-threatening way.
“The other side of the virus, an opportunity to awaken” — Fr. Richard Hendrick
COVID-19 — If we consider that the outbreak started in 2019, then 2022 will be the fourth year since we began living with this pandemic. So, naturally, we expect a certain level of jadedness to non-clinical safety protocols. From Lagos to London, Dubai to Abuja, Atlanta to Ado, I have seen fewer people use their face masks than not.
There are still a number of things we do not know, but we now have enough data to make informed and measured decisions. As a systems person, I had since felt the virus was playing ping-pong with humanity and had some thoughts on what could be done differently. Thankfully, Omicron has helped crystalise my position on the pandemic.
So, what do I think?
It’s time to move on from the cycle of panic and neglect, to one of sustained prevention, detection and response. Essential health services should not suffer because of COVID-19. With the proven effectiveness of the vaccines to reduce the severity of illnesses and deaths, States and indeed countries must focus on mass vaccination of their populace as they address COVID-19. We must also ensure testing and response for other endemic diseases continue in addition to COVID-19.
“The youth of any society are the true engine of growth and development; they should be rightly empowered.” — Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha
On Nigeria — 2022 is probably going to be a very important year for the country.
Firstly, a census is planned for 2022! This is so important for planning and decision making. As a policy maker, having to rely on projected population numbers from 2006 makes little sense. Inter-state migration, refugee camps due to insecurity and displacement in some parts of the country and improved health indices means that not only has state demography changed, but also there’s a likelihood that age distribution has shifted. Both of which are important as we plan for national and sub-national development.
Secondly, in preparation for the 2023 elections, the two major parties are likely to choose their flagbearers. Bearing a black swan event, it is safe to assume that either the APC or PDP will have its candidate as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023.
Eventual flagbearers, what they stand for and what their core convictions are, are perhaps the single most important indicator of what the next four years of Nigeria will look like.
So, as you go about your life duties in 2022, pay attention. Pay attention to what both parties are doing. In particular, pay attention to the antecedents of likely candidates. What is their position on security, national reforms, education and healthcare? What is their view of the role of the private sector in economic growth? Have they demonstrated faith in youths to lead and drive change? How do they think subsidies should be used (consumption or production)? Are they fixated on the naira/dollar parity? What role do they think Nigeria should play in AfCFTA?…
“I am blessed to have so many great things in my life — family, friends, and God. All will be in my thoughts daily.” –Lil’ Kim
On family — It’s been a great year for the family. I hit a milestone age, wifey completed her MSc at Harvard and we welcomed a mini us. Thankful to madam for making things easier, couldn’t have asked for a better partner!
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions…” Don and Alex Tapscott
On Cryptocurrency — I have spent some time reading up on cryptocurrency. I find the underlying technology fascinating and the potentials boundless. As a health financing expert, I am constantly exploring options for mobilising additional resources for health. As I review the many Defi products out there, I believe there’s an opportunity to leverage the blockchain technology at scale.
My thoughts are still in early stages, but I think a number of opportunities present themselves to fund healthcare.
1. A savings/lending Defi product that automatically provides an essential but guaranteed package of health services for users or their dependants.
2. A participation in a set of unique Nigerian themed Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), with some of the proceeds used in funding healthcare.
3. A government backed exchange or token that allows people trade freely, with a micro portion of the gas fees used in funding health care.
4. A cross-border digital payment service that enables fiat and crypto remittances with a micro portion of the fees used in funding health care.
All options of course would mean the government is open to the idea of cryptocurrencies, recognises the value of the underlying technology and embraces it as part of its levers in strengthening its macro-economic policies.
As hard as it is to imagine right now, this pandemic will come to an end someday. There could be random scenarios in the next one year that could change your life. When that moment comes, it will be a testament to your grit, so do not give up. Finally, 2022 will be a significant year for politics in Nigeria and maybe more interesting products in the cryptocurrency space — how are you engaging and what are you looking forward to?