Epidemics and pandemics are not new to the health sector and humanity globally. They have killed thousands and millions of people just as it is doing now. Economies going into recession and dwindling, laying off workers will be inevitable – but solutions will come shortly to curtail the spread. In the past it happened and came to pass, and so shall COVID-19. The Holy Bible says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun.
Many health pandemics and epidemics like a Cocoliztli epidemic (1545- 1548), American plagues (16thcentury) Great Plague of London (1665- 1666), Flu pandemic (1889 – 1890), Spanish Flu (1918- 1920), West African Ebola epidemic (2014 – 2016) – and the list goes on and on, but lots of people survived.
What is humanity learning from the effects on individuals, industries, governments and entities?
In Ghana and most West African countries, the informal sector forms about 80 percent of the workforce, and most of them are the least educated. Most of them are hawkers along the streets and in fronts of their homes. This hawking is done mainly in the lorry parks, at traffic lights, in market centres and other places.
To list a few of them, there are Okada riders, iced water sellers, Head porters (popularly known as Kayayei), Petty foodstuff vendors, ice cream sellers, used-clothes sellers and other vendors. The question one would ask is; how much do these petty traders earn in a day? My interaction with a few of them indicated that they earn between GH¢60 to GH¢120 on a daily basis averagely.
The second question is: where do all these monies go to by the end of the day, week or month? The hawkers can best answer these questions.
My third question also is: are these petty traders financially literate? Do they know money management techniques? Are they setting some funds aside for the future that will enable them to stop hawking and permanently establish their own businesses? Have they heard of an emergency fund account establishment? The questions go on and on.
If hawkers are financially educated and they know how to manage their wages through savings and investments, in these emergency periods like the lockdown due to the COVID-19 they will not need any assistance from the government of Ghana, friends, family members and other relatives who also may not have cash to support them.
Any hawker that saves and invest GH¢5 a day may have approximately GH¢120 monthly, (GH¢5 x 6 x 4 = GH¢120). With this GH¢120 in a month, GH¢30 can be invested in an emergency fund account to support them during financial crises like these times of the coronavirus spread when they are not working. They can fall on the emergency accounts to draw cash for their daily living. The rest of the GH¢90 can also be invested into another fund for the future business establishment.
With this, the government of Ghana may not need to feed and clothe them during times of crisis. The money for their upkeep can also be used to develop other sectors of the economy. Financially educated citizens who apply such principles will always make it during financial crises.
Let us bear in mind the fact that we are not sure how long the pandemic is going to stay with us. Neither are we sure of the nature of these lockdowns. They may be lifted one moment and brought back at any time.
Ghanaian citizens working in the formal sector are also complaining of difficulty in living during the lockdown and this COVID-19 period in general. These complaints should not be expected, since these good and hardworking people of Ghana could have created their personal emergency funds to fall on for cash support.
I agree with the formal sector workers that their take-home pay does not take them home. It must be noted that crisis and emergency times like flooding, fire outbreaks, car repairs, medical bills, etc. will definitely come, no matter what people earn. It is said that wealth creation is not about how much one earns monthly, but rather what one does with what he earns. Saving and investing about two percent of one’s income for three to five years would be enough to create an emergency fund. The formal sector’s hard working people can create their own accounts with some investments companies to meet their emergency needs.
God almighty is the provider of all things to His people, but why should most church leaderships be complaining about lack of funds during the lockdown? Really, God has blessed the church with both human and natural resources as well as divine protection. If the church is also going through challenging times should we blame the devil? The answer is no!
In these lockdown times when offerings, tithing, donations, pledges and thanksgiving offerings to the church have been quarantined, must the church stop running? The answer again is no. The church also needs to create an emergency fund to meet its needs and support the needy and poor during this financial crisis when the frontline givers and supporters of the church are going through difficulty. With an emergency fund in place, most churches would be smiling at the COVID -19 storm – just as Jesus calmed the storm and peace prevailed. (Mark 4: 35- 41.)
I know that every Sunday offering baskets and bowls are either full or overflowing and pressed down. My question is: does the money go to only evangelism, church materials for buildings and bills payment? I agree that the prime responsibility of the church is to win souls for Christ, and the souls must remain in the church to bear fruit.
If all churches, or most of them, can set aside between two to five percent of their Sunday total offerings as an emergency fund and invest it, during these lockdown period the church leadership would not complain about lack of offerings. In this case, the church could support the poor members and none of the members and leadership would cry for lack of cash flow.
The church can also create wealth creation funds to build schools, hospitals, which the Presbyterian church, the Methodist church, the Catholic church, the international gospel church, the church of Pentecost are doing well, just to mention a few. I say ayee koo to them.
Building factories, cottage industries, real estate can also be considered to keep the church liquid. Donated funds can also be used to support orphans and the outcasts in society. Building funds also are needed to build temples which must be soundproof, air-conditioned and with several important fittings to advance the kingdom.
Businessmen and women
Are most businessmen and women also shedding tears and worried? Yes, most are – due to lack of an emergency fund. It is not only individuals that need this fund. A business that has been operating for the past twenty to thirty years should be able to stand and meet its financial needs during this period. Businesses should not depend only on loans from banks but can create this fund to cushion themselves. I called this fund in business circle a ‘Business supporting fund’. It will give life back to the business with little or no loans from banks.
Sportsmen and women
The COVID-19 pandemic does not spare the sports family. Football is one of the biggest industries that controls billions of dollars in the world. With this pandemic, cash flow has been affected. Most games and events have been suspended or cancelled, including Premier Leagues, English Football League, Boxing, Olympics, Cricket and other games. Allowances, pay and bonuses have been reduced for players due to lack of cash flow.
For individual players, especially in developing countries like Ghana, payment of players has been a challenge. During the rainy season for these players, how much have they invested to take care of such challenging times? The answer is to create an emergency fund.
Aviation and tourism sector
Almost all countries have closed their borders – and that has affected the aviation and airline industries’ cash flow. Some airline owners are preparing to lay off workers due to the huge losses they are currently facing.
What will be the fate of airline staff who have been working for the past ten to twenty years? How many of them have created a backbone fund to care for them until the industry’s business bounces back? The tourism sector has shrunk, and layoffs are in the pipeline.
The oil industry as well as the transport sectors is shrinking; markets and supermarkets, the banking sector; newspaper-vendors, schools, colleges and universities; the construction and building sectors have been affected negatively as well.
It is well with the pharmaceutical industries during this financial crisis period, but the question is: are they also preparing for the recession in case it happens? The local industries are producing Personal protective equipment (PPEs), which includes gloves, nose masks, overall-uniforms and others. It is their time of day. My advice for them is to set aside something – just as the ants in the book of Proverbs chapter six did, since life is full of ups and downs.
Do governments have emergency funds? Yes, they do – which are normally called reserves. In case there is crisis or war, that is the fund politicians use to keep the country running. The government of Ghana has fallen on the Heritage Fund to cushion the poor. I say ayee koo to the wisdom our leaders had to set aside our Heritage Fund. The fruits are being enjoyed now.
Individuals, industries, governments, entities can create this fund also known as the ‘Peace of Mind fund’. When created, chief executive officers, managing directors, lawyers, farmers, children, footballers, entrepreneurs will sleep well and dream dreams, because there is financial support waiting for them.
In conclusion, money management – which teaches how to earn, keep, grow and give out money – should be part of the school curriculum, so our children who will be our future leaders can be taught to prepare for bad times like the lockdown. If taught and practiced, governments will not spend billions of Ghana cedis to provide food, water and soft drinks for the poor.
God bless Ghana, and we shall overcome the COVID-19 very soon.
>>>The writer is a preacher, author, environmentalist and money management coach. He can be reached on [email protected]