By Chinwendu Obienyi
The year 2020 has seen its fair share of major historic events, especially, with the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic which had a devastating impact on global economies.
The pandemic prompted shutdowns in socio-economic activities across nations in an attempt to contain the spread of the plague. The economy was no exception to the shutdown due to the fact that a combination of declining oil price and spillovers from the COVID-19 outbreak led to a fall in the demand for oil products and also stopped economic activities from taking place for several months when social distancing policies were enforced.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) further revealed the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth dropped 0.23 per cent in the first quarter (Q1 2020) and contracted by 6.10 per cent in the second quarter (Q2 2020) as critical sectors in the economy especially the Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) experienced downturn.
According to a global report, 84 per cent of small businesses were vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic and 79 per cent of them came close to running out of cash to sustain their operations while over 50 per cent of them with hugely affected sales suffered a drop in revenue.
Startups and scale-ups make up less than one per cent of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) in the country and with micro businesses forming nearly 99 per cent of the MSMEs which is mostly run by families surviving on daily sales, the long shutdown ensured that there were no businesses to go back to at the end of the lockdowns.
In its bid to alleviate the effects of the lockdown, the Federal Government rolled out palliative measures for targeted groups. However, lamentations trailed the distribution of government palliatives by the masses as citizens alleged that the process of distribution of palliatives had been politicised.
However, Nigerian Breweries (NB) Plc, with a market capitalisation of N447.83 billion on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), set its sight on cushioning the negative effects of the pandemic on businesses via its ChopLife Promo, an empowerment programme set up by its Life Continental Lager Beer brand.
The brand injected a total of N40 million to the programme as support to help struggling micro business owners across Lagos, Imo, Benue, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Enugu, Rivers and Anambra states get back on their feet and continue their push towards progress and self sufficiency.
The ChopLife promo, which is very similar in grant structure to the brand’s Progress Booster Initiative, started since 2017. Daily Sun investigations revealed that the sum of N200,000 was given to over 200 traders, artisans and other small business owners in the Life Lager Chop Life experience to enhance inclusive growth across the regional markets. According to the brand, the selection of the winners followed a review/selection process after consumers had submitted their entries at various Chop Life empowerment centers. These entries were reviewed and validated ahead of the weekly activation events and then winners were announced at various in-bar activations which spanned weekly, across Nigeria.
Beneficiaries of the intervention for whom small grants such as this can make the most impact told Daily Sun that they discovered the opportunity through awareness activities by the brand. Mr Green, a small business owner in Imo State who had to lay off his only staff at the peak of the lockdown, noted that he could barely cater for both of them and learnt of the grant support from a friend who knew how hard the pandemic hit his business.
Describing the happiness he felt winning the grant, Green said: “You would not understand how I really feel even if I explain it to you. The first thing I would do with the grant is to use the money I have received today to buy more goods and make sure people benefit from my business. Chop life promo is really helping a lot of people build their businesses in this period and we hope for more of these types of initiatives”.
For Mr Kelechi, the hike in prices of raw materials for his business was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back. “I have staff I continued paying because of the good relationship I have with them, but our suppliers made things hard. They couldn’t move around freely to supply us with goods, so they exploited the opportunity to hike the prices of their materials but here I am as a beneficiary of the grant, I am excited and can only pray that more initiatives can spring up to support Nigerians in this hard time”.
Speaking at one of the Chop Life promo events, the Brand Manager, Life Lager, Chidi Egwu, said as a brand, Life Continental Lager believes in the progress of consumers, and the Chop Life Experience is a way of empowering its consumers.
“Through our various programs, we hope to add value and support to many more small scale businesses across Nigeria, knowing that access to finance is an essential condition for successful entrepreneurial development.
“For Life Lager Beer, this year has entailed a slight shift in their marketing activities as our focus has remained encouraging our consumers and Nigerians generally to stay positive despite the blows the year has dealt everyone. With the Chop Life empowerment scheme, we hope this initiative restores some strength to all important sectors of the country”, he said.
Life Lager, through its Progress Booster initiative also recently supported traders with about N3 million at the just-concluded New Yam Festival which was held in Lagos. It was first brewed in Onitsha, Anambra State in 1981 and has since grown from a regional beer brand to becoming one of the leading lager brands in the country that is empowering businesses.