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COVID-19: Global Businesses Hampered as Top Companies Bans Business Trips

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In the act to keep employees safe and healthy, Amazon and other big companies bans business trips though they’ve dealt a gut punch to a travel industry already reeling from the virus outbreak.

The cancellations and travel restrictions are a major blow to business travel, which makes up around 26% of the total travel spending, or around $1.5 trillion per year, according to the Global Business Travel Association. The association estimates the virus is costing the business travel industry $47 billion per month. In a recent poll of 400 member companies, the group found that 95% have suspended business trips to China, 45% have cut trips to Japan and South Korea and 23% have cancelled trips to Europe.

The Seattle-based online retail giant has told its nearly 800,000 workers to postpone any non-essential travel within the United States or around the globe. Swiss food giant Nestle told its 291,000 employees worldwide to limit domestic business travel and halt international travel until March 15. French cosmetics maker L’Oréal, which employs 86,000 people, issued a similar ban until March 31.

Other companies, like Twitter have told their employees worldwide to work from home. Google gave that directive to its staff of 8,000 at its European headquarters in Dublin on Tuesday. Major business like the Geneva International Motor Show and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, have also been cancelled.

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On Tuesday, Facebook confirmed it will no longer attend the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, which is scheduled to begin March 13. And the 189-nation International Monetary Fund and its sister lending organization, the World Bank, announced they will replace their regular spring meetings in Washington — scheduled for mid-April — with a “virtual format.”

Michael Dunne, the CEO of ZoZo Go, an automotive consulting company that specializes in the Chinese market, normally travels from California to Asia every six weeks. But right now, he’s not planning to cross the Pacific until June.

“With everything at a standstill, I do not feel a sense of missing the action, but there is no better catalyst for business than meeting people in person.” Dunne said.

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The president of Brooklyn Brewery, Robin Ottaway cancelled his trip to Seoul and Tokyo last week. He has indefinitely suspended all travel to Asia and also just canceled a trip to Copenhagen that was scheduled for March.

“I wasn’t worried about getting sick. I’m a healthy 46-year-old man with no pre-existing conditions; my only worry was getting stuck in Asia or quarantined after returning to the U.S. And I’d hate to be a spreader of the virus.” Ottaway said.

“It’s a big deal,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst in San Francisco who estimates that airlines get 55% of their revenue from business travelers, since they’re more likely to sit in pricier business or first-class seats. On a long-haul flight to Europe or Asia, a business-class traveler can be five times more profitable than someone in coach,” Harteveldt said.

Figures from the Airlines Reporting Corp. indicate that airline ticket sales fell about 9% during one week in late February, compared with a year earlier. Hotels are also worried about declines in business travel. In the U.S. alone, hotel bookings for business travel were expected to reach $46.8 billion this year.

According to Phocuswright, a travel research firm, through Feb. 22, San Francisco saw an 11% decline in hotel occupancy, according to STR, a hotel data company. AT&T, Verizon and IBM were among the companies that pulled out of the city’s RSA cybersecurity conference, which began Feb. 24.

 Luke Sorter, owner of Pavel’s Yogurt spent last weekend agonizing over whether his company should attend Natural Products Expo West, a major industry gathering in Anaheim, California. “Backing out of industry events can be a tough call for businesses” He said.

Sorter spent nearly $20,000 on conference fees and travel expenses, but then rumors began circulating that nearly all the major retailers he was hoping to pitch were pulling out.

“This was going to be our big push to make some sales and open up some new accounts, and we were really disappointed because all of the major buying groups had pulled out of the show,” said Sorter, whose San Leandro, California-based company pulls in about $1.2 million to $1.5 million in revenue per year.

On Tuesday, Expo West announced it would be postponed until a later date.

“I was relieved because it just didn’t seem safe to put 50, 60, 70,000 people in a building together and the whole show is predicated on sharing and sampling food and handshakes, and person-to-person interaction,” Sorter said.

Some experts say it’s smart for companies to curtail travel before things get worse. Worldwide, 92,000 people have been sickened by the virus and 3,100 have died.

 “If you knowingly put your employees in harm’s way during travel, you can be held responsible for their injury or their death,” said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, which advocates for corporations and governments that hire travel management companies.

In some cases, workers themselves are demanding a halt to travel. The pilots’ union at American Airlines sued last month to make the airline stop flying to China. American agreed to suspend flights to mainland China but initially tried to keep serving Hong Kong. Pilots wouldn’t do it. “When pilots began reporting nervousness about going to Milan and flights were less full, American suspended that service much more quickly”, said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the union.

In some cases, companies are also asking employees to cancel meetings with outside visitors to cut down on the risk of transmission. In a memo sent to Ford Motor Co.’s nearly 200,000 employees Tuesday, Ford CEO Jim Hackett asked employees to meet with suppliers and others by phone or virtually. Ford also said only the most critical travel will be approved for employees through March 27.

In Nigeria, it’s a reverse scenario; the members of the House of Assembly suspended work for themselves while the employees in the National Assembly attend to visitors in their absence. What a country we find ourselves in where the leaders care less of the employee’s welfare- putting their selfish interest first before anything else. Though the global businesses are losing sales, I applaud their wise decision on the temporary ban for business trips. This shows the rare virtue of empathy in their leadership style.

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Public, private investments critical in transforming Africa’s food systems – Osinbajo

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By Gistflash News

July 27, 2021

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says transforming Africa’s food system is an obvious task requiring the active mobilisation and prioritisation of both public and private investments.

Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja, said the vice president virtually spoke at the preparatory meeting of the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021.

The pre-summit is a prelude to the global event scheduled for Rome, Italy, in September; an event the vice president described as crucial just as the previous dialogues held in several countries on food systems.

He said that the Federal Government was committed in complementing existing development plans, sectoral strategies, and prioritising investments in specific innovations and technologies to transform food systems in the country.

“The Nigerian Government is committed to addressing the drivers of food insecurity such as food inflation, changing consumption patterns and climate change, amongst other things.

“At the same time and as an outcome of 40 different food systems dialogues in which up to 5,000 people participated, Nigeria is prioritising investments in specific innovations and technologies to scale up and transform food systems.

“These actions complement existing development plans and sectoral strategies such as our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, the National Policy on Food and Nutrition, and the National Policy on Food Safety.

“A specific aim of our recently launched National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy is to address hunger, malnutrition and poverty as part of our target of lifting a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty within a decade.”

Osinbajo added that at the heart of Nigeria’s post-COVID-19 response was the Economic Sustainability Plan.

He said that the plan had a major component, which is the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Programme (AFJP), where the country sought to leverage suitable technologies to build a resilient food system for Nigeria.

“Our Nutrition Policy addresses the issues of sustainable and nutrition-sensitive food systems – and the country has prioritised key nutrition actions that are impactful, cost-effective, scalable and sustainable.

“An integral part of our food systems’ transformation strategy is to create an enabling and supportive environment to implement these policies in a participatory manner involving farmers, investors and state governments.

“For example, when, as in our country and several others, population growth exceeds growth in national income, food supply would not meet the needs of people, especially when distribution systems are inequitable.”

According to him, post-harvest losses in Africa, and particularly in Nigeria, are more than 20 per cent of production for several food groups.

He said the losses were mainly due to poor storage, poor rural infrastructure and non-automation of food processing, among others.

“The situation in many African countries is given increased urgency with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to growing levels of acute food insecurity.

“This is of great concern to all of us, especially if we recall that prior to the pandemic, the prevalence of severe food insecurity was as high as 22 per cent,” he said.

Earlier in her remarks, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, commended Nigeria’s effort, especially the vice president, for leading six ministers in the dialogues and other efforts aimed at building sustainable food systems in the country.

“Food unites us all, as families, as communities, as cultures and as humanity, now let’s use it to unite around the urgency and the actions that are needed to transform our world by 2030,” she said.

Aside Osinbajo and Mohammed, participants at the second day of the preparatory meeting included the Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Draghi; Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed; and ministers representing India, Canada, China, Norway, Egypt, among other countries.

NAN

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2021 Children Golf Development Clinic begins Monday in Abuja

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By Gistflash News

July 23, 2021

The 2021 edition of the Children Golf Development Clinic, being organised by the Ladies Section of IBB International Golf and Country Club in Abuja, begins on Monday at the club.

The event’s Organising Committee Chairman, Joy Ikwue who is also the club’s Vice Lady Captain, disclosed this on Friday to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

“The two-week event tagged `Future Champions of Golf’ is being put together by the club’s Ladies Section and it is part of efforts to raise the level of the sport by the Executive Committee led by Lady Captain MaryRose Richard-Obioha,” she said.

Ikwue disclosed that top Nigerian professional golfers would also be available at the clinic which ends on Aug. 6 to offer life skills training to the children and youths.

“This is with a view of not only integrating them into the game but the society in general.

“Golf is a game of rules and in as much as there will be many rules for the children to learn, we will also want them to know about service to humanity, country and fellow golfers.”

Ikwue stated that more than 70 children and teenagers, whose ages range from five to 18, have so far registered and the organisers believed that more are still coming.

She added that the club’s ladies have traditionally always arranged this summer development clinic for over a decade now.

“The section has tried to sustain the developmental programme with the aim of discover potential young golfers.

“This is because the clinic is to catch them young and groom them so as to become assets for their parents and Nigeria as a whole.”

Ikwue however lamented the difficulties in getting sponsors as some of the letters sent out did not receive any response.

She nonetheless thanked the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board, Rotary Club, as well as members of the club for their support.

NAN

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Workers’ welfare: FG to ensure implementation of projects

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By Gistflash News

July 22, 2021

The Federal Government on Thursday, expressed its commitment to the effective implementation of projects that would improve the welfare of civil servants in the country.

Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF), said this at the inauguration and handing over of erosion/flooding control, and road improvement work at Ama Pepple Public Servants’ Estate, FCT.

Yemi-Esan said that the project was one of the 7th ecological interventions, approved by President, Muhammadu Buhari, for 3rd and 4th quarters of 2019.

She said that the government had in pursuance of this goal, also implemented a project named the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) programme.

The HCSF explained that the FISH Programme was designed to provide quality and affordable housing for public servants, in line with the Federal Government’s Housing Policy.

According to her, the government is working assiduously to make the lives of public servants better.

“We are also working to provide critical infrastructure in estates built for civil servants under the FISH project.

“Necessary action has been taken to reposition the FISH programme. So, we are working very hard to ensure that public and civil servants live in comfortable homes.

“The Federal Government is determined to pursue and implement projects aimed at ensuring the wellbeing of citizens, and also looking for better opportunities for economic growth of the country,’’ she said.

Yemi-Esan, however, implored residents of the estate to cherish the project by desisting from indiscriminate dumping of refuse, in order to ensure its sustainability.

“Having successfully completed this project, the living standard of the residents will be enhanced. This will also reduce dangers of erosion and persistent flooding that had been experienced here in recent times.

“The execution of projects across the country also demonstrates the sincerity of purpose by the present administration towards entrenching justice, equity and fair play to all and sundry,’’ she said.

She commended Ecological Fund Office (EFO), the project contractor; Diamond Global Engineering Investment Ltd and the project consultant; Enplan Group Ltd, for their doggedness in ensuring speedy completion of the project.

Dr Habiba Lawal, the Permanent Secretary of EFO, said that the project was initiated through a request for an urgent intervention, forwarded to the EFO by the Chairman of the estate.

Lawal said that the request was to arrest the continued erosion, flooding and other ecological challenges, as well as to prevent further environmental degradation, loss of lives and properties in the estate.

She said that the completion of the project was made possible through the efforts of the project contractor and consultant, which worked tirelessly to ensure that minimal time in the project implementation was achieved.

Dr Gaga Ali, the Chairman of the estate, who spoke on behalf of the residents, thanked the Federal Government and EFO officials for their effort sin making sure that the project was duly implemented.

Ali appealed to the government to construct an access road to the estate, as according to him, each year residents repair the road, it deteriorates due to erosion.

Also, Alhaji Mohamed Bello, the Managing Director, Diamond Global Engineering Investment Ltd, said that the job was to be executed within six months, but was completed in four months.

Bello said that the project was executed during the rainy season, and that in spite of the horrible state of the road and the season, the contractors were able to ensure the delivery of a quality project.

NAN

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