Type in “New Normal” into your search engine as a query and you would be greeted with more than 2.2 billion search results in a fraction of a second. Specifically, 0.70 second. Like many words and phrases which became popular with the fast spread of the Corona Virus, the expression “New Normal” is not going away anytime soon. But what is the new normal all about? Is there really a new normal? What are the things that smell of novelty but still quickly take on the cloak of normalcy? Well, I had all these questions until I settled in to a bit of research.
The term “New Normal” was coined to represent the lifestyle changes especially such as is obtainable in the social hemisphere of life around the world since the discovery and spread of the COVID-19 virus. From wearing of masks in public places, stretching all the way to increase in electronic purchases and cashless transactions, the term ‘new normal’ collectively umbrellas all of them. So, when the doorman points you to the “No Masks, No Entry” sign on the door of your favourite eatery and says something like, “Sir, it seems you have not become accustomed to the new normal?” He is referring to the social and behavioural changes necessitated by the Corona Virus pandemic.
Although everyone says it is the ‘new normal’, I beg to differ. I believe it is more appropriate to refer to THE POST-COVID-19 era as the ‘eNormal’ i.e. the electronic Normal. From businesses to schools and even religious houses finding electronic options to float their activities through digital platforms, the pandemic opened everyone to a world of possibilities. We all became a lot more receptive to electronic options because in some cases, there was no other way or in other cases, it became the safer option to get things done without putting our immediate family members at risk of contracting the deadly virus. So, we went from boardroom meetings to Zoom sessions, and school lessons had to fit into Google Classrooms, and online shopping replaced going to the malls. It is over a year since the lockdown days were over. Slowly but surely, life is coming back to its former tempo. Inter-state travels are now embarked on without restrictions, the COVID-19-influenced curfews have all become history and with the necessary precautions, social events are now holding across the country. So, despite the fact that you still have to wear a mask to access various public facilities, we can say post COVID-19 era is here and the curfews might go but not the dependence on electronic options to payments, they are here to stay. While many believe that this was caused by the pandemic, I do not think that is entirely true. The technologies we began to rely heavily on during the pandemic are not new. They were with us long before the pandemic. These technologies beckoned on every one of us, but we were really stuck in our old ways. That is why I am of the opinion that COVID-19 is not quite the causative agent of the eNormal, the pandemic was simply an enabler.
For some years now, e-Technologies have called for a cash-less approach to financial transactions but for some reason we decided to stick with the old-fashioned way. With the introduction of Cash-less Policy, as far back as 2012 by the Central Bank of Nigeria, one would think that cash-less payments would be embraced long before the pandemic hit us. But it was not until 2020 when the lockdown kept everyone indoors and businesses had to go digital that electronic payments got attention. In fact, before the pandemic, there were business owners who were very reluctant about cashless payments, there were even a crop of others, complete laggards, who did not accept digital payments at all for the fear of “fake” alerts and other fraudulent moves by dubious customers.
Howbeit, COVID-19 came and everyone had to find a way to stay afloat. Flashback to the lockdown and see how fast we moved from cash to digital and then to electronic payments. The evolution is here to stay; hence, it is not a question of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when’ which I do believe is in no distant time. In the dynamic world of business and trade, the way forward is CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies). At the moment, about 81 countries are in the process of launching their respective national digital currencies. In fact, 11 countries such as the Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and others have fully launched their own digital currencies. There is a trail of other countries, trying to catch up and not be left out because of the prospects it holds for citizens resident in the country or in the Diaspora.
For Ghana, their own digital currency is called eCedis, in the Bahamas, it is called the Bahamian Sand Dollar and in Nigeria, the CBN issued Digital Currency called the eNaira. Believe it or not, digital currencies are the future of financial transactions, the earlier we adopt and make peace with it, the better for us as Nigerians. So, let me welcome you to the eNormal, a place where we won’t just experience the advantage of the eCurrencies, but a place where more can actually happen for you, and for your business.
Aregbese Olawale is a health worker, social media commentator on all things Social Health Development, and a father of two. Aregbese lives in Lagos, the ground zero for COVID-19 in Nigeria, and since being directly involved in setting up testing centres and getting vaccination kits, has decided to occasionally let his voice on the realities affecting COVID-19 interventions known from Lagos to the rest of the world.