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Unlocking potential in tech convergence

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Stakeholders at this year’s annual West Africa Convergence Conference (WACC2017) have submitted that as different technology platforms continue to converge, development of technology skills, especially amongst the teeming youths in the country through effective converged regulatory environment will help to harness the new deals of convergence and grow the economy. KUNLE AZEEZ reports

 

As technology continues to converge across industry verticals with an increasing need to thicken the value of entrepreneurship and employability, an effort that can be effectively achieved if Nigeria is able to manage and turn the various challenges thrown up by the convergence trend into opportunities that can lead to the growth of technology skills that would help the country to unleash pent-up digital opportunities for the large number of youths in the country.
This was the crux of discussions by stakeholders, who spoke on different industry issues in Nigeria around the theme of the event: “Convergence and the New Deals: Entrepreneurship and Employability.” The sponsored event is organised by Knowhow Media and Market Intelligence International Limited (KMMIIL).
All the speakers, who looked at the theme from different perspectives, addressing sub-themes, were all on accord that effective management of the rising technology convergence ecosystem is needed to unlock its potential for economic growth.

Understanding tech convergence
Convergence is the delivery of telecommunications, information technology, broadcasting and other media technologies, sectors and services that were hitherto operating in parallel and independent of one another now on the same platform.
“Convergence enables established companies to increase in efficiency, have greater returns on technology investments, realise other business benefits through development of new services and rapid market expansion, open up new sales markets, drive revenue growth, create jobs, and generally impact on socioeconomic advances.
According to the coordinator of the programme, Mr. Segun Oruame, the annual sponsored-event has been designed to address critical and topical issues that are being thrown up as a result of technology convergence sweeping across the world. He said this year’s focus was to see how convergence is impacting employability and entrepreneurship.

Developing tech skills
Speaking on the theme of the event, the Chairman, ICT Committee at the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Mohammed Onawo, said the development of technology skills in the country, especially amongst the teeming youths will help to harness the new deals of convergence and grow the economy.
Onawo, who stated that at least, around 1.8 million youths enter the labour market every year, stressed the need to enhance “our state of preparedness for the converged space through digital skills development as convergence is already enabling new forms of work and altering the structure of jobs.”
He said : “We must, therefore, join hands to thicken the value for skill and new career training, expand the portfolio of opportunities for employment and businesses; encourage innovation and drive more flexible forms of employment and work.”
He explained that without skills development, Nigeria cannot develop and she further risks building an army of disgruntled and angry youths to undermine her national security.
“Skills development that is aligned with industry requirements is a catalyst that can ensure economic growth; and skills adequately channeled at meeting changing dynamics of an industry or an economy, imply the ability to foster new careers that can contribute positively to the economy,” he added.

Technology re-ordering labour market
Hon. Onawo who was addressing participants at the industry stakeholders-packed event noted that as technology convergence is re-ordering the labour markets and making it more innovative, there’s need for collaborations between the public and private sector, both local and global to help Nigeria as a country fully leverage its dividends in businesses and employment.
“Individuals, companies, and governments must re-strategize to be able to reap the benefits of these changes. As a country, we must begin to seek new partners; local and global, to help us advance the new technology agenda influencing employment and businesses,” he noted.
“We must maximize the positive impact of technology and industry convergence on employment and businesses. We must get everyone involved, policymakers, business operators and regulators, medical practitioners, educationists and trainers, manufacturers and innovators, legislators and other stakeholders,” he added.
He said convergence is often seen as exerting pressure solely on the regulatory systems, but it is not so, as the World Bank has noted that the human capital systems, social systems, and financial systems are equally being refined. So in all these fronts, we must all be alert and ready to exert the necessary change for good.
Onawo said that lawmakers recognise their role in setting the tone to encourage the growth of new opportunities for Nigerian citizens who must leverage on technology to be productive and globally competitive, and the legislators do not shy away from encouraging this new direction and new way of thinking within the confines of the knowledge economy.

Building converged IT infrastructure
However, most stakeholders at the event pointed out that to achieve high IT skill development and thereby getting Nigeria’s teeming young population engaged, existing infrastructure has to be strengthened and this role falls squarely on government agencies.
According to them, how well the industry regulators such as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and other agencies such as the Nigeria Communication Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) and Galaxy Backbone under the Ministry of Communications, will go a long way in the country having robust technology convergence infrastructure.
Interestingly, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, has stated that the Commission was finalising subsidy agreements with two of Nigeria’s infrastructure companies: MainOne, and IHS Services Limited for the Lagos and North central zones respectively in a way that would facilitate affordable access to more than 30 million Nigerians as part of the  agenda to speed up Nigeria’s broadband target for 2020.
While there has been arguments over what approach the regulator should adopt on technology convergence, Danbatta said the NCC’s position is to have an engaging and open attitude to innovation and disruptive technologies in the realisation that it’s in the market’s interest to encourage innovation.
His words: “Emerging technologies are innovations driven by convergence, which facilitate creation of new markets, value networks and businesses; improves products and services in innovative ways that the market never anticipated. Acknowledged as the most important development essential for socio-economic advancement and well-being of any nation, some of the technologies are mobile Internet, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud technology, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles, automation of knowledge work and so on.”

Taming obstacles to infrastructure deployment
Basically, the Association of Telecoms Company of Nigeria (ATCON) decried the over-taxing of telecoms companies as well as the exorbitant charges on right of way (RoW) as key factors hindering the growth of IT infrastructure in a convergence era.
President, ATCON, Mr. Olushola Teniola, while speaking at the conference, said if heavy taxation and RoW remain unaddressed, most telecommunications companies will eventually be stifled out of business beginning 2018.
“In Nigeria, our problem is basically getting basic connectivity and if we continue to tax we will never get it right. That’s the issue that we have. The biggest problem and an impediment for everyone here to know is the issue of right of way,” he said.

Last line
Most private sector players at the event acknowledged the need for NCC, NITDA and the necessary departments of government to have a convergence-compliant policy direction to ensure that RoW is suppressed and multiple taxations are removed so that the citizens can enjoy the benefits of technology convergence, which requires corresponding deployment of IT infrastructure that help to unlock the benefits of technology convergence.

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Stock market opens week bearish

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Trading activities on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) market yesterday opened this week on  the negative territory as the overall performance measures, NSE ASI and market capitalisation, both fell by 1.53 per cent.

 

The downswing according to market watchers, was due to profit taking by investors after recent bullish rally.

 

Consequently, the All-Share Index dropped by 651.09 basis points or 1.53 per cent from 42,638.83 index points last Friday to close at 41,987.74, while the market capitalisation of equities depreciated by N234 billion or 1.53 per cent to close at N15.067 trillion from N15.301 trillion.

 

Further analysis of the day’s trading showed that Linkage Assurance Plc topped the day’s gainers’ table with 9.09 per cent to close at 96 kobo per share, while Livestock Feeds Plc followed with five per cent to close at N1.05 per share. Fidson Healthcare Plc added 4.92 per cent to close at N4.69 per share.

 

On the flip side, PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc led the losers’ chart with a dip of 8 per cent to close at N23.00 per share. Lasaco Insurance Plc shed 6.06 per cent to close at 31 kobo per share. Enamelwa Nigeria Plc followed with 4.95 per cent to close at 22 kobo per share.

 

Market turnover closed negative as volume moved down by -64.80 per cent as against +32.62 per cent uptick recorded in the previous session. Skye Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc and FCMB Plc were the most active stocks that boosted market turnover while Zenith Bank Plc and Guinness Nigeria Plc topped market value list.

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Nigeria mulls 700,000 barrels daily oil output surge

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…envisages 250,000 barrels from local producers

 

Nigeria is planning an increase of 700,000 barrels a day in her oil production. Data from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources sighted by New Telegraph showed that indigenous producers from the country aim to pump almost 250,000 barrels per day additional crude by 2020 as part of a wider plan for the nation to lift output to 2.5 million a day.

“We are on course,” Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who confirmed the data, said in Abuja last weekend, just as he intimated newsmen of the goal to pump 2.5 million barrels a day by 2020. “Capacity-wise, the volumes are there. Infrastructure-wise we suffer a little bit in terms of being able to deliver.”

There are at least a dozen small to mid-sized Nigerian producers pumping between 5,000 and 100,000 barrels each day. Together, they plan to add incremental supply of at least 150,000 barrels a day this year. Aiteo E & P Ltd., Nigeria’s largest independent, didn’t immediately comment about its expansion plans. Shoreline Group, the third-biggest independent, the data showed, wants to double output by December with Seplat Petroleum Development Company, the second-largest, also intending to produce more.

” In all, the country’s total planned increase, a report adapted from the data showed, is 700,000 barrels a day. “Just over a third will come from the state-run Nigeria Petroleum Development Co., a third from independents, and the remainder from oil majors.

The expansion depends, among other things, on peace being maintained in the Niger Delta. A militant group said last month it would attack oil and gas facilities,” the data adapted by Bloomberg showed. “One probability is at least some of the extra Nigerian supply will end up feeding the Dangote oil refinery, the continent’s largest, which is due to start operating next year. While doing that would help rid Nigeria of its dependence on fuels produced overseas, it wouldn’t extricate the country from its commitments to OPEC.

“Back in 2016, Shoreline had to cancel a planned $500 million Eurobond. With oil prices rallying, the company is making a comeback. It agreed a $530 million deal with financiers led by Vitol Group, the world’s biggest independent oil trader, as it seeks to double crude output to 100,000 barrels a day by year end.

“It represents a massive vote of confidence in the future growth of our operations and of Nigerian upstream producers,” Kola Karim, chief executive officer of Shoreline, said in an interview.

“Shoreline’s progress mirrors that of other Nigerian independents.Seplat, said to be among companies bidding for Petroleo Brasileiro SA’s African oilfields, expects to ramp up drilling this year after output recovered from militant attacks and low prices, according to company statements,” the report said. Half a decade ago, these producers were hailed as the future of Nigeria’s production because of their potential to pump 40 percent of the OPEC member’s output. They had bought oilfields that hold at least a third of the West African nation’s 37.5 billion barrels of crude reserves from companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA, and Eni SpA. Their day may still come.

The OPEC deal is currently in place until the end of this year and global demand is rising fast. The International Energy Agency this month revised up its growth estimate for world oil consumption by 100,000 barrels a day, taking it up to 1.4 million.

“As the oil market rebalances in the years ahead, OPEC will have to lift its production cap,” Pabina Yinkere, an energy analyst at Lagos-based Vetiva Capital Management, said by phone, adding that a lot of extra Nigerian crude could be used to feed the Dangote refinery.

“Moves to raise production are in view of expected demand growth.” The oil producers in Nigeria are planning to add barrels at the same time as Nigeria participates in a global pact to restrict oil supply that’s being led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-member nations including Russia. If any one country relents – and similar internal pressures are bubbling up elsewhere – then the entire deal could come under strain.

“If they can pump more in Nigeria, I don’t see why they wouldn’t,” Warren Patterson, a commodity strategist at ING Bank NV, said. “If you get Nigeria exceeding the cap, then you’re going to get others who pump a little bit more. The longer the deal goes on for, the more likely it’s going to fall apart.”

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2018: Experts predict vibrant real estate

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As oil prices stabilise at 17 per cent higher than 2017 average and direct foreign investment increases, experts see surge in real estate activities in 2018. DAYO AYEYEMI reports

 

Following improvement in the economy, things are beginning to look up in Nigeria’s real estate sector with market operators getting set to tap into the opportunities, which exist in various segments of the market.

They were, however, particular about the low and middle income residential, millennial and student accommodation sections. Apparently equipped with the dynamism of happenings in the economy, they stated that investors (both local and foreign) were prepared to launch into pockets of opportunities in real estate market. Investors’ hope has been further boosted by the latest Bismack Rewane-led Financial Derivative Company (FDC)’s report on review of third quarter of 2017, which showed that Foreign Capital Inflows (FCI) to Nigeria increased by 148 per cent to $4.15 billion.

This positive trend, analysts said, happened as a result of renewed investor confidence in the economy. Also, the experts noted that oil prices had climbed to 17 per cent higher than 2017 average, expressing confidence that if the situation persists, oil revenues might help mitigate consequences of capital flight.

Current development

This newspaper gathered that while some developers are entering into Joint Ventures (JV) with the government to provide affordable housing units for citizens, others are currently repackaging their products to attract financiers and buyers.

In exclusive neighbourhoods such as Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki, where landlords can no longer wait without getting tenants and buyers for their dormant properties, they have been converting their vacant houses to smaller apartments such as one-bedroom, studio and condos to attract people in need of smaller accommodation. This innovation by landlords, according to experts, has caught the attention of working-class singles who want to live very close to their workplaces.

Experts’ view

Taking a look at what 2018 holds for the sector, experts, which comprised developers, institutional investors, mortgage providers, media practitioners, property consultants and brokers at Fine and Country West Africa’s investors series, agreed that the outlook was bright and promising for real estate, hinging their prediction on improved economic climate. According to them, the economy has started looking up with pockets of opportunities emerging in the residential segment of the market.

They observed that low to middle income market remained strong all through the recession period while the upper market struggled. “But developers are adopting creative ways of dealing with the persisting challenge with a view to stimulating demand and sustaining their business,” they said.

Setting the pace, Sales Consultant, Fine and Country in Lagos, Mr. David Mba, said that he saw a more vibrant residential market coming as a result of an improved economy in 2018, adding that what were considered challenges in the past have become opportunities. According to him, developers in their bid to share risk and also raise more capital were going into joint ventures, citing Brains and Hammers Limited’s example.

“Only recently, Brains and Hammers Limited, one of Nigeria’s leading real estate and infrastructure development companies, entered into a joint venture agreement with Lagos State Government,” he said. This move, he explained, is believed to be the company’s response to pressing demands from its clients who wanted to acquire property in Lagos.

He said: “The move will see the company developing 750 housing units, comprising 132-tower units and 618 units that will be part of the Jubilee Estate development in Iganmu area of Lagos.

“The Phase 1 of the project comprises 129 units made up of 12 units of 2-bedrooms, 24 units of 4-bedrooms terrace and 93 other units. There are also twin towers made up of 132 units, comprising 60 units of one bedroom, 24 units of two bedroom, and 24 units of 3-bedroom maisonette.”

Other market trends, Mba said, included increase in demand for good value three or four bedroom apartments in Ikoyi precincts, selling within the range of N120 million to N150 million; increase in demand for houses including terraces, semi and fully detached units. Publisher/CEO, BusinessDay, Frank Aigbogun, is of the view that improvement in the economy means increased business activities that will in turn trigger more demand for real estate products such as commercial office, retail and residential buildings.

Fine & Country’s CEO/Vice Chair, Udo Okonjo, stated that the sector’s positive outlook would come with opportunities for only investors who are ready to understand that the market had changed.

From market survey, she stated that there would be opportunities across various segments of the real estate’s market including residential, commercial office and retail. “Lifestyle communities are the new face of residential real estate.

These communities have the advantages of economies of scale and security,” the Fine and Country’s CEO said. She hinted that opportunity currently existed in millennial and student housing, adding that many investors were tapping into these areas.

Dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Lagos, Professor Timothy Nubi, confirmed that many investors had already taken position around the university campus and were delivering one-bedroom self-contained apartments for N500,000 per annum.

In a bid to maximise the value of their property, a recent Northcourt Real Estate report 2018 outlook, noted that land owners looked more favourable to joint ventures with developers.

This newspaper also discovered that many developers and investors have been taking advantage of the ongoing construction of Dangote Refinery in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos to acquire more lands in the axis for housing estate development.

Last line

As the business investment climate gets betters, necessary actions must be taken by the government to improve ease of doing business in the country.

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