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AfDB: CFTA’ll boost intra-African trade by $35bn yearly

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As reactions continue to trial Nigeria’s decision not to ratify the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), framework agreement signed by 44 African countries last week, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has said that the deal, “will stimulate intra-African trade by up to $35 billion per year, creating a 52 per cent increase in trade by 2022; and a vital $10 billion decrease in imports from outside Africa.”

 

The AfDB, which stated this in a statement by its President, Akinwumi Adesina, pledged full support towards the success of Continental Free Trade Area deal.

 

“Free trade will bring collective benefits and shared wealth for all African nations, especially the landlocked countries. So, we must accelerate investments in regional and national infrastructure, especially, to boost connectivity, reduce costs and raise competitiveness,” Adesina said.

 

He applauded the African Union Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa, the negotiators, and the CFTA Champion, Mahamadou Issoufou, the President of the Republic of Niger, for doing an excellent job in making the initiative a reality for Africa, noting that regional integration and trade based upon the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital is at the core of the business of the African Development Bank.

 

“This is Africa’s time and Africa can no longer be ignored. Africa’s food and agriculture market will hit $1 trillion by 2030. Household consumption will hit $2.5 trillion, with business-to-business expenditure at $3.5 trillion by 2025. There’s no doubt, Africa is where to invest,” President Adesina stressed.

 

According to Adesina, that is why infrastructure features prominently in the Bank’s High 5 priorities to ensure that no country is left behind in its efforts connect Africa’s 54 countries into a mutually profitable free trade area.

 

In the last five years, the Bank’s commitments to infrastructure have totaled more than $12 billion, mostly in cross-border transport, energy, finance and ICT connectivity and the Bank has worked closely with its partners to identify and undertake regional infrastructure projects under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) with a $10 million grant.

 

“Africa is open for business. The days of aid are over. We are now on a highway to boosting Africa’s prosperity, through greater trade and investments ‘without borders’ among our nations,” the AfDB boss said.
It will be recalled that despite the Federal Executive Council’s (FEC) support for the CFTA, President Muhammadu Buhari, refused to sign the agreement , on the grounds that his administration will not be in a hurry to enter into any agreement that would make the country a dumping ground and jeopardise its security.

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May oil cargo-load’s rejection plummets revenue by $811m

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Global crude oil buyers have shunned 20 cargo-loads of the commodity on Nigeria’s May loading programme, plummeting country’s revenue projection by $811.91 million.

 

The move, which also worsened the glut in the market, came as 11 fresh Agbami, Escravos, Brass River June’s export flooded the market while trader, Vitol, won tender by the international oil companies (IOCs).

 

About $811.91 million total crude revenues from Nigeria, checks by New Telegraph showed, were put at risk.

 

South Korea’s SK Incheon Petrochem, asides from this, also declared plans to boost purchases of light crudes to replace Iranian condensate, including oil from Nigeria, Russia and Kazakhstan.

 

The loading schedule report on West Africa Crude also reaffirmed that several more June loading plans surfaced, but key grades Bonny Light and Forcados were still pending.

 

Stating that 20 of the cargoes from Nigeria were lingering after being on offer for some two weeks, the schedule showed Indian refiner, BPCL, was looking for West African grades in a tender that closed at the weekend.

 

The plans included six cargoes of Agbami and Escravos and five cargoes of Brass River, though not all were full sized.

 

“A backlog of roughly 20 cargoes from the May loading plan loitered. Despite this, other trading surfaced,” the schedule showed.

 

For tenders, trader, Vitol, had won a tender to supply India’s IOC with two cargoes of crude oil.

 

“The tender sought oil loading June 21-30,” it read.

 

Stating that the grades were not immediately clear, the loading schedule added that India’s HPCL launched a tender to buy oil, which closes this week.

 

The crude cargo usually in use for Nigeria’s crude sweet crude grade lifts at least 550, 000 barrels and two million barrels at most.

 

Using 550,000 barrels, the 20 cargoes contain at least 11 million barrels, which also amounted to at least $811.91 million based on $73.81 per barrel current price.

 

Long Range (LR) class of crude cargoes, according to the United States (U.S.) Energy Information Administration (EIA), are the most common in the global tanker fleet, as they are used to carry both refined products and crude oil.

 

These ships can access most large ports that ship crude oil and petroleum products. An LR1 tanker can carry between 345,000 barrels and 615,000 barrels of gasoline (14.5-25.8 million gallons) or between 310,000 barrels and 550,000 barrels of light sweet crude oil.

 

A classification used to describe a large portion of the global tanker fleet is AFRAMAX. AFRAMAX vessels refer to ships between 80,000 and 120,000 deadweight tons.

 

This ship size is popular with oil companies for logistical purposes, and, therefore, many ships have been built within these specifications. Because the AFRAMAX range exists somewhere between the LR1 and LR2 AFRA scales, the LTBP does not publish a freight assessment specifically for AFRAMAX vessels.

 

Over the history of AFRA, vessels grew in size and newer classifications were added. The Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and Ultra-Large Crude Carrier (ULCC) were added as the global oil trade expanded and larger vessels provided better economics for crude shipments.

 

VLCCs are responsible for most crude oil shipments around the globe, including in the North Sea, home of the crude oil price benchmark Brent. A VLCC can carry between 1.9 million and 2.2 million barrels of a WTI type crude oil.

 

There are a small number of ULCC vessels currently in use, as their size requires special facilities limiting the number of places where these vessels can load and offload.

 

These massive vessels can carry around 2 million barrels to 3.7 million barrels of crude oil. The only U.S. port that can handle such large vessels while  fully loaded is the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP).

Meanwhile, $10.22 billion loss is being suffered by Nigeria through crude output deficit from pipeline vandalism in 2016.

For Angola, another top producer in Africa, a handful of May loading Angolan cargoes were also still available.

BP purchased a June-loading cargo of Saturno from Sonangol, traders said.

Sonangol was also offering three Dalia cargoes at dated Brent minus $1.50 per barrel, one cargo of Olombendo at dated Brent plus $1.40, Girassol at Brent plus $1.20 and a cargo each of Hungo and Sangos at 40 cent discounts.

 

In the same vein, crude oil production by members of the Organisation of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) dropped just over 200,000 barrels per day in March. They are now just over one million barrels per day.

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Diamond Bank divests holdings in UK subsidiary

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Diamond Bank Plc has divested its 100 per cent holding in its UK subsidiary, Diamond Bank UK.

According to Reuters, the Tier 2 lender signed share sale and purchase agreement with member of GFG Alliance, for disposal of its entire share holding in its UK subsidiary.

 

The bank had announced last November that it was quitting other West African markets to focus efforts at home and deploy its resources on personal banking business in the country.

 

In a statement, Diamond Bank’s Chief Executive, Uzoma Dozie, said: “After 18 years of building the Diamond Bank franchise in other markets in West Africa, the time has come to fully apply our resources to Nigeria,” adding that the lender wanted to apply its resource to Nigeria to develop a profitable technology-driven retail banking business.

 

Dozie said Nigeria’s unbanked population and the rise of cost-effective digital banking platforms provided it with the opportunity to reach millions of customers in a market where it already had over 15 million clients.
Unity Bank rewards winners in ‘UniFiers project’

 

As part of its new focus on the youth segment and further to the launch of UNiFi product, its new Youth and Digital Banking initiative, Unity Bank Plc recently rewarded the creativity of three young people.

 

In a statement, the bank said that these recipients – referred to as Unifiers – demonstrated their innovativeness and distinguished themselves in an online competition.

 

The UniFiers initiative was conceived as part of the Bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which was instituted to empower young people who had developed definitive initiatives that had an impact on their immediate communities. Each of them were celebrated at the recent UNIFI-launch held at the University of Lagos.

 

The three successful candidates received rewards of half a million naira each for displaying their projects online as part of the UniFiers challenge and garnering highest number of votes from fans who endorsed their respective projects in each of the project category.

 

According to the GM, Products & Channels, Mr. Bonaventure Okhaimo, “the UniFiers project is aimed at encouraging creativity and motivating Nigerian youths”, adding that, “the Bank identified three broad categories for the competition which included ‘the Lanterns; targeting science & technology innovation, ‘the Humanitarians’, riding on social development and charity, and the ‘Builders’ – highlighting excellence in Art, design and culture”.

 

The winners that emerged include: Tolulope Falope – Builders category, Mobolaji Oriola – Humanitarian category and Albert Kure – Lantern Category.

 

As the Unifiers initiative continue to reflect the core essence of UniFi product offering, the Bank is currently taking the three winners through a mentorship programme intended to enhance the three winning projects and their promoters for the overall benefits of the society.

 

The Group Head Retail & SME Banking Group, Mr. Funwa Akinmade, who addressed students during the launch, described UniFi as a “product for the youth generation which offers a full digital experience that does not require them to ever visit the bank’s branch.”

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Giving verve to local content in ICT

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When it comes to technology usage and adoption, Nigeria has always been at the front, but the question is what percentage of the technology is produced locally? This has been bothering government and stakeholders alike for years, but without conscious efforts at implementing existing policies, the country may forever remain an ICT consuming nation that it is, SAMSON AKINTARO reports

 

Earlier this month, the Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, spoke about the challenges inhibiting the growth of information and communications technology (ICT) in Nigeria and he specifically pointed at apathy for indigenous products and services as a major one.

 

According to the minister, this challenge is seriously affecting the business of local IT players in the country, from hardware to software and to services. That, however, was not the first time top government official would lament over the problem that is as old as the nation’s ICT industry and it is worrying that despite the agony of local players and the huge losses being incurred by the country over massive technology importation, there has not been any solution.

 

ICT consuming nation

 

With over 180 million population and diverse culture, Nigeria is a veritable market for any product or service and with that, it is not surprising that the best of technology products from around the world always find their way into the country.

 

Indeed, there is no latest technology anywhere in the world that a Nigerian is not already using and this is why billions of dollars is leaving the country every year on ICT importation.

 

According to the Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isa Panatami, Nigeria spends $2.8 billion yearly on importation of ICT products and services.

Products being imported include telecommunications, audio and video, computer and related equipment; electronic components, software and a number of others.

 

Corroborating NITDA’s view, the Director General of National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, Dr. Ibrahim DanAzumi, also recently declared, though conservatively, that 90 per cent of technologies being used in Nigeria are imported.

 

Not long ago, the office for Nigerian Content Development (NCD) in ICT also declared that the preference for foreign ICT products and services was causing Nigeria a loss of over N1 trillion in foreign exchange yearly.

 

Government policy

Despite the fact that the issue of local content and over dependence on foreign technologies have always been at the front burner for years, there seems to be no clear-cut policy to change the situation except for a few government statements and directives that end up disappearing through the airwaves.

 

However, speaking in Lagos recently at the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) annual dinner, Shittu expressed optimism that with part of the Executive Orders signed late last by the Federal Government focusing on local content in ICTs, things would begin to change.

 

 

According to him, the ministry through the Council of Heads of ICT in Federal MDAs had examined the Executive Order 003 where stakeholders in the ICT met, brainstormed and proffered steps and solutions at domesticating the ICT local content initiative in Nigeria.

“In the same token, at the 5th National Council on Communication Technology (NCCT-2017) in Katsina, the council adopted the policy of optimising ICT local content and empowering local businesses in the sector and also approved the establishment of computer After-Sales- Services centers in MDAs and After-Support- provision for staff in service level agreements” the minister said.

 

Shittu said the issues of local content needed to be elevated to such a serious level to save the nation’s economy.

 

“What more can be economic sabotage, if actions that cause massive loss of jobs and massive loss of foreign exchange are not redressed. The National Assembly given the Executive Orders has the impetus to fast track the enactment of a holistic law on local content. Such a law should, among other things, criminalise breaches of the local content policy of the nation.

 

“The ministry through NITDA is ready to provide guaranteed order for the local products and the private sector must ensure quality of service and products. We are totally committed to the implementation of the Local Content Program and the Executive Order on Local Content.”

 

The local content policy and the Executive Orders came in to promote domestication of technology, using indigenous capacities and resources and to encourage patronage of locally–produced ICT products and services. This initiative is expected to lead to the development of skills in the country and lay the foundation for local production of critical components such as software, which is farmed out for import.

 

 

Implementation is key

 

Policies similar to the Executive Orders being touted are not new in the country but implementation has always been the problem. Indeed, the Federal Government at a point, through the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, wrote a letter with Ref No SGF/OP/1/S.3/VII/795, to head of civil service commission, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government on the need to patronise made in Nigeria products, including procurement of locally assembled computers and locally developed software.

 

Unfortunately, that was never implemented. Currently, NITDA is also battling with the MDAs over its new directive that they should seek approval from the ICT regulator before embarking on any IT project, with a view to weighing local options for such projects.

 

According to the Chief Executive Officer of Programmos Software, most of what Nigeria has had in terms of ICT local content policies are mere political statements that are never implemented.

 

“Most of the time, we are quick to make those kinds of policy statements but we actually don’t have what it takes to implement the policies. Many past governments, ministers had ventured into this but I think we have failed government institutions in Nigeria and these actually have failed the country.

 

“We would have been better than we are if government policy statements are being implemented the right ways they were thought of before now. It is easy for a minister to say he is getting MDAs to use local software, but then, it is not easy for him to act when the opposite is being done by the MDAs. Nobody enforces it when somebody has done contrary to the government’s policy statement” he said.

 

 

Quality as target

 

With policies and implementation in place, Nigeria may still not make any headway with local content in ICT without quality local products and services up to the foreign standards that Nigerians are used to. This is why local Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are encouraged to always meet international standards.

 

According to Amos, the reason many Nigerians would go for foreign phones or computers, when there are locally produced ones, is because they believe the foreign ones are of better quality. The Programmos boss, however, canvassed a synergy between Nigerian technology companies and foreign players to be able to get foreign exposures that will also impact on their local products.

 

“The Nigeria ICT industry should be coordinated in a manner that they can actually identify those so called big hub players, let’s say from Asia, US, and Europe, if the industry could position itself in a manner that players in Nigeria can offer from a network of professional services from these key hub players, they would be able to enjoy international exposure.

 

These include opportunities of best practice in their operations and business relations in Nigeria and by that you realise that these kind of footprints would encourage that if I have a foreign company, say from India, wishing to do one business or the other in Nigeria, such company would obviously be pointed to at least one or two local companies before that business can be done,” he suggested.

 

Last line

 

Beyond consumption of ICT products and services, Nigeria needs to establish herself as a technology nation and the road to that, according to experts, begins from government by first creating the enabling environment for local businesses to thrive.

 

Again, it is believed that if government, as the biggest spender in the economy, decides to patronise local ICTs alone, then the local industry will in no time spring up and compete favourably with their foreign counterparts. It goes without saying that serious implementation of existing policies on local contents would play a major role driving local content development in the ICT industry.

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