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    Interswitch approves digital tools for cross-border deals.



    Africa’s leading integrated payments and digital commerce company, has emphasised the need for more innovative solutions to effectively address issues hindering the growth of intra-continental trade.

    Managing Director, Payment Processing and Switching (Interswitch Purepay), Akeem Lawal, spoke during a panel session at the Zenith Bank International Trade Seminar in Lagos.

    According to Lawal, the prevailing issues limiting cross-border payments can be solved through advanced digital payment platforms that enable seamless intra-continental transactions.

    He acknowledged the prevailing issues affecting cross-border payments, positing that infrastructure can be improved to create opportunities for businesses within Nigeria to transact with businesses beyond the borders of the country.

    He said: “Businesses can achieve greater strides by embracing digitisation. This opportunity cuts across private businesses, the government parastatals and financial institutions. Digitisation is critical for designing platforms for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the export business to enable them complete transactions successfully with little to no constraints.”

    The seminar themed, “Nigerian non-oil export industry: The Present, The future”, also identified the impact of Nigeria’s service industry, with a focus on the creative and technology sectors and their impact to the country’s development.

    Speaking on the critical significance of these sectors, Lawal emphasised the need for fortified public-private partnerships to drive growth in Nigeria’s service industry which has consistently played a substantial role in the country’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

    He noted that Nigeria was a high exporter of technological expertise and that a significant investment in technology-focused companies would augment the sector’s contribution to the economy.

    As part of the collaboration between the government and private sector players, Lawal highlighted necessary interventions that would support the growth and development of the service sector including training workshops, the promotion of innovative systems, and conducive policy implementation.

    In the same vein, Lawal stressed the need for more robust investment vehicles targeted at the country’s fintech sector to drive tremendous growth in Nigeria.

    In his welcome address, Group Managing Director/CEO, Zenith Bank Plc, Ebenezer Onyeagwu, underscored the need for Nigeria to recognize its huge potential as a continental powerhouse, shifting its focus from oil products to non-oil commodities to derive value for the economy.

    He called for the need to tap into the country’s rich resources and to establish production bases that will support development, to create a ripple effect on a continental level.

    The trade seminar drew major stakeholders from both public and private sectors who expounded on the way forward for Nigeria and Africa at large.

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    Hotel Industry Fears For The Future Of Tourism



    Donegal enjoyed a bumper weekend of tourism business with many hotels at full capacity thanks to an influx of visitors over the Northern Bank holiday weekend.

    However, as the summer season draws to a close a leading hotelier has warned that many hospitality businesses in Donegal will be forced to reduce their opening hours or in some cases close altogether because they can’t cope with rising costs across the sector.

    He said that if the government fails to agree to a further extension in the reduced VAT rate of 9 per cent for their sector, many tourism operators in the county will be in trouble.

    “Businesses in the hospitality sector have already absorbed massive energy and staffing costs,” Mr Diver said.

    “And going forward, with the VAT rate set to increase at the end of the month this will push costs up even further.”

    “If the VAT rate does go up they just simply can’t pass it on to the consumer because it is expensive enough as it is,” Mr. Diver added.

    “They (the public) can’t absorb it either, so they are just going to cut back on their opening hours and the food that they are offering.

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    Enugu Investment Roundtable: Now, Let the Transactions Begin



    This Friday, Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State will flag off the inaugural Enugu State Investment and Economic Growth Stakeholders Roundtable where he will unveil a $2.1 billion (N1.6 trillion Naira) project pipeline that spans several industries such as transportation and healthcare infrastructure, energy, power, and agro industrialisation. The Roundtable, which is a precursor to the launch of a maiden multi-stakeholder, fully transactional Diaspora and Investment Forum scheduled for the second quarter of 2024, is themed “Leveraging Public Private Partnerships”.

    It is expected to draw participation from senior executives from the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank Group, the International Finance Corporation, the African Export-Import Bank, the United Kingdom Department for Trade and Business, and the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC). These in addition to the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund, commercial banks, corporate pension funds, private equity funds, infrastructure funds, and other domestic financial institutions will convene in Enugu to chart a trajectory for effectively mobilising private capital for large-scale infrastructure projects, including climate resilient and sustainable infrastructure projects that can unlock the state’s and South-Eastern Nigeria’s economic potential.

    They will be focusing on barriers to investment and economic growth in Enugu State; improving investor confidence in the State and understanding investor’s risk and return preferences; and identifying partnership opportunities for project preparation and co‑investments.

    It has been said many times, and rightly so, that at the root of Nigeria’s economic woes is a highly dysfunctional federal structure that has progressively reduced states to indolent dependents of the central government. In his back page treatise in the March 4, 2012 edition of Thisday newspaper, which he entitled “Federal Allocation and Our Future”, Simon Kolawole, a columnist, likened the story of Nigeria to that of a father, who has 36 children. But instead of encouraging all his children to be creative, hard working, and independent, this father (called Nigeria) ignores the larger picture of every child being self-sustaining and insists on redistributing his children’s wealth.

    Going further, he questioned: “Why do we need to stretch our brain to dream of building our own Microsoft and Apple when we can look up to Abuja for the flow of petrodollars every month? Why should Bauchi bother to tap its tourism potential? Why should Bayelsa dream of feeding Africa with its FADAMA rice when there is a fat FAAC cheque to be collected in Abuja monthly? Why should Aba be developed into our own Taiwan or Japan? There is no such incentive. The only incentive I can see in Nigeria is Federation Account”.

    Unfortunately, nothing has changed. Nigerian leaders still dream petrodollars, with the states ever unimaginative, lacking in creativity, and dependent on federal handouts. Today hard times have hit the nation because not only is oil price not what it used to be, powerful cartels now steal millions of barrels of oil, ‘undetected’ by those we pay to prevent such economic sabotage or at least apprehend the perpetrators.

    A paradigm shift

    The result is that Nigeria went into the 2023 election with the economy in a state of emergency. Thus, Governor Peter Mbah’s message of paradigm shift resonated with the people. Not only did he make the economy the crux of the matter, he unveiled an ambitious economic and development agenda built outside the Abuja monthly handouts. He believes that Enugu’s path to the future does not rely on the Federation Account, but in extensive partnership with the private sector powered by a creative and visionary leadership to harness the state’s natural and human resources and unlock the capital needed for growth from a megre $4.4 billion to $30 billion. He promised to leading Enugu to becoming one of the top three states in Nigeria in terms of GDP as well as to a zero per cent poverty rate. He promised to make Enugu the preferred destination for investment, tourism, and living.

    It was pursuant to these that he equally promised to organise an investment summit in Enugu within the first 100 days in office because the promised $30 billion economy could only be possible by bringing investors to help transform the Enugu economic landscape from a public sector to a private sector-driven economy.

    Abundant opportunities

    The good thing is that Enugu has no reason to be poor, given the abundant resources and opportunities, which are sadly dormant and untapped. As the governor rightly explained during the 2023 Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry International Conference and Expo in Lagos on Tuesday, Enugu is a land brimming with opportunities – agriculture and agro industry, real estate, logistics and aviation, tourism, real estate, mineral resources, and Information Communication Technology (ICT), among others – begging to be harnessed and exploited.

    In the area of agriculture and agro industry, for instance, Enugu is positioning to take advantage of our proven strong factor productivity in the areas of some key segments of agriculture by opening up another 300,000 hectres of farmland for cultivation of focus crops and animal production. Talking about crops, Enugu, under the administration is focusing on opportunities in cassava, soybeans, palm oil palm production, cashew (which global market size is predicted to hit $7bn by 2025), and Nsukka pepper, which has become a veritable export commodity as well as an industrial raw material for various spice brands. Likewise, investment opportunities in poultry, piggery, and fishery are quite large, as even local needs are not met at the moment.

    Enugu’s geographical position as the gateway to the North makes it attractive for agro-processing investments to process agro products from both Enugu and the North to service the South East and South South.

    It is noteworthy that the South East and the South South are the final destinations of 40 per cent of the air cargo imported through Lagos. This makes investments in logistics and aviation quite lucrative. Thus the Mbah administration is investing extensively in our logistics and aviation to make transit through and to Enugu efficient and seamless. It is prioritising development of a cargo terminal for the Enugu International Airport to facilitate the direct receipt of cargo in Enugu as opposed to the current practice of shipping into Lagos airport and then undertaking the arduous and expensive overland journey to the South East by truck. The terminal, according to the governor, will equally facilitate the export of agro-produce direct from Enugu.

    There are also opportunities in the light rail, which the state plans to develop in collaboration with other South East governments. Economic growth and investment opportunities also abound in the development of modern logistics centres at key crossroads like Obollo-Afor and Ninth Mile Corner as other investment opportunities as marshalled by the government.

    In the tourism industry, the state intends to develop world-class theme parks and is in the process of refurbishing and reactivating the Presidential Hotel, Enugu and completing the long abandoned International Conference Centre.

    In the area of real estate, the state would be developing a New Town, in response to the high demand for housing in the state. That alone would offer 60,000 household living spaces. In fact, real estate opportunities in Enugu are limitless.

    Meanwhile, whereas Enugu is popularly known as the Coal City State, the truth is that the state is blessed with natural gas. In fact, the state has joined the ranks of oil producing states. Furthermore, it has solid minerals such as ironstone, zinc, lead, limestone, and kaolin, among others, in abundance. The administration is therefore working with the federal government to bring in investors to produce them.

    The present administration priotises youth development so they can easily fit into and also reap bountifully from the world of robotic science, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, mechatronics, e-commerce and Fintech. It wants to transform the youths from job seekers to wealth creators and employment generators. Therefore, it seeks to build a Tier-4 Hyper scale Data centre that that will not only service local needs, but also offer hosting and other services to major businesses like Google and Facebook.

    Making life easy for investors

    The other good thing is that being a businessman himself, Dr. Peter Mbah understands the serious challenges faced by setting up and running businesses in Nigeria, hence has promised to make life easy for investors.

    “Enugu is now open for business. We will make life easy for you. We are markedly revisiting our ‘ease of doing business’ indicators to ensure the environment is conducive for business. For example, our new land title processes will facilitate the issuance of Certificate of Occupancy in not more than three days or 72 hours.

    “Processes for the procurement of building approvals will also be revisited and markedly reduced to achieve improved efficiency.

    “We are automating all our major government processes to ensure transparency in all aspects of engagement with government and facilitate self-service by the public with little or no need for physical engagement with public servants.

    “We are also willing to de-risk business investment in key sectors by providing access to land, providing support infrastructure, handling engagement with host communities, among others”, the governor had equally told the business community at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the 2023 International Conference and Expo.

    But, perhaps, most significant is that the government made security and peace the number one on its agenda from day one. Not only has the government been able to end the illegal Monday sit-at-home, it has restored normalcy through massive deployment of technology, personnel, and hardware. Only recently, the state launched the pilot phase of the Distress Response Squad (DRS), which is going to consist of over a hundred vehicles with very highly sophisticated technological devises, including surveillance cameras capable of facial and number plate recognition. The state is currently constructing the Command and Control Centre. This way, every part of the state will be monitored.

    In view of all these, there is no doubt that Enugu is ready for business. As the Investment and Economic Growth Stakeholders Roundtable kicks off, it can only be seen as a catalyst for an economic revolution that lies ahead. So, let the transactions begin.

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    Ibeju Lekki residents applaud Dangote Refinery CSR activities.



    The Committee of Baales and some residents of Ibeju Lekki, Lagos have showered encomium on the Management of Dangote Refinery, on its social responsibility initiatives.

    They expressed appreciation to the company for providing vital infrastructure for their communities, repairing all the entrance roads of the 15 host communities by grading, sand filling, and applying stone base and now community people are able to access their abode without wading through the waters.

    In a chat with select newsmen on Monday, Baale of Magbon-Segun, High Chief Mufutau Dauda said, Dangote Refinery has demonstrated a high level of social responsibility as it has executed so many tangible projects across all the host communities, even up to Lekki.

    Similarly, Baale of Okeyanta, High Chief Shakiru Bello, said the scholarship scheme, which was started in 2019 by Dangote, has helped parents in the communities. He said: “When they started the scholarship scheme for secondary and tertiary institution students, we thought they wouldn’t be able to sustain it, but they have continued to increase the numbers of beneficiaries every year and this is highly commendable.

    Akinola Yinusa of Okesegun community said his daughter is a beneficiary of the scholarship scheme and apart from the cash award she is provided all her subject textbooks and academic materials like math set and calculator, and that his younger brother, Kabiru Yinusa, works as a full staff in the Refinery.

    The communities in the area include Idasho, Ilekuru, Okeyanta, Magbon-Segun, Okesegun, Itoke, Idotun, Alasia, Okunraiye and Lekki towns, Imobido, Tiye, Mosa, Ilege, and Olomowewe.

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