Items filtered by date: Friday, 10 March 2017

A former House of Representative member and Chairman Project Tourism Committee, Hon. Ned Nwoko, has offered to sponsor 100 tourism investors willing to visit Nigeria for exploration of Nigerian tourism potentials.

Nwoko announced this at a dinner in honour of visiting Miami Dade Trade Mission to Nigeria organized by Linas International Ltd. in collaboration with Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) in Abuja.

Nwoko, who expressed delight for the visit of the Miami delegation, said Nigeria is blessed with huge tourism potentials yet untapped and requires synergy with rich tourism destinations like Miami to fully exploit her own resources. He urged the visitors to disregard the stereotype usually placed on Nigeria as bad country and look towards the huge tourism potentials the country is endowed with.

As his way of supporting Nigerian tourism sector, he promised to sponsor 100 foreigners willing to come to Nigeria for tourism exploration next year. "Nigeria is not as bad as you read. Some of you who have been here two or three times will testify to this. We will encourage this coming together even as we form the synergy to partner in area of tourism.

"The synergy will be like lottery kind of situation, where I want to sponsor 100 non-Nigerians to the country next year as my own contribution to tourism sector. I will bring in people from the private sector to do their own. We have about 100 Nigerians to do this and we are sure this will widen the scope of tourism in Nigeria," he assured.

In her remarks, the Director General of NTDC, Mrs. Mariel Rae-Omoh, said any effort by government to diversify the economy without tourism sector would amount to nothing, considering the huge tourismLagos Nigeria potentials that abound in across the 36 states and the FCT which hold great economic benefits.

Tourism potentials

Tourism is not just one of the most resourced based sectors of the economic but unites people from different cultural backgrounds every day through travelling in this globalization era. In line with this, the NTDC has lined up, Slave Trade relics in Badagary, Ojukwu War museum in Unuahia, Yankari Game reserve in Bauchi, Kainji National Park, among others.

To make them become more relevant, she said that the NTDC had set up a plan to upgrade them into world class status in line with the world best practice.

In his address, the leader of Miami Dade Mission to Nigeria and Vice Mayor, City of Miami Gardens, Florida USA, Erhabor Ighodaro said their visit to Nigeria was to keep a linkage with Nigeria on how best to explore the rich tourism potentials of the two countries.

Ighodaro said their visit was basically aimed at seeking for possible areas of collaboration with Nigeria and how Nigeria could tap from the Miami's multicultural jewels. He further assured his hosts that the relationship between Miami and Nigeria on tourism exploration would be mutual and beneficial to all.


Credit: Vanguard Nigeria

Published in Travel & Tourism

Hundreds of South African taxi drivers on Friday blocked roads to Johannesburg airport, holding up thousands of travellers and causing traffic chaos in a protest against the app-based taxi service Uber, local media reported.

The train going to the airport was packed with passengers trying desperately to catch their flights, witnesses said. Some travellers were seen walking towards the airport, hauling their luggage, the newspaper Times Live reported. The taxi drivers were accusing US-based Uber, which operates in South Africa's main cities, of pulling down prices and preventing them from making a living.

From this day we don't want to see Uber in our country, because it's illegal," one taxi driver told the broadcaster eNCA. Metered taxi drivers say Uber drivers do not pay licence fees. Dpa was unable to obtain a comment from Uber's South African branch. Police said the protest which affected R21, R24 and N12 highways, was illegal and metered taxis would be removed and those involved arrested.

Uber has faced protests from other taxi drivers in Europe, Latin America and Asia. It was not immediately known if the protest would lead to flights being delayed. Dpa was unable to reach the communications department of Johannesburg airport.



Published in Business

It turns out smart TVs might be smarter than consumers ever wanted.

One concern raised by the WikiLeaks document trove published this week, which purportedly described Central Intelligence Agency tools for hacking dozens of gadgets, was that the agency could turn certain Samsung Electronics Co. televisions into spying devices. The trick: making the screen go black so the TVs appear off but are still powered on, then recording private conversations using the microphones built in to enable voice-activated features.

The WikiLeaks disclosures -- which the group said also reveal the CIA's ability to exploit products of other companies, including Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Google, and Microsoft Corp. -- have sent a chilling message to tech giants whose connected devices are increasingly becoming part of the home. Interconnected gadgets, touted to consumers for their convenience, could also introduce new ways to poach personal information.

Few firms have more at stake than Samsung, which is the world's largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips and produces a wide range of other connected devices. The South Korean giant is mired in scandal at home, with de facto leader Lee Jae-yong indicted on bribery and other charges. And its mobile division is reeling from a recall last year of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. Samsung's next flagship device, the Galaxy S8, is due to launch later this month.

The risk for Samsung and other tech firms is that the leaks could fuel consumer concerns that slow the shift toward more connected homes. The number of connected "things" around the world, from televisions to baby monitors to thermostats, was 3.8 billion in 2014, according to Gartner Inc., with projections of 8.4 billion this year and 20.4 billion by 2020.

Many of the companies involved, including Samsung, said they believed they had already addressed many vulnerabilities with software updates but were continuing to investigate the matter.

The CIA program that allegedly hacks Samsung smart TVs was nicknamed "Weeping Angel," a reference to the frightening stone-like creatures from the British Broadcasting Corp. television series "Dr. Who" that only move when no one is looking at them. The tool was developed in June 2014 during a joint workshop with the CIA and British intelligence agencies, according to the WikiLeaks documents.

A Samsung spokesman said the WikiLeaks report described malicious software installed by "a physically connected USB drive" and affected televisions sold in 2012 and 2013. Most of those sets have received requisite software updates, he said.

"We continually monitor for any security risks across our Smart TV platforms and if we find one, we promptly address it," the spokesman said.

The leaked documents' description of the "Weeping Angel" tool appears similar to a technique that security researchers Lee Seung-Jin and Kim Seung-joo disclosed at a hacking conference in 2013 in a presentation to alert device makers and the general public to these security risks.

In both cases, the technique enabled an intruder to put the television into a "fake off" mode where the screen powered down, but the underlying computer system remained operational as long as the TV was still plugged in. The hackers could then covertly record conversations and send them back to the CIA, the WikiLeaks documents said.

It "sounds like they used our code or they invented almost the same tech as ours," Mr. Lee said in an email.

Messrs Lee and Kim said in their presentation that by manipulating the "firmware" installed on a device, they were able to leave the Samsung television running even when it was switched off by users. They programmed the system to shut off its screen and its red LED power light to appear nonoperational. The device "looks literally 'turned off' and the TV will be a best spy for you," Mr. Lee said. "After that, it can monitor you through the camera and microphone 24/7 until people pull the plug."

Samsung's voice-activated TV features faced a backlash over privacy issues two years ago. The cause was language in the company's smart TV privacy policy stating "if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party."

Samsung said at the time that consumers had a multistep process to opt in to voice recognition and that the software could be deactivated at any time. The data collection provision existed to help with internal evaluations and product improvement, the firm said.

Some cybersecurity experts said nearly any device would be vulnerable if an attacker could access it in person, rather than remotely. "If you have physical access to something, you can hack it," said Craig Young, principal security researcher at Tripwire Inc.

Still, experts say TVs are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks, especially those with cameras and microphones, because consumers don't always think to download the new versions of software on their televisions the way they do on smartphones, which receive frequent software and security updates.

"Perhaps we pay less attention than we should because not everybody uses all of the functionality of a smart TV," said Atul Prakash, an electrical engineering and computer science professor at the University of Michigan. "It's there. But it's kind of invisible.


Published in World

The growth in ultra-wealthy populations in Africa will outpace that of Europe and North America over the next decade, according to the 2017 edition of The Wealth Report launched in Africa by Knight Frank and Standard Bank Wealth and Investment.

The findings show that over the next decade Africa’s number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals will grow by 33%, after suffering a decline of 2% in 2015-16 due to tough market conditions.

Hotspots for growth include Ghana, Mauritius, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda. The survey also shows that the majority of investors still feel under-invested in property and are looking to rebalance overall portfolios. Respondents’ preferred locations varied considerably depending on their domicile, with Australia, Africa and the US all cited as investment targets for 2017.

Deon de Klerk, Head of Wealth: Africa Regions for Standard Bank, says it is increasingly important that individuals’ goals, requirements, time horizons, lifestyles and tolerance for risk are well understood and managed early.

Preservation of capital and generational wealth transfer considerations remain critical to an effective overall wealth strategy.

“There is little doubt that uncertainty prevails and wealthy investors are becoming increasingly concerned about their short-term wealth prospects. However, it is important not to panic and to rely on a goals-driven approach to successfully navigate the environment,” says de Klerk.

The total number of global ultra-wealthy - those with $30m or more in net assets – rose by 6,340 in 2016, taking the total to 193,490, according to the report. What’s more countries offering fiscal and political stability, as well as excellent quality of life, are expected to see strong growth over the next decade.

“It is imperative for countries in Africa to position themselves for attracting new business and investment to boost economic growth and improve financial inclusion. Therefore, while the ultra-wealthy in Africa only grew by 13% between 2006 and 2016, growth could be more than double that rate over the next decade as policy and regulatory frameworks make countries more conducive for doing business and creating prosperity,” says de Klerk.

Standard Bank Wealth and Investment is an advice led business with more than $12 billion in assets under management worldwide. Due to its reach in to 20 African countries and on-the-ground expertise the bank is seen as a key partner for Knight Frank in delivering an unbiased view on the key trends underpinning the wealth market across Africa.

The level of complexity within markets has heightened risks, ushering in the need for specific expertise across a broad spectrum, from investment specialisation and system sophistication to the management of endowments, retirement funds and institutional mandates, among others. At the same time, absolute discretion and confidentiality are crucial.

The ultra-wealthy in Africa are also increasingly interested in leaving a legacy and providing more for society at large through philanthropic activities.

“A thorough understanding of each family’s quantum of available wealth to preserve for the sake of maintaining their lifestyle is required, so that legacy and philanthropic activities can be undertaken with higher levels of confidence. There is a definite move in Africa to give back to society due to the limited resources available to the poor. This is why a comprehensive and tailored solutions are so important,” says de Klerk.

Standard Bank Wealth and Investment’s extensive presence throughout Africa, including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana as well as in London, Jersey and Mauritius, combined with the Standard Bank Group’s heritage of over 154 years, empowers the Bank with the diversification needed to provide seamless on- and offshore offerings. These capabilities have led to the recognition of Standard Bank Wealth and Investment as the leading wealth manager in Africa, a position supported by a number of continent-wide industry accolades including, amongst others, Africa’s Best Bank for Wealth Management by Euromoney.

Standard Bank Wealth and Investment is also Nigeria’s largest Pension Fund administrator and Asset Manager, and in the UK the Jersey business was recognised as the Best International Structured Product Provider in the 2016 UK International Fund and Products awards.

“Standard Bank is well positioned to deliver bespoke wealth management and banking solutions seamlessly, whether onshore or offshore. Our approach ensures clients receive best of breed solutions. With increasing volatility being experienced in the markets there is an increasing demand for bespoke investment solutions that achieve superior risk-adjusted investment returns alongside those which give a higher degree of confidence to achieve each family’s unique goals and aspirations,” says de Klerk.

Published in Bank & Finance
Image 20170308 24204 krgyz0
Drying coffee beans in Bugitimwa village, in the area of Mt. Elgon, eastern Uganda. Shutterstock

Astrid R.N. Haas, International Growth Centre

Until recently Vietnam and Uganda shared a similar trajectory in the development of their coffee sectors. Today, Vietnam has emerged as the second largest coffee producer in the world. In Uganda, poor agricultural inputs and a failing institutional environment have resulted in low yields and slower development of the sector.

In January 2017, world coffee exports already amounted to 9.84 million bags. As one of the most extensively traded agricultural commodities, coffee trade has an interesting structure given the fact that it is exclusively produced in developing and emerging markets. In fact, it’s estimated that 25 million small holder farmers are responsible for 80% of overall coffee production. But nearly all the 2.25 billion cups of coffee consumed every day are drunk in the developed world.

In the 1980s, Uganda was one of the largest exporters of coffee, responsible for about 2% of the world’s coffee supplies. In 1980 it was producing approximately 2.1 million bags compared to Vietnam’s 77 thousand bags. At this time Vietnam hardly exported any of its produce.

Now the tables have turned. Vietnam is one of the world’s top coffee exporters, accounting for over 18% of global coffee exports, while Uganda’s has stagnated to between 2% and 3%.

What’s interesting is that since the 1980s the development of the sectors in both countries followed similar trajectories – from heavy regulation through various policy reforms in the 1990s, to being relatively deregulated today.

But one fundamental difference stands out – productivity. Vietnam has far outperformed Uganda over the past two decades due to its levels of productivity. This is down to the use of agricultural inputs for production, particularly the quality and quantity of fertiliser and machinery.

Uganda’s low yields

Coffee has been an important export for Uganda since it was introduced to the country in the 1900s. In 2015 it contributed 17.76% of Uganda’s total value of exports.

The Coffee Marketing Board, established in 1930 to regulate the coffee sector, steadily gained powers until it eventually held a state monopoly over the coffee industry following Uganda’s independence in 1962.

Between independence and the early 1990s the heavily regulated industry faced numerous challenges as a result of poor governance. It was eventually dismantled in the 1980s and 1990s and the sector became fully liberalised.

Today the coffee industry in Uganda is dominated by a large number of smallholder farmers, each with about 0.5 - 2.5 hectares of land. It’s estimated that about 1.7 million households are engaged in coffee production. In 2010 this amounted to a total of around 182,875 hectares under production, compared to 549,100 hectares in Vietnam. Middlemen are needed to collect the small quantities of coffee produced by the multitude of farmers.

The large number of smallholder farmers is not a problem in itself. The challenge is that they produce very low yields per hectare. This coupled with relatively high transportation and processing costs are the main reasons that Uganda’s coffee production has stagnated.

Vietnam’s rise

Like Uganda, 85%-90% of the coffee in Vietnam is produced by smallholder farmers, who had 670,000 hectares of agricultural land under coffee production in 2015. Today, Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer after Brazil, producing 27.5 million bags of coffee in the 2015/16planting season. Since 2007, coffee has become the country’s second largest source of export revenue.

Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam in 1857. It took until 1989 for increased production and regular trade in coffee to take off. Like Uganda, the increase in Vietnamese coffee production also followed the implementation of policies and reforms that liberalised the sector. For example, reform of land administration meant stronger property rights, allowing individual producers to own the titles to their land.

In addition, progressive dismantling of state-owned enterprises broke up the monopoly on agricultural trade.

And Vietnam put in place a number of interventions to address productivity levels. This resulted in Vietnam’s agricultural production being far more capital and input intensive than Uganda’s resulting in higher yields per hectare. For example, in the 2005/2006 planting season, Vietnam had 257 tractors per square kilometre of arable land, compared to Uganda’s 9.

Equally important is fertiliser use. For the years that data is available, it appears that Vietnam was using 300 times more fertiliser than Uganda, per hectare of arable land. Fertiliser use has a significant impact on the yield per hectare.

For its part, Ugandan productivity has been poor. Uganda’s 2008 agricultural census shows that the yield gap from low input use in the coffee sector amounts to 2734kg/hectare. This means that on average, farmers are producing 396kg/hectare when they could be producing 3130kg/hectare.

Determining quality

This phenomenon of low input use isn’t confined to Uganda’s coffee sector. It’s a systemic feature of Uganda’s agricultural sector at large. For example, recent research on maize inputs showed major shortfalls in quality. The findings showed that 30% of nutrients were missing from fertiliser, and hybrid seed contained less than 50% of authentic material at retail level.

Although no similar study has been conducted for the Ugandan coffee sector, there are numerous examples that can be used as reference, particularly since the introduction of new higher yielding varieties of coffee plants. For example, in 1992 the government launched a national coffee replanting programme to replace old coffee trees with newer, higher yielding varieties. The programme was ended in 2004 due to the low survival rate of the plantlets.

Uganda’s untapped potential

There are, of course, other theories and reasons that further compound the differences between the two countries. One is that Vietnam is deemed to have a far more conducive environment for setting up businesses than Uganda. And the Vietnamese government’s assistance to the agricultural sector since the 1990s has been more supportive, helping the coffee sector withstand negative shocks due to weather and price volatility than has been the case in Uganda.

Notwithstanding these differences, the success of Vietnam’s coffee sector hints at the untapped potential that lies in Uganda’s coffee industry. To achieve similar growth, it’s imperative to improve productivity via increased and improved agricultural inputs, fostering a supportive business environment and adopting newer technologies for smallholder farmers.

Astrid R.N. Haas, Senior Country Economist, International Growth Centre

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Agriculture
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