Items filtered by date: Monday, 16 July 2018

The term “fake news” has become ubiquitous over the past two years. The Cambridge English dictionary defines it as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke”.

As part of a global push to curb the spread of deliberate misinformation, researchers are trying to understand what drives people to share fake news and how its endorsement can propagate through a social network.

But humans are complex social animals, and technology misses the richness of human learning and interactions.

That’s why we decided to take a different approach in our research. We used the latest techniques from artificial intelligence to study how support for – or opposition to – a piece of fake news can spread within a social network. We believe our model is more realistic than previous approaches because individuals in our model learn endogenously from their interactions with the environment and not just follow prescribed rules. Our novel approach allowed us to learn a number of new things about how fake news is spread.

The main take away from our research is that when it comes to preventing the spread of fake news, privacy is key. It is important to keep your personal data to yourself and be cautious when providing information to large social media websites or search engines.

The most recent wave of technological innovations has brought us the data-centric web 2.0 and with it a number of fundamental challenges to user privacy and the integrity of news shared in social networks. But as our research shows, there’s reason to be optimistic that technology, paired with a healthy dose of individual activism, might also provide solutions to the scourge of fake news.

Modelling human behaviour

Existing literature models the spread of fake news in a social network in one of two ways.

In the first instance, you could model what happens when people observe what their neighbours do and then use this information in a complicated calculation to optimally update their beliefs about the world.

The second approach assumes that people follow a simple majority rule: everyone does what most of their neighbours do.

But both approaches have their shortcomings. They cannot mimic what happens when someone’s mind is changed after several conversations or interactions.

Our research differed. We modelled humans as agents who develop their own strategies on how to update their views on a piece of news given their neighbours’ actions. We then introduced an adversary that tried to spread fake news and compared how efficient the adversary was when he had knowledge about the strength of other agents’ beliefs compared to when he didn’t.

So in a real world example, an adversary determined to spread fake news might first read your Facebook profile and see what you believe, then tailor his disinformation to try and match your beliefs to increase the likelihood that you share the fake news he sent to you.

We learnt a few new things about how fake news is spread. For example, we show that providing feedback about news that’s been shared means that its easier for people to detect fake news.

Our work also suggests that artificially injecting a certain amount of fake news into a social network can train users to better spot fake news.

Crucially, we can also use models like ours to come up with strategies on how to curb the spread of fake news.

There are three things we have learned from this research about what everyone can do to stop fake news.

Fighting fake news

Because humans learn from their neighbours, who learn from their neighbours, and so on, everybody who detects and flags fake news can help prevent the spread of fake news on the network. When we modelled how the spread of fake news can be prevented, we found the single best way was to allow users to provide feedback to their friends about a piece of news they shared.

Beyond pointing out fake news, you can also praise a friend when they share a well researched and balanced piece of quality journalism. Importantly, this praise can happen even when you disagree with the conclusion or political point of view expressed in the article. Studies in human psychology and reinforcement learning show that people adapt their behaviour in response to negative and positive feedback – particularly when this feedback comes from within their social circle.

The second big lesson was: keep your data to yourself.

The web 2.0 was built on the premise that companies offer free services in exchange for users’ data. Billions followed the siren’s call, turning Facebook, Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn into multi-billion dollar behemoths. But as these companies grew, more and more data was collected. Some estimate that as much as 90% of all the world’s data has only been created in the past few years.

Do not give your personal information away easily or freely. Whenever possible, use tools that are fully encrypted and very little information is collected about you online. There is a more secure and more privacy-focused alternative for most applications, from search engines to messaging apps.

Social media sites don’t yet have privacy-focused alternatives. Luckily the emergence of blockchain has provided a new technology that could solve the privacy-profitability paradox. Instead of having to trust Facebook to keep your data secure, you can now put it on a decentralised blockchain that was designed to operate as a trustless environment.


Co-Pierre Georg, Senior Lecturer, African Institute for Financial Markets and Risk Management and Director, UCT Financial Innovation Lab, University of Cape Town; Christoph Aymanns, Assistant Professor, University of St. Gallen - School of Finance, University of St.Gallen, and Jakob Foerster, Doctoral student, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, University of Oxford

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

Published in Opinion & Analysis

Economic uncertainties and slowdown of market activities have continued to weaken investors’ appetite for equities on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) as the All-Share Index and market capitalisation depreciated further by 0.6%. 
 Specifically, at the close of transactions last week, the market capitalistaion, which stood at N13.637 trillion when the market reopened for transactions on July 9, lost N94 billion or 0.6 per cent, to close at N13.545 trillion at the weekend.
  Also, the ASI depreciated by 255.16 points from 37,647.93 to 37,392.77.

Furthermore, turnover of 1.219 billion shares worth N17.333 billion were recorded in in 17,362 deals by investors on the floor of the Exchange lower than 1.842 billion shares valued at N16.594 billion that changed hands in 18,941 deals during the preceding week.
 Similarly, all other indices finished lower with the exception of the NSE oil/gas and the NSE Lotus II Indices that appreciated by 0.71 per cent  and 0.37 per cent respectively.
  Analysts attributed the downturn to the impact of 2019 elections and ongoing security challenges that have bedeviled the nation’s political space.
  For instance, the Chief Reseatch Officer of Investdata Consulting Limited, Ambrose Omodion, said: “The unfolding events regarding weekend’s Ekiti State governorship election confirm the fears among investors and analyst.
“For many, happenings around the July 14, 2018, election continue to feed the polity with unnecessary wrong signals that none of the regulators or government is doing much to play down, ahead of general election in 2019.
“We expect a slowdown in the decline that leads to reversal soon as Q2 earnings season kicks off any moment from now, since equities remain undervalued with higher yields. Investors should review their position in line with their investment goals and act as events unfolds in the global and domestic environment.

 “However, we would like to reiterate our advice that investors should go for equities with intrinsic value, especially during this season were Q2 interim dividend payment are expected in the market arena very soon.”
  Analyst at Codros Capital Limited said the continued selloffs and the absence of a near term one-off positive catalyst dampen the outlook for equities in the short-to-medium term, adding that strengthened macroeconomic fundamentals remain supportive of gains in the long term.

Vetiva Research Limited said: ”With market sentiments staying negative after a week of bearish trading, we expect the tepid sentiments to filter into the market at week’s opening.”
  Further breakdown of last week’s trading showed that the financial services Industry led the activity chart with 842.823 million shares valued at N9.587 billion, traded in 9,231 deals; thus contributing 69.15 per cent to the total equity turnover volume.
 The consumer goods industry followed with 113.667 million shares worth N4.657 billion in 3,120 deals, while the services industry ranked third with a turnover of 105.623 million shares worth N519.813 million in 593 deals.
  Trading in the top three equities- Access Bank Plc, Zenith International Bank Plc and Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc accounted for 497.482 million shares worth N6.619 billion in 2,251 deals, contributing 40.82 per cent to the total equity turnover volume.

Also traded during the week were 79,304 units of Exchange Traded Products (ETPs) valued at N1.491 million and executed in 18 deals, compared with 25,220 units valued at N454,438.90 that were transacted last week in four deals.
  A total of 13,517 units of Federal Government valued at N14.899 million was traded this week in 30 deals, compared with a total of 2,359 units valued at N2.188 million transacted last week in 24 deals.

Credit: The Guardian

Published in Business

Aliko Dangote has made a fortune out of cement and food processing. Now, Africa’s richest person is embarking on a bigger challenge: a $15 billion investment in oil, gas and petrochemicals that could, if he pulls it off, transform Nigeria’s economy.

The 61-year-old is building one of the world’s biggest oil refineries near Lagos, the commercial capital. He’s also constructing a fertilizer factory on the same site and plans to boost gas supplies to the city, Africa’s largest. Once that’s done, he wants to buy enough oil fields to pump one-quarter of a million barrels of crude a day.

The workaholic, who counts Bill Gates among his friends and is worth $12.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, has little experience of any of these businesses. He says his push into them can help end Nigeria’s reliance, despite its status as an OPEC member, on imported fuel and increase electricity generation in a country that experiences constant blackouts.

Aliko Dangote has made a fortune out of cement and food processing. Now, Africa’s richest person is embarking on a bigger challenge: a $15 billion investment in oil, gas and petrochemicals that could, if he pulls it off, transform Nigeria’s economy.

The 61-year-old is building one of the world’s biggest oil refineries near Lagos, the commercial capital. He’s also constructing a fertilizer factory on the same site and plans to boost gas supplies to the city, Africa’s largest. Once that’s done, he wants to buy enough oil fields to pump one-quarter of a million barrels of crude a day.

The workaholic, who counts Bill Gates among his friends and is worth $12.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index, has little experience of any of these businesses. He says his push into them can help end Nigeria’s reliance, despite its status as an OPEC member, on imported fuel and increase electricity generation in a country that experiences constant blackouts.

“It will be tough,” said Jeremy Parker, a consultant at London-based CITAC, which analyzes Africa’s energy sector. “There are many risks. Refining is a competitive and volatile industry.”

Dangote’s executives admit it’s a tall order.

“We are pushing the limits,” Devakumar Edwin, a group executive director at Dangote Industries Ltd. who has worked with the billionaire for almost 30 years, said in a July 4 interview at the site. “People still find it difficult to believe we can do it. We believe we can. We are so aggressively focused.”

Hundreds of Cranes
The refinery and petrochemical plant are the most ambitious part of the plan. Meant to cost $10 billion and process 650,000 barrels of crude daily, the complex will sit an hour’s drive east of Lagos on a swampy strip of land bounded by the Atlantic and a lagoon. About 7,000 Nigerian, Chinese, Indian and other workers are rushing to get it ready by early 2020, when it’s scheduled to start selling gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and plastics.

Dangote has bought almost 300 cranes and built a jetty for ships bringing in equipment. One piece, a 94-meter-high (300 feet) column used to distil crude into different products, weighs 2,310 metric tons, equal to 400 elephants.

“It’s a logistics nightmare,” said Edwin. “No roads, no bridges can handle that kind of thing.”

The refinery will produce around 50 million liters (13.2 million gallons) a day of gasoline, which will easily meet the needs of the continent’s most-populous nation of 200 million people, and one-third as much diesel.

The company’s been talking to traders including Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Vitol Group and Trafigura Group Pte about them supplying oil and buying refined products, he said.

Once ready, it will significantly reduce fuel imports not just to Nigeria -- whose decrepit state-owned refineries operate at a fraction of their capacity -- but to West Africa as well, according to Salih Yilmaz, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence in London.

Political Pressure
“The sheer scale, and the fact it’s Nigeria’s first greenfield refinery in thirty years, will make the project challenging,” said Johnny Stewart, an analyst at Edinburgh-based oil and gas consultancy Wood Mackenzie. “We expect the project to come online during 2022 at a higher cost than currently reported.”

When Nigerian Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu visited the site last year, he urged the company to hurry up and said President Muhammadu Buhari would be “absolutely enthused” if it were completed in time for elections next February.

Dangote’s critics accuse him of benefiting from close ties to politicians and curbs on imports that stymie foreign competitors. He admits his businesses, including cement, might not have succeeded without some protectionism, but says the refinery won’t get any favors from government, including subsidized crude deliveries.

“Why would we?” said Edwin, the Dangote executive. “It’s a private enterprise. We’ll buy at international prices.”

Analysts say that could affect profits on domestic sales, given Nigeria caps gasoline prices at the equivalent of $0.40 a liter ($1.51 per gallon), making it one of the 10 cheapest countries in the world to fill up your tank, according to

Most private retailers have stopped importing, leaving the job in the hands of the state-owned oil company, which is making a loss on downstream sales.

“The gasoline pricing regime is a key risk,” said CITAC’s Parker.

Agriculture Investment
The $2.5 billion fertilizer plant, scheduled to be finished at the end of this year, is designed to churn out 3 million tons of urea a year, almost enough to meet demand from farmers across Africa. It’s part of Dangote’s move into agriculture, which includes investing almost $5 billion in rice, sugar and dairy products.

“Why are we still importing most of our food in Nigeria?” said Edwin. “Agricultural activity will grow and demand for fertilizer will grow.”

The factory and refinery can be powered with gas Dangote will transport to the site from the Niger River delta through underwater pipelines costing around $2.5 billion. Surpluses will be sold to businesses, including power stations, which will give an incentive to oil companies to reduce flaring, according to Edwin.

“Nigeria’s gas is hardly being monetized,” he said. “This will change that.”

Dangote has said there were plenty of critics who doubted he’d succeed when he decided to start manufacturing cement and food, given Nigeria’s reputation as such a tough business environment. He says it’s no different with his latest venture.

“We have the most robust team anyone can put together, and we’ve been doing this sort of work together for years,” he said in an interview last year. “We don’t want to listen to the critics, because their intention is to destroy us. We will definitely deliver, by the grace of God.”


Source: Bloomberg News

Published in Business

After 25 years of operations that kicked off in Abuja, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) said it has mobilised no fewer than $65 billion worth of loan syndications for trade financing and the development of the continent’s economies.

Nigeria, as a major stakeholder and contributor to the pan-African largest multilateral lender, has received about 40 per cent of the bank’s interventions, covering public investments and private sector working capital, particularly, the banks.

Today, while Nigeria and the rest of the African economies are still battling with financing challenges, the question of what it would have been like for the continent, without the emergence of the bank remains at large.

Meanwhile, the bank noted that there is as much as $120 billion in trade finance gap that needs to be closed; yearly $93 billion trade infrastructure gap; and a global trade share at three per cent, that needs to be raised; while Intra-African trade is still far below aspirations.At the weekend, during the yearly meetings of Afreximbank, part of the $65 billion syndications was injected further into Nigeria’s economy, as the Bank of Industry signed for a $750 million facility for on lending to small businesses.

Also, Aliko Dangote, signed a $650 million loan facility with the for an oil refinery project in Lekki, Nigeria, on a seven-year term loan, with five years moratorium.The government received a provision of $1.8 billion to support the economy during the recent oil price shock between 2015 and 2016, while a provision of liquidity and trade finance lines of more than $800 million was made during the banking consolidation when many international banks cut credit lines to the country.

Currently, Afreximbank’s initiatives in Nigeria include the development of testing and inspection centres across the country in collaboration with the Standards Organization of Nigeria; and establishment of a Centre of Excellence for Tertiary Healthcare/Medical Park.There is ongoing talks to participate in the Nigeria SEZ Investment Company Limited being promoted by the government; the support for industrial projects through loans to strategic banks; provision of trade and letter of credit lines to all Nigerian banks, in close coordination with Central Bank of Nigeria; and development of an Afreximbank Africa Trade Centre in Abuja.

The bank’s President, Dr. Benedict Oramah, told The Guardian that the emergence of the bank was in reaction to challenge by an unprecedented debt crisis that ravaged the continent like a plague those days and as a child of necessity, was conceived for Africa and by Africans and now effectively delivered by Africans.So far, the bank has provided over $50 billion, granted in support of trade and project activities across Africa, supported the emergence of world class hotels across the continent, including upscaling facilities in Island economies like Cape Verde and Seychelles.

The bank prevented the implosion of Zimbabwe by providing an aggregate of about $4 billion to avert hunger and support critical businesses when virtually all international banks cut off the country.“Who would today have stepped in to provide trade services lines in excess of 4 billion to about 500 banks across Africa so that no country can be denied access to trade finance as a result of high compliance cost?

“Who would have supported connectivity among African markets by leveraging close to $3 billion in support of African airline operations?“How would some indigenous Nigerian entities have been able to acquire oil production acreages if the Bank had not stand by them?“Who would have financed the creation of at least 130 thousand metric tonnes of cocoa processing capacity in Cote d’Ivoire and revived processing plants in other major producing countries, namely Ghana and Nigeria?“Who would have provided $9 billion to a number of African central banks and commercial banks at the height of the commodity price induced crises of 2014-16?” he queried.Oramah said Afreximbank is powering the Collective Will of the Continent to boost intra-regional trade and export manufacturing and now about to launch a pan-African payment and settlement platform in support of intra-African trade.

Already, there are SMEs operating in export supply chains with hopes of improved access to finance as a result of the bank’s efforts to promote factoring, such that from almost nothing, Africa can today boast of 32 factoring companies sharing in near trillion dollar global market.President Muhammadu Buhari, while declaring open the bank’s yearly meetings, in Abuja, at the weekend, commended Afreximbank’s strategy in the continent through its dynamism and tenacious leadership, saying the lender had proved that Africans could come together to build something meaningful.

While delivering his keynote address, he said that those attributes had enabled the bank to record the successes so far since its establishment 25 years ago.He noted that the bank’s efforts to integrate Africa through its African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), is already undergoing a careful review, with several consultations to get the inputs of the nation’s diversed professionals, entrepreneurs and investors.South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who attested to the portents of AfCFTA, being driven by Afreximbank, when adopted, would provide the integrated and diversified markets that will unlock Africa’s full productive capacity.He lamented that “intra-African trade is only 15 per cent of Africa’s total trade, compared to Europe’s 67 per cent and we need a sustained strategic shift to industrialisation, increased Intra-African trade, and de-commoditisation through increased value addition and export diversification.”

Afreximbank’s Chief Economist, Dr. Hippolyte Fofack, said: “The AFCFTA must emphasise policies promoting export diversification for each member country. In addition, efforts must be increased to motivate more technology-intensive manufactured goods.“Given the current average technology and skill content in Intra-African trade, the AFCFTA seems to be well positioned to help achieve and deliver more technology-intensive manufactured goods.”

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, said that continued infrastructure improvements and a focus on trade, particularly regional trade, would drive sustainable growth.Adeosun commended Afreximbank for its role during the last global recession when it supported many African countries with trade support and lines of credit at a time when others were withdrawing from Africa.

Credit: The Guardian

Published in News Economy
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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