Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 10 April 2019

The International Monetary (IMF) on Tuesday reviewed Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) projections for the second time in 2019 to 2.1 per cent.

The prediction is the second in 2019 after a January projection of 2 per cent from its initial figure of 2.3 percent.

This was disclosed by the Chief Economist and Director of the research department of the IMF, Gita Gopinath, at the 2019 World Economic Outlook ongoing at the IMF Spring meeting in Washington DC, United States.

Gopinath also stated that IMF has projected a further 3.7 percent expansion for the Sub Saharan Africa region in 2020 while that of Nigeria was projected at 2.5 percent.

She said,” “Nigeria growth was reasonably strong last year and we think that things will improve a bit going forward,” Gopinath stated at a press briefing in Washington.

“What’s very important is the oil price so to the extent that other global risks transmit into a weaker oil price or there are other developments that are oil market specific that would be a factor weighing on Nigeria,” she said.

She emphasized on the need to tighten the nation’s monetary policy .

“For monetary policy, it’s to stay tight for some more time. It has to be well communicated and transparent,” she submitted.

Published in Bank & Finance

Global miner Rio Tinto has approved the $463 million construction of the Zulti South project in South Africa, a move it says will extend the presence of its majority-owned Richards Bay Minerals in the country.

The mine extension - for which Rio Tinto will contribute $343 million - will help RBM maintain its output of high-margin zircon and rutile in the face of a declining orebody grade at the company's existing Zulti North lease area.

Construction on Zulti South is scheduled to start in mid-2019, subject to the granting of all necessary permits, with first commercial production expected in late 2021.

RBM is South Africa's largest mineral sands producer and currently operates four mines in the Zulti North lease area, a mineral separation plant and smelting facility.

Rio Tinto, which has owned 74 per cent of the company since 2012, said the Zulti South investment will be fully self-funded from RBM's cashflows.

"Rio Tinto has a long history in South Africa, and today's investment underscores our commitment for the coming decades and beyond," Rio chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said on Tuesday.

"Zulti South is one of the best undeveloped minerals sand deposits in the industry, and will significantly extend RBM's position as a world-class, first-quartile asset."

Shares in Rio Tinto were last trading at $101.48 on the ASX, a near 11-year high, and up nearly 30 per cent for the calendar year against a backdrop of rising iron ore and copper prices.

Published in Business

The new Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command, Rear Adm. Oladele Daji, has promised to rid riverine areas of the command of kidnappers.

Speaking with journalists after he took over as 39th FOC of the command in Lagos on Tuesday, Daji said that the navy would do its best to rout kidnappers completely out of the area.

“What we know about kidnapping in riverine areas is that it is on the decrease.

“We are going to rout them out from the source because they don’t live perpetually at sea, they have somewhere that they operate from so we will rout them out.

“What we are coming to do is to build upon what has already been done, maybe to bring fresh ideas to some of the challenges we have out there as the maritime expands,” he said.

He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for acquiring more patrol boats for the navy.

“This is not to say that we have enough because the past maritime expands, but with the use of the Maritime Awareness Domain facilities, we will use these assets provided for us to ensure we accomplish our tasks,” he said.

Published in World

We’re all familiar with pension funds, medical aid contributions, subsidised gym memberships and other employee benefits… but how many employees - and indeed, employers - know that employers can provide their employees with tax-exempt contributions to their families’ education?

It’s no secret that many South African parents struggle to afford school and tertiary education fees. Now, there’s something that the private sector can do about it. Companies can reduce their employees’ educational expenses through an innovative form of tax relief utilising Section 10(1)(q) of the Income Tax Act.

What is Section 10(1)(q)?

Section 10(1)(q) is a little understood and underutilised piece of national legislation introduced by the government in the early 2000s. It is based on an employer-dependent employee value proposition whereby an employer, if they pay for an employees’, or the relatives of an employees’, school and/or tertiary education fees, can grant a bursary to the employee – and the employee pays no tax for this benefit.

The direct impact of this legislation is that employees who have this benefit have funds available for school fees – AND they enjoy the tax exemption. The bursary can be used for a relative of the employee (such as their child) or for their own – or continuous – education.

Good as this sounds, those companies that are aware of the benefits of Section 10(1)(q) often shy away from its implementation due to the onerous administration required.

What are the conditions and limitations?

The following requirements have to be met in order for a bursary or scholarship to qualify for this exemption:

  • The exemption will only apply if the employee’s annual remuneration does not exceed R600,000.
  • The scholarship or bursary must be a bona fide scholarship or bursary.
  • The student or learner must study at a recognised educational or research institution.
  • For school studies or a qualification from a National Qualification Framework (NQF) level 1 to 4, the exemption amount is R20,000. For NQF level 5 to 10 (post-school), the exemption increases to R60,000.

The benefits of employee benefits

Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a person – not just as an employee – are more productive, more satisfied and more fulfilled. Time and time again, research has proven that investing in employees is a sound investment with high returns, and that satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers and profitability.

What’s unique about School-Days?

School-Days takes care of all the compliance and administration in implementing the Section 10(1)(q) employee education benefit.

We relieve companies of:

  • The administrative burden
  • Securing the compliance and validation that SARS and BEE legislation requires

Basically, School-Days is a ‘one-stop-shop' when it comes to implementing this under-utilised benefit. Although there are other organisations out there that administer educational bursary schemes, School-Days is the only one that puts the power in the employee’s hands by giving them other tools to build their bursaries even further - such as the family shopping at partner retailer outlets and/or choosing to make their own contributions. It’s a holistic bursary building platform unlike any other.

School-Days also helps employees prepare for the future, as they don’t need to name the beneficiary then and there. For example, an employee may want to start building a bursary for the family they plan to have in the future.

As South Africans, we need to work together to provide better educational opportunities for our youth. It’s our aim to give people hope by making education more accessible and more affordable by tying the private sector into the education funding landscape. The way we see it, there’s no reason for employers not to give this benefit to their employees.

 

Interested in finding out more? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Opinion & Analysis

Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google unit on Tuesday defended their efforts to remove hate speech from social media sites amid questions from lawmakers in an appearance before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

Google LLC is an American multinational technology company that specialises in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware.

It is considered one of the Big Four technology companies, alongside Amazon, Apple and Facebook

Representative Jerrold Nadler, who chairs the panel, said white nationalist groups target communities of colour and religious minorities through social media.

“Efforts by media companies to counter this surge have fallen short, and social network platforms continue to be used as ready avenues to spread dangerous white nationalist speech,” Nadler said at the hearing.

Social media firms use algorithms and human reviewers to remove hateful speech.

In March, the chair of the House Homeland Security committee wrote top executives of Facebook, Google, Twitter Inc and Microsoft Corp.

He urged them to do a better job of removing violent political content following the live-streaming of a New Zealand mass shooting.

Neil Potts, a public policy director at Facebook, told lawmakers that Facebook in March “instituted a prohibition on praise, support, and representation of white nationalism and white separatism.”

Google wants to be a “part of the solution,” company executive Alexandria Walden said at Tuesday’s hearing.

Walden added that Google has invested “heavily in machines and people to quickly identify and remove content that violates our policies against incitement to violence and hate speech.”

Google’s YouTube, which streamed the hearing live, disabled comments on the hearing after numerous hateful and racist postings.

In November, the FBI said U.S. hate crimes jumped 17 per cent in 2017, with a 37 per cent spike in anti-Semitic attacks.

Ellen Hershenov, senior vice president for policy at Anti-Defamation League, told lawmakers the “internet is forcing us to reassess our understanding of how violence may be inspired by such hateful echo chambers.”

Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, denounced white nationalism.

“Free expression, free press and blind justice are the very things that foster diversity and deter intellectually bankrupt ideologies like white nationalism,’’ Collins added.

In response to suggestions social media companies discriminate against conservative viewpoints, Potts said Facebook errs on the side of allowing more speech.

“We want to give people the voice but we do have to draw a line somewhere,” he noted.

Representative Cedric Richmond, a Democrat, said it was important to prevent social media users from preying on weak people to incite violence.

“Just because you are upset with your station in life, and sitting in your momma’s basement in your boxers you don’t get to spew hate that you know will incite violence because you can hide behind anonymity,” Richmond said.

Published in Telecoms

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it would conduct an extensive review and debriefing on the just concluded 2019 general elections, between May and June, in line with its existing practice.

A statement by Mr Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chaiman, Information and Voter Education Committee, in Abuja said that the proposal for the review and debriefing was approved by the commission at it meeting on Tuesday.

Okoye said that the review was intended to evaluate the Commission’s performance of the key activities of the general elections.

He said this was with a view to addressing identified challenges and strengthening operational and institutional capacities to conduct free, fair, credible and peaceful elections.

Okoye said that the two sets of activities were envisaged in the reviews as follows:

“lnternal reviews involving National Commissioners, Resident Electoral Commissioners, Electoral Officers, Collation and Returning Officers as well as other key staff of the Commission;

“Review meetings with key stakeholders such as political parties, civil society organizations, security agencies, the media and development partners;

“These reviews and debriefing will take place between May and June 2019.”

Okoye said the commission had commenced work on a comprehensive report of the 2019 general elections and had mandated its Electoral Institute to undertake detailed researches into various aspects of the elections.

“It is the Commission’s hope that the outcomes of these reviews and studies will feed into further electoral reforms and its preparations for handling future elections.”

The focus of the review according to Okoye would be on the planning, organisation, conduct and coordination of the general elections, particularly on certain areas.

These include logistics, procurement and deployment of personnel and materials; Continuous Voter Registration and Collection of permanent voter’s cards.

Others include legal environment of the elections, particularly the legal challenges experienced over nomination of candidates and conduct of elections.

“Processes of party registration, party primaries and nomination of candidates; quality of ad hoc staff;

“Relationship between the Commission and diverse stakeholders, including political parties, security agencies, civil society organisations, the media and development partners;

“And quality of inclusivity of the elections, particularly regarding persons with disability, Internally Displaced Persons (lDPs) and gender balance.

Published in World

Nigeria and United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday reaffirmed the need to work together to further consolidate on the strong relationship and mutual respect between the countries.

Mr Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity made this known in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.

The presidential aide said President Muhammadu Buhari and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi reached this agreement when they met in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Tuesday.

He stated that the two leaders discussed areas of enhancing and expanding mutual cooperations between Nigeria and the UAE.

While acknowledging that both countries enjoyed significant trade, the leaders agreed that more could be done.

Adesina revealed that the Nigerian leader and the Crown Prince, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Forces, also discussed education, healthcare, agriculture, climate change and population growth.

”As both countries have a large youth population, President Buhari and the Crown Prince exchanged ideas on creating an enabling environment for future generations.

Furthermore, the leaders exchanged views on diversification of their economies from oil as well as the security challenges confronting both Africa and the Middle East,” Adesina added.

The Crown Prince congratulated the President on his re-election and prayed for a successful second tenure.

He also expressed the commitment of UAE to increase their investments in Nigeria.

Published in Economy

A new partnership to boost food security in Nigeria and 10 other African countries by using artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite imagery to measure and predict crop yields, has been launched in New York.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to that effect was formed in New York between Atlas AI and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and other partners.

The collaboration aimed to address food insecurity in 11 priority sub-Saharan African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Among beneficiaries of the initiative will be 270,000 farmers in Kaduna state enrolled in the AGRA-supported project to upscale maize, rice and soybean value chains, who can now peg their livelihoods to markets rather than subsistence.

The Kaduna Maize-Rice-Soybean Consortium remained one of the best outcomes that is stimulating agricultural development in the African countries, according to AGRA.

The new partnership allowed Atlas AI and AGRA to use technology to the benefit the millions of smallholder farmers who are unable to invest in tools and technologies that could increase yields and improve the lives of millions

Atlas AI is a Silicon Valley-based corporation founded in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation while AGRA is an African-led, farmer-centred institution transforming smallholder agriculture.

The MoU established an agreement between Atlas AI and AGRA to collaborate around predictive analytics for smallholder agriculture.

This is through applications of satellite imagery and machine learning to offer useful insights in areas of land use, yields, and peak time for harvest, input distribution gaps, and other contextual monitoring aspects.

Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, said the organisation currently worked in Kaduna and Niger States in Nigeria to fight food insecurity by transforming smallholder farmers.

Kalibata said: “There have been many exciting advances in data, satellite imagery, and machine learning for agriculture over the years.

“Until recently, very little of these technologies have been available to African farms due to the inability of farmers and governments to pay for them.

“We are delighted to partner with Atlas AI and the Rockefeller Foundation in making these cutting edge advances in digital technology real and bringing them home for the millions of smallholder farmers we work with to improve their yields and lives.”

She said AGRA was working to transform Africa’s smallholder farming from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives through efforts to develop and deliver high-yielding and locally adapted seeds and improve soil fertility.

Kalibata added that AGRA worked to upgrade storage facilities, improve access to markets, strengthen farmers’ associations, expand access to credit for farmers and suppliers, and advocate for national policies that benefit smallholder farmers and agribusinesses.

Dr Rajiv Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation said the Foundation recognised that technology had the power to improve food security that was critical for both human welfare and economic growth in Africa.

“This collaboration will utilise Atlas AI’s cutting-edge tools together with AGRA’s unique local data sets to help improve food security across sub-Saharan Africa.

“It will unpack the results from predictive analytics to aid government and private sector decision-makers in the face of emerging threats and shocks such as changing weather, diseases and pests.

“It will support regional bodies in advancing the continental and global agricultural agenda,” the organisations said in a joint address.

According to him, the Foundation was optimistic that the partnership represented the future of defeating large-scale food insecurity around the world.

“I am excited that AGRA and Atlas AI will work together to drive agricultural transformation that will improve the lives of millions of smallholder farmers and the communities they serve,” he said.

Victoria Coleman, Chief Executive Officer of Atlas AI expressed optimism that the organisations would work together to be more effective in growing agribusinesses and agricultural markets across the continent.

Coleman said Atlas AI used cutting-edge machine learning to help decision-makers get more impact at lower costs through better planning, management, and assessment.

Published in Agriculture
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