Tuesday, 10 March 2020
French President Emmanuel Macron warned Tuesday that France was “just at the beginning” of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 30 people in the country and infected more than 1,600.
 
“We’re just at the beginning of this epidemic,” he said after a visit to the ambulance service in Paris, urging the French not to panic and saying the authorities were “organised” in the face of the crisis.
 
France is the second-worst affected country in Europe after Italy.
 
Culture Minister Franck Riester and five MPs are among those who have tested positive for the virus.
 
Preventive measures have been stepped up at the presidential palace, with Macron’s cabinet chief ordered to work from home after having been in contact with an infected person.
 
But with only a fraction of the 463 deaths reported in Italy, France has so far refrained from the draconian measures imposed by its neighbour, which is under nationwide lockdown.
 
Clusters of cases have been identified in half a dozen French regions, with schools closed in three — the northern Oise area, the northeastern Haut-Rhin area and the city of Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
 
Gatherings of more than 1,000 people have been cancelled since the weekend, leading to several sporting events and concerts being called off.
 
Macron said the government, which is pressing ahead with nationwide municipal elections scheduled on Sunday, was taking a region-by-region approach to the outbreak.
 
“One must not expect that at a given moment, at a given hour in the country, there will be a big shift when everything changes,” he said, adding the government would continue to adopt a “proportional” response to the epidemic.
Published in World

A court in Tanzania on Tuesday ordered a group of opposition lawmakers and other co-accused to pay a fine or serve five months prison on charges related to a banned demonstration.

A judge in Dar es Salaam found the nine defendants including top political opposition figures guilty of sedition and other charges and sentenced them to jail unless they raised 350 million shillings ($152,000) in penalties.

The accused, including Chadema party chairman Freeman Mbowe, four MPs and other senior opposition officials, were remanded in custody after failing to raise the money.

“We went to the court believing that we could win. However, this sentence will not stop us from fighting for democracy in this country,” the party’s deputy chairman, Said Issa Mohammed, told reporters after the verdict.

He said Chadema, the main opposition movement challenging Tanzania’s powerful ruling CCM party, was trying to raise the money and would consider appealing.

Mbowe and the others were charged in 2018 with sedition, unlawful assembly and inciting violence, among other offences, over a rally in which police fired live rounds to disperse Chadema supporters demanding accreditation in a local election.

A 22-year-old student who was not taking part was shot dead by a stray bullet from police.

Some of the charges were linked to a speech Mbowe gave during the demonstration in which he said President John Magufuli would not last long in his job.

The demonstration had been banned by Magufuli’s government, which has been accused of crushing dissent, jailing critics and passing draconian laws that have weakened freedoms in Tanzania.

The strongman leader, who was elected in 2015, is expected to run for another term later this year in a country once seen as a bastion of democracy in a tumultuous part of Africa.

Published in World
The Naira is currently at the mercy of two economic catastrophes: the ceaseless plunge in oil prices triggered by the untameable COVID-19, and the nation’s shrinking international reserves that have been on a free fall for months on end.
 
Crude prices took their hardest bashing so far from the epidemic early Monday following a price warfare between top producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia, after efforts by Saudi to broker an output cut deal with Russia ended in a standoff.
 
Yesterday, crude oil futures, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent cratered to as low as $31.13 and $31.02 per barrel respectively, their lowest since 12th February 2016 and the largest single-day percentage plunge since 17th January 1991, when the US Gulf War teed off.
 
French multinational investment bank, Société Générale S.A. said on Monday that fall in oil prices might compel Nigeria to devalue the Naira as the current export revenue crunch eats away at foreign reserves,  weakening the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) ability to rescue the currency.
 
In the last two years, the reserves have hit their lowest since November 2017, tumbling by 20% and there are worries they might reach $30 billion anytime soon, the limit set by Godwin Emefiele, the apex bank chief, for devaluation to happen.
 
Jason Daw and Phoenix Kalen, strategists at Paris-headquartered SocGen said in a note obtained by Bloomberg on Monday it was high time the CBN looked the way of currency reform review before something untoward occurred.
 
Naira fundamentals are not sustainable and under current external vulnerabilities, principally lower oil prices, the threat of a devaluation is pretty much high, said SocGen.
 
“The combination of a current-account deficit — previously due to strong imports but now being compounded by weak exports — portfolio outflows and lower oil prices will continue to deplete FX reserves and pressure the naira.”
 
Monday, yields on Nigeria’s 2049 Eurobonds leapt by 143 basis points to 10.18%, the peak so far, just as the Naira weakened 1.1% in offshore trading.
 
Similarly, Nigeria’s benchmark stock plummeted to its lowest level in nearly three years.
 
President Muhammadu Buhari had signed this year’s budget into law on a crude oil forecast of $57 per barrel with the government targeting N2.64 trillion from oil revenue.
 
Brent, the benchmark for Nigeria’s Bonny Light, has tumbled by about 45% year to date to $35.77 per barrel.
 
Crude oil earnings make up over 90% of Nigeria’s export revenues.
 
Emefiele, since taking over the leadership of the CBN in 2014, has tightened capital controls and closely managed the value of the Naira, regularly saying both measures are the best remedies for inflation and stimulating manufacturing by discouraging imports.
 
Daw and Kalen wrote, “an initial attempt at a managed depreciation is more likely than a one-off large devaluation (like in the past), but it might be challenging to maintain over the medium term unless bolder policy action is taken.”
 
They noted the CBN could consider firming up liquidity in the interbank market or by tightening policy while a proposed Eurobond sale could help shore up the currency reserves.
Published in Bank & Finance

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in conjunction with the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC) has commissioned has commissioned $1 billion (about N360 billion) worth of locally assembled vehicles.

The vehicles are manufactured in the country by 17 companies such as Innoson, Nissan, Coscharis, Ford and Elizade Motors.

Adeniyi Adebayo, the Industry, Trade and Investment Minister, during the commissioning of the Nigerian-made and assembled automobiles in Abuja on Monday observed the vehicles would later be showcased at the Argungu Motor Rally.

The inaugural edition of the motor rally will be kicked off in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The minister said plans were afoot by the NADDC to make the Argungu Motor Rally a yearly festival for the Nigerian local auto industry although the rally is part of the Argungu Annual International Fishing and Cultural Festival.

He expressed optimism in the progress of the country in automotive assembly saying the sector had posted tens of thousands of newly assembled vehicles despite beginning from a zero production level in 2012.

Mr Adebayo affirmed that the unveiling of the 10-year Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP 2013-2023) in 2013 had made it possible for 62 firms to be registered to assemble vehicles.

The former Ekiti State Governor disclosed that the companies were registered to assemble vehicles at Semi Knocked Down (SKD) and Completely Knocked Down (CKD) levels with a total installed capacity of 423,790 units.

He observed that an actual assemblage of 10,343 units had been attained to date just as 31 automotive assembly companies were currently listed under the Bureau of Public Procurement for patronage.

“The vehicles and brands for unveiling are a testament to the zeal and commitment of the automotive industrial subsector to the present government’s efforts towards diversification of the non-oil sector of the economy.

“The role of the NADDC in reviving and sustaining the automotive sector has greatly helped in stimulating growth and development in Nigerian automotive industry,’ Mr Adebayo said.

He enjoined Nigerians to patronise made-in-Nigeria vehicles with a view to creating jobs, driving investment, conserving foreign exchange, building capacity and transferring technology to the citizenry.

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mariam Katagum, who was represented by Nasir Gwarzo, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, urged the auto firms to improve local content and repose their trust in government’s dedication to the diversification of the economy.

On his part, Jelani Aliyu, the NADDC Director General confirmed that $1 billion had been invested by the auto companies whose vehicles were being commissioned while 4,700 people had been directly employed in the sector.

Aliyu said it earmarked N5 billion aimed at a single digit vehicle finance scheme and was in talks with banks including Wema, Jaiz and Zenith in order to provide the financing for made-in-Nigeria vehicles.

He asserted that the organisation was building three automotive testing centres and three automobile service hubs across Nigeria in order to boost sustainability and maintenance culture.

“Not just to build cars for 200 million people but to support local producers by opening up for them market opportunities to the one billion people of the African continent,’’ he said.

Mr Aliyu expressed his discontentment with the fact that the country spends $8 billion (about N2.932 trillion) every year to import 300,000 to 400,000 vehicles.

Published in Business

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be part of a mentoring session with a Founder Institute cohort at the Stanbic Bank Incubator in Accra. It was good, very good. Joining us were Foster Awintiti Akugri, the Stanbic Bank Incubator Manager & Founder of Hacklab Foundation, and Kamil NabongKamil has a account, the CEO at Hub and Fund.

The picture you see here is full of brilliant start-ups that attended the mentoring and idea-sharing session on Customer Development. The hotseat was just as fun as well. Founders get 60-seconds to pitch their start-ups and get instant feedback. The energy with this is electrifying, because many times you can see the passion in the eyes and hear it in the voices of these guys. Still, where is it all headed? Are they locking down customers? Is that passion being channelled properly to drive up sales and grow customers?

This is what the Founder Institute is all about: learning from those who’ve already done it and drawing from their personal experiences and lessons learned. It’s like a cheat code to manoeuvring your start-up. I will detail what I spoke on. I spoke last so I had to freestyle anyways. No need to rehash what everyone can read in a textbook. So, let’s get the textbook stuff outta the way then I’ll add my personal experience.

What is Customer Development?

A lot of the time, your idea is sound, or at least it will be after a little tweak and fine-tune here and there. Your product is also something someone can buy 9 out of 10 times. The problem that most start-ups face is a lack of LOYAL CUSTOMERS. Because… well… they’re just starting.

Customer Development is the formal process used to discover, test and validate many business ideas, all towards building the right product the customer will actually opt for.

Steve Blank, in his 2005 book titled ‘The Four Steps to the Epiphany’, wrote about his life as an entrepreneur in the 90’s while in Silicon Valley and what he saw several start-ups do to launch their products. A pattern began to form right before his eyes after analysing his collaborations with start-up after start-up. He noticed that a start-up is not just a smaller version of a big company. A start-up has unique problems, totally different from that of a big company. So, he figured start-ups should be asking certain questions:

  • Who exactly are our unique customers?
  • What exactly do they need?
  • What product/service features will they prefer?
  • How can I properly communicate with them?
  • What strategies can help maintain customer growth?

startup or start-up is a company or project within the first stage of its operations, initiated by one or more entrepreneurs to seek, effectively develop, and validate a scalable business model. Start-ups are usually a shoestring endeavour as opposed to a fully-grown company.

Steve Blank concluded that for start-ups to survive, they need to have a methodical means of arriving at “repeatable and scalable business models”. He identifies a four-step framework that is designed to lead you to a product or service that the customer actually wants, while the stepwise process helps you to intimately understand your target market.

The four steps of the framework are:

  1. Customer Discovery: You have to identify and understand a specific product or service that solves a specific problem for a specific group of people.
  2. Customer Validation: After Step 1, this product solves a problem but make sure the target market is large enough to sustain a viable business.
  3. Customer Creation: After the two steps above, make sure the business is scalable through repeatable sales and marketing procedures.
  4. Company Building/Transition: Your start-up is now ready to move from an informal start-up to a formal organisation very much focused on implementing your validated business model.

What I like about this four-step framework is that it is suitable for start-ups in the early stages of their development while also being perfectly suitable to large companies looking to expand or better their already existing products or services. When deployed properly, Customer Development helps any business become more efficient by providing an acute focus on where to direct capital and other resources. You are more likely to find the right product for the right market this way. Product-Market Fit is the key to accelerated market traction.

So that concludes the textbook content.

The cohort were very much interested in hearing how Foster, Kamil and I executed simple methods that moved our respective companies a step closer to customer growth. The session was fun. Kamil detailed useful ways of executing the steps in the above framework, like methods of information gathering from the customer amongst many others. Foster Akugri? That sharp guy Foster? I get why Stanbic Bank Ghana has so much faith in him. He is the King of useful quips and brainstorming and we all mooched on that.

Looking back at how you overcame some struggle always brings a smile. The real fun is when we all realise that at the start-up phase, we are all slaying our very own Goliaths, only with difference faces from different sectors.

Here are 4 tools I shared as what helped a couple of friends build Maxwell Investments Group.

  1. Drop the ego.

The world can be cruel. The business community can be very harsh. As a start-up, I couldn’t keep count of the number of doors shut in our faces. Everyone has a “rude receptionist” story. We had many dozens by the first year. Your target market are the same people that will belittle and mock your idea. It will not feel like you’re on a transformational journey of corporate enlightenment. No. It more probably feels like a gut punch or a slap in the face.

When you remove the filter of an ego, you stop reacting, you stop interrupting, you start listening and then a lot of the work with implementing the four-step framework start resolving itself. At times, what you require is really as simple as sales, the customer’s money in exchange for your product or service. Why not drop the ego, let the customer go through whatever motions they need to go through, and then make the sales – simple!

Of course, there’s a line to draw if you want to adopt this. Mine was that, as long as my Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms are intact, then what’s there to lose. Read about your rights here: www.bit.ly/38s5hrg

Adopt a culture of humility and keep your eye on what really matter – sales and customer growth.

  1. Customers don’t want to hear of your labour pains – just deliver the baby!

Life with a start-up gets difficult. So, you’d be tempted to lament on how hard the situation is when trying to secure a deal or when justifying why we shouldn’t be bargained down. Don’t do that. Human beings like good things, things that feel good. Nobody wants association with a struggling entity. Yes, you know it’ll be big later but for now, just deliver the baby and keep the labour pain stories for friends and family. Do not speak of yourself as struggling. More than half of the time, it’ll probably come off as whining anyways.

Make your delivery look effortless and there’s something attractive about that. There’s something attractive about a guy or a lady that you can depend on to get the job done. Your customers will be drawn to you while your competitors keep whining on and on about how hard it is to earn the customer’s money.

  1. Secure your validation from at least one big fish.

To illustrate this point properly, imagine being able to confidently say to a Rural Bank “I am collaborating with Stanbic”. The effect will be swift. If you seek similar collaboration with smaller fish, it helps immensely to have at least one big fish to have worked with you before.

Big fish are usually very risk-averse. To have successfully collaborated with a number of them would allude to a notion that you fit a category that everyone in the market would want to work with. Contrary to what starters think, big fish seldom pay Ferrari figures per item that the smaller fish would pay smaller figures for. What you get is traffic. Seek acceptable margins in exchange for much higher volumes and it will always be worth it. The experience you’ll gain, the lessons you’ll learn, and the backbone you’ll build from working with a big company is invaluable to a start-up.

  1. Mentally accept that you’re lacking something.

No matter who you are or where you’re from, the mere fact that you’ve not made it to the big leagues mean you don’t know something, it means you lack something. If you just started a new venture, chances are there’s a deficit somewhere and your one mission should be to curate your actions towards finding that missing piece.

When you’re on your bed, you’re the boss of that space. When you’re eating cereal, you’re the emperor of that bowl. The moment you step into the business world as a start-up, you have to drop that Emperor vibe and take in as much information and data as you can with the singular goal of sifting through all of that to find what you lack.

Because of the time and effort spent on the journey, many times you’ll find that people are reluctant to alter their route or change their routine, for it hurts. But when you accept that you are in of need a success-inducing adjustment, when that perfect solution comes, you’ll be able to distinguish it from amongst the rest of the noise.

In conclusion, with these tools, pick the right execution strategy and FOCUS. Foster briefly spoke on how the importance of FOCUS using the story of Microsoft as an example while dropping many other very good gems. I’ll conclude with his words of caution:

“Because most of us were born into the enterprise resource platform era, we tend to want to build everything; we want to build a 360 degrees service that solves all the customers’ problems.”

Don’t do that. FOCUS!

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Hit me up on social media and let’s keep the conversation going! I read all the feedback you send me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Go to www.maxwellinvestmentsgroup.com/publications to read all my previous articles.

Also, feel free to send me your articles on relevant topics for publication on the Macroeconomic Bulletin. I’d give you full credit, an intro, and an outro. Kindly make it about 1000 words.

Have a lovely week!

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Maxwell Ampong is the CEO of Maxwell Investments Group, a Trading and Business Solutions provider. He is also the Business Advisor for the General Agricultural Workers’ Union of TUC (Gh). He writes about trending and relevant economic topics, and general perspective pieces.

LinkedIn:/in/thisisthemax   Instagram:@thisisthemax   Twitter:@thisisthemax   Facebook:@thisisthemax   Website: www.maxwellinvestmentsgroup.com   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   Mobile: 0249993319

Published in Macroeconomic Bulletin
Nigeria may be heading for its second recession in nearly four years after crude oil prices crashed to $30 per barrel in the international market.
 
The fresh meltdown in the global oil market is expected to threaten the country’s 2020 budget implementation, especially funding of capital projects.
 
President Muhammadu Buhari had while presenting the 2020 budget estimate adopted a conservative oil price benchmark of $57 per barrel and daily oil production estimate of 2.18 mbpd
 
The oil prices crashed as much as 30 percent within seconds of the market opening on Sunday evening after Saudi Arabia launched an aggressive price war over the weekend, driving crude to its lowest level in four years.
 
Brent crude, the international benchmark, against which Nigerian oil is priced, dropped from $45 a barrel to $31.52 a barrel in one of the biggest one-day drops in its history.
 
The huge sell-off follows the collapse of Saudi Arabia’s oil-cutting alliance on Friday, with Russia refusing to make deeper cuts to output despite the sharp hit to demand from the coronavirus outbreak.
 
Saudi Arabia, Opec’s de facto leader, has responded by slashing prices and indicating it will instead raise output. The move is seen as an attempt to take on Russia as well as squeezing other high-cost producers out of the market, including parts of the US shale sector.
 
It is reminiscent of the attempt to win back market share in 2014 during the last price war, but this time it comes as demand is seen falling because of the impact of the coronavirus, which has crimped air travel and the wider economy.
 
“It is very rare for a demand collapse to coincide with a supply surge,” said Bob McNally at the Rapidan Energy Group. “It is the most crude price-bearish combination since the early 1930s. The price collapse has just begun.”
 
Goldman Sachs, one of the most influential banks in commodity markets, on Sunday lowered its price forecast for Brent to $30 a barrel for the second and third quarters, and warned there could be dips to $20 a barrel in the coming weeks.
Published in News Economy
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