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There's no way the transformational agenda and Industrialization history of Akwa Ibom State will be written without the name Udom Gabriel Emmanuel not boldly inscribed in gold. In just three years at the helm of affairs of the State, Governor Udom Emmanuel has come to symbolize industry, enterprise, resourcefulness, and ingenuity.
The remarkable transformation of the state from a hitherto civil service state to an emerging industrial hub is a testament to this administration's resolve and determination to leave a positive footprint in the sands of time.
 
On assuming office in May 29, 2015, the Governor made a promise to make his administration a gift to the citizens of the state by opening up the state to industrial growth and development, expand the economic activities within the state and create an enabling environment for investors to troop in and discover the hidden potentials the state has to offer to the outside world. 
 
Three years down the line, we've all witnessed the manifestation of this promises in different forms. It's only safe to say that from all indications, the Udom Emmanuel led administration has lived up to and even surpassed all expectations.
 
Agriculture is a leading sector of the economy of Nigeria and of the different states in the country. Agriculture supports over 75% of the population of Akwa Ibom. In the rural areas, the economy is agro-based. Akwa Ibom state is a hub for various agricultural products such as palm oil, cassava, yam, cocoyam, plantain, maize, rice, rubber, and many varieties of fish and other seafood.
 
The current administration came into power in a year where a majority of Nigerians experienced food shortages due to a multiplicity of factors ranging from a bad harvest year, and a dwindling purchasing power occasioned by the depreciating value of the Naira. Being a proactive government, the Udom administration quickly swung into action and declared a state of emergency in the agricultural sector. It saw the need to boost agricultural output to provide enough food for the teeming population of its citizenry and even for export. This led to an agricultural revolution across the state, a revolution that today has led to a significant improvement in food supply across the state.
 
Today, the state now boasts of the production of tomatoes, cucumber, and other cash crops for export. Also, with the Akwa Prime Hatchery and Poultry, located at Mbiaya, Uruan, the state is now poised to revolutionise the production and export of eggs and other dairy products. The Akwa Prime Hatchery produces 10,000-day old chickens per week.
 
To also diversify the economy of the state to wean Nigeria from reliance on oil, the Akwa Ibom State Government has also registered 4,920 rice farmers in the state who are producing rice for local consumption and sales to other parts of Nigeria and the West African Coast. The state is also boosting its comparative advantage in growing Cassava with the cultivation of at least 1,450 hectares of Cassava Plantation in 5 local governments. This is a seed multiplication scheme to provide free cassava stems to farmers in the three senatorial districts of the state. 
 
Animal production and husbandry is also part of the overall agricultural policy of the Udom Emmanuel led-administration. The government is working with the Carlos Farms, a Mexican group that is investing in massive commercial farms – both crops and animal production in Nigeria to develop ranches for Cow Production and processing of Cow Milk for dairy companies.
 
Cocoa is a commercial crop that the state has comparative production advantage. Governor Udom's administration has trained 450 youths in new methods of planting cocoa and other extension services to cocoa farmers in the state. There has been the establishment of Special Cocoa Maintenance Scheme (SCMS) for the training of farmers and youths on pruning/shade management, under brushing, and tree care by fumigation, to ensure the improvement of yields from 300 kilograms/hectare to 2000kg/ha over three years period. The government has undertaken the Zoning and mapping of the cocoa-producing communities in the State, and sensitization of cocoa farmers in the 24 cocoa producing local government areas in the State.
 
Furthermore, there has been the importation of 1000 bags of special cocoa fertilizer from Ghana for optimal yield. These 1000 bags were delivered to cocoa farmers in September 2016.
 
The foresight of Governor Udom has resulted in the procurement and establishment of 11,000 Hectare Coconut Plantation and Refinery Project in the state. This project is in partnership with VKS construction Nigeria Ltd. With 2 million stands of coconut planted, the plantation is the largest in the world and will feed raw materials to the coconut refinery. At full capacity, the refinery would process 300,000 coconuts per day. Virgin coconut oil is now a hot cake in the international market and would bring in much needed foreign exchange to Akwa Ibom and improve the economy of the state.
 
Other achievements in the Agric sector include:
 
•The Re-introduction of second planting season for enhanced food production and sufficiency 
 
•Refurbishment and upgrading of three 10mt/day cassava processing factories in the three Senatorial Districts of the state. 
 
• Extension of technical advisory services to about 350 sh farms in the State, as well as the cultivation of 300 hectares of cassava under the FADAMA III+ Financing Programme.
 
Currently, the state can boast of an enhanced food production capacity to feed its people and also for export. With all the investments in Agriculture, Akwa Ibom is poised to become the food basket of the South-south region and a major food hub in Nigeria, all thanks to the wonderful initiatives and Industrialization drive of the Udom-led administration.
 
#UDOMTouchingLives

Another outfit and the Super Eagles are again the fashion icons of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The Super Eagles travel outfit has been hailed on social media  (Twitter/NFF)
The Super Eagles have ‘officially’ been crowned the kings of the fashion for the 2018 FIFA World Cup after their travel outfits to Russia were hailed on social media platforms.
The Super Eagles jerseys generated a lot of positive reactions of social media and the travel outfits have received similar praise on several media platforms.

The Daily Mail hails the outfit with a headline Nigeria steal the show again!, popular men’s magazine GQ stated that Nigeria Has Already Won the World Cup (of Style).

The Super Eagles have already gathered a lot of admirers through the kits and fashion outfits.

The Super Eagles outfit again a topic of discussion  (Twitter/NFF)
The travel outfits dominated the conversation on Twitter as some were of the opinion that the attire was not proper while some were impressed that Nigeria travelled to Russia in traditional outfits.

The native attire is a combination of white and green the country’s national colours, the shorts pure, white, the hat white with a touch of green while the tops are white with a design of an eagle on the collar and chest region.

The opinion about the travel outfits were split, there were some that applauded the effort of the indigenous designer.

A fan who admired the outfits said, "The Super Eagles of Nigeria looking fly on their way to Russia for the World Cup. Can we buy this one or it’s already sold out too?."

There were some that were not impressed with the country’s representatives flying out in native attires and that football should be the focus as travel outfits and jerseys will not win the World Cup.

A fan who was not impressed with the design condemned the maker of the attire as he said, "Please who designed this for #SuperEagles    Its horrible.."

The Super Eagles will now focus attention on their first game of the group stage against Croatia on Saturday, June 16 before subsequent matches against Iceland and Argentina.

Credit: Daily Mail

The Federal High Court, Abuja has stopped the trial of the National Commandant, Peace Corps of Nigeria, Mr. Dickson Akor in the case preferred against him by the Nigerian Police Force.

The trial judge, Justice John Tsoho stopped the trial on Tuesday, on the grounds that the police failed to unseal the Corporate Head Office of the corps as ordered by the court. Giving a ruling, the judge asked that parties should stay action on the case until the order was respected. The appellant, Akor had asked the court to stop the trial pending when the police would obey the court order.

The judge held that the police was an institution established by law and, therefore, must not develop the habit of disregarding court orders and judgments with impunity. He maintained that it was wrong for the police to have disobeyed two decisions of the court which directed it to unseal the office in the last one year. The judge agreed with Mr John Ochogwu, counsel to Akor that keeping the office sealed had placed his client at a disadvantage in preparing for his defence in the alleged 13-count criminal charge preferred against him. Tsoho further held that the police had contravened Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution by refusing to give the defendant adequate time and opportunity to prove his innocence in the charge against him. “It has often been said that justice is not for one part but for all including the state. “In the instant case, the police cannot be said to be fair when the office of the defendant remained sealed on the instruction of the prosecution. “Let the point be made that the hand of the police is not clean by refusing to obey court judgments and at the same time seeking the defendant to obey provisions of the law,’’ he said. According to the judge, the court is swayed by the argument of counsel to Akor in his reply on points of law that the police flouted a valid order made by the court.

“There is a democratic norm that no person or institution is above the law,” the judge said. He consequently stopped the trial pending when there was evidence that the police had complied with the order of the court. The police had in 2017, slammed a 90-count charge against Akor but the charges were later reduced to 13 by the office of the Attorney-General. Justice Gabriel Kolawole, had in a judgment on an enforcement of fundamental human rights suit, ordered the police to unseal the corporate head office of the corps. He made the order based on the grounds that the action was unlawful, illegal and a breach of the fundamental rights of the Peace Corps members to own property.

The judge had awarded N12.5m against police and in favour of Akor and 49 others over their unlawful arrest and detention by police. Tsoho, had in another decision ordered police to vacate the office of the organization on the grounds that the presence of police in the office was against the law.

Source: NAN

Foreign exchange, forex, sales by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was dominated in 2017 by Forwards contracts which accounted for $11.2 billion or 70 percent of total sales. Unlike spots transactions which involves immediate delivery, forwards are transactions which involves delivery of forex at a future agreed date but at current exchange rate. 
 
A breakdown of the annual report of the Financial Market Department of the apex bank for 2017 revealed that forex sales for forward contracts rose by 44 percent to $11.2 billion in 2017 from $5.8 billion in 2016. This exceeded the 30 percent increase in total foreign exchange sales by the CBN which rose to $15.8 billion in 2017 from $12.2 billion in 2016. CBN Headquarters Managing Director/Chief Executive, Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, however, noted that this trend will not persist in 2018, as the conditions that necessitated the dominance of forwards contract no longer exist. Speaking to Vanguard, he said: “When you buy into a forward contract, you are buying at the official rate but they will deliver to you in 90 days and in some cases 120 days. “When the CBN had shortage of foreign exchange they managed it by doing forwards contract but now that the reserves are strong, they are doing spot transactions. 
 
The benefit of the forwards is that it helps to manage the cash flow and secondly, the implied rate is different from the effective rate. That is, if they sell to you at N330 per dollar, and take your money 90 days ahead, by the time you add the treasury bills rate to it, you will find out that effectively you have paid N340 per dollar. So it is another way of devaluing the currency. “But the constraints that led to that last year are no longer there. We have gone beyond that now. That time the reserves were doing $23 billion to $24 billion, but now we don’t need to panic.” The report had stated: “In 2017, the CBN maintained its direct intervention in the inter-bank foreign exchange market to cushion the demand pressure and ensure exchange rate stability. 
 
Consequently, a total of $15.82 billion was sold at the inter-bank segment. “This comprised $1.53 billion at the inter-bank spot, $1.39 billion for invisibles, $1.07  billion for SMEs,  $622 million at the I & E, while forwards sales were $11.19  billion. On the other hand, the Bank purchased $6.09 billion at the inter-bank market. Thus, net sales by the Bank amounted to $9.73 billion. 
 
The sum of $10.73 billion matured at the forwards segment, while $1.92 billion remained outstanding at end-December 2017. “In the preceding year, $12.16 billion was sold at the inter-bank market, comprising $6.30 billion spot and $5.85 billion at the forwards. In the same vein, the Bank purchased $130.98 million, resulting in a net sale of $12.24 billion. The sum of $4.29 billion matured at the forwards, while $1.56 billion remained outstanding at end-December 2016.”
 
 
Source: VanguardNG
An economist, Dr Chijioke Ekechukwu, says Nigerian businesses find it difficult to become conglomerates due to both external and internal factors.
 
Ekechukwu, a former Director-General, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, expressed the view in an interview in Abuja.
 
*Traders doing business in front of the completed project that is under lock and key
 
He said many Nigerian businesses lacked human, material and financial capacity to grow bigger than what their family members can offer.
 
According to him, many Nigerian businesses engage in little or no research and development and their key officials lack the requisite education for growth and development.
 
According to him, many businesses also do not grow to become conglomerates due to lack of proper budgeting, accounting and costing.
 
“Many of them do not know what their financial positions are; as far as there is turnover, they don’t bother with knowing their profit or loss.
 
“There are no qualified professionals engaged in their firms; in other words, they are satisfied with cheap and unskilled labour.
 
“These and many more are responsible for the limited growth of the Nigerian indigenous businesses, why they have not become conglomerates.
 
“If these factors are properly addressed, many Nigerian businesses will grow and become conglomerates,’’ Ekechukwu said.
 
According to him, the external factors are lack of basic infrastructure in the country, inefficient rail system, lack of power, lack of good roads and insecurity.
 
Others, he said, are lack of access to huge and long term loans, high cost of funds and unfavourable government policies.
 
NAN reports that a conglomerate is a combination of two or more corporations that are engaged in entirely different businesses under one corporate group. 
 
Credit: (NAN)
Nigeria remains a formidable investment hub in sub-Saharan Africa as it is ranked the number one business destination in the region and as well one of the sought business destination from countries around the world, the Franco-Nigerian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, has said.
 
According to the chairman of the chamber, Oye Hassan-Odukale,  the chamber’s yearly general meeting and signing of partnership between Schneider electric and 21st century Technology to build Tier IV data centre in Lagos, with the exit from the 2016 recession,  Nigeria has continued to show signs of a healthy recovery.
 
“The last GDP report by the National Bureau of Statistics showed a 1.9% growth in the gross domestic product of Nigeria and non-oil GDP grew by 1.45% which shows that the diversification agenda of the present administration is yielding positive results.
 
“With the recent passage of the 2018 budget of N9.12 trillion by the National Assembly, I am confident that the growth being recorded will be consolidated and we at the Franco-Nigeria Chambers predict a 3.7% GDP growth by the 4th quarter of 2018”, he added.
 
He noted that bilateral ties between France and Nigeria continued in an upward swing, as Nigeria remained the first economic and business partner of France in sub-Saharan African region and the 9th largest trade partner of France globally.
 
On the benefits of the last Nigeria Embassy Cultural showcase in Paris, France, conceived by Dr. Modupe Irele, he said, “a cultural showcase in Paris with the objective of showcasing the rich culture, music fashion and food to French community, has indeed projected Nigeria positively to the international business community. The cooperation between the French Embassy and the office of the Consul General on one part and Chamber on the other has been truly exemplary and complimentary”.
 
Director,  Sales and Marketing,  21st century Technology,  Assan Cham, who spoke on the need to tighten Nigeria’s cyber security said, “ in the area of cyber security,  the more digitalised and connected our economy,  the more important it becomes to secure our system in cyberspace.
 
On his part,  the General Manager,  Franco-Nigerian Chamber of Commerce And Industry, Moses Umoru who spoke on the role of technology in 21century, said,  “digital revolution through the implementation of the IOT,  AI,  Cloud solutions,  robotics,  blockchain and crypto-currency remains one of the key highlights of the 21st century. Technology is indeed helping to shape the ways things are done.  Despite this remarkable pace, Africa has not fully measured up to the equation.
 
“As digital revolution continues to gather pace, traditional business models are undergoing unprecedented levels  of disruption and those businesses that fail to transform themselves into digital integrated organisations will struggle in the digital economy let alone thrive. Today’s customers value experience over relationship and without undergoing digital transformations, organisation will struggle to enable the hyper-personalized experience to maintain customer loyalties”, he added.
 
Credit: The Guardian

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump next week. His visit comes less than four months since Trump made the comment about “shithole” countries in Africa. Trump’s comments were followed by a swift denial and a lukewarm attempt to mend fences.

But his lethargic attitude to the continent is undeniable. This was underscored by the fact that the president sacked former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when he was on an African tour, forcing him to cut his trip short. Further evidence of his perceived indifference is the fact that he has not appointed substantive senior leadership within the state department to handle African affairs. As a result, his African policy is driven by a makeshift team that has shown no real desire to mediate Africa’s strategic interests and aspirations.

So how does Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest economies, fit into America’s unclear vision for the continent? With a population of more than 180 million people, Nigeria is an African power house. And because of its complex religious, ethnic and regional dynamics, it presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the US.

The agenda

Perhaps Buhari’s trip to Washington will be used to reset Nigeria-US relations, particularly after the fallout from Trump’s shithole comment. The comment was particularly disturbing in Nigeria because over 700,000 Nigerians were found to be following Trump’s tweets – that’s more than 2% of his 32 million followers. This shows just how interested Nigerians are in the American president and his policies.

The official line from the Trump administration is that Buhari’s visit is an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss issues of mutual importance like economic growth, reforms and trade, terrorism, peace and security, and Nigeria’s role as a leader in Africa.

But it’s also worth remembering that Nigeria remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Levels of corruption have even diluted the country’s efforts in the war on terror.

Nigeria has been unable to deal decisively with the Boko Haram menace despite buying military equipment worth millions of dollars from the US. Its inability to wipe out Boko Haram has destabilised the West African region and caused a widespread refugee crisis.

Beyond the twin challenge of corruption and terrorism, Nigeria has been unable to fully benefit from America’s special economic growth and development initiative, the African Growth and Opportunity Act. This is because of structural bottlenecks like insecurity, sluggish economic growth, weak local capacity, and infrastructural problems.

The act gives selected sub-Saharan countries easier access, tax and duty free exports of selected products to the US market. But Nigeria’s performance has been dismal. Buhari’s wish list should therefore include support for private sector capacity building to meet international trade and export standards.

It should also include enhanced security cooperation and support and increased foreign direct investment.

Something else that could come up during Buhari’s visit are the human rights violations by the Nigerian military in its campaign against Boko Haram. The violations stopped the Obama administration from fully committing to Nigerian military support.

In fact, the lowest point in US-Nigeria relations came in 2014 when Nigeria cancelled a joint military exercise because the US refused to equip its military with helicopters.

From “shithole” to “deep respect”

Despite its challenges, Nigeria has long been a continental and regional power house that has supervised a vast security apparatus through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Under Nigeria’s stewardship ECOWAS ensured that the Gambian strong man Jammeh Yahya was forced to step down in favour of his challenger who had been validly elected.

Nigeria’s role in the Gambia proved that, while it has a lot of other problems, electoral injustice is not one of them. Successive administrations have respected the constitutional norms that require an incumbent to step down after fairly losing an election. This kind of democratic leadership is strategically important to the US.

And as one of Africa’s largest economies Nigeria can boost economic growth in the region. The country is in a strategic position to take advantage of Trump’s promise to “increase free, fair and reciprocal trade” with Africa.

Finally, as Africa’s largest oil and gas producer Nigeria could become an important ally in Trump’s efforts to control the volatile oil prices fronted by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Benefits to both parties

In the final analysis, what should Africa make of Buhari’s visit to Washington? Is it a just reward for Nigeria’s continental leadership, or a carefully choreographed opportunity to make Trump popular again?

I argue that it is both. Despite claiming that he has a “deep respect” for Africa, Trump is still believed to be indifferent towards the continent.

This visit has the potential to reset the US-Nigeria dynamic. And at the end of the day, Buhari will have a White House photo op that will come in handy now that he intends to run for a second term.

And Trump will have the opportunity to showcase his “deep respect” for Africa.

 

David E Kiwuwa, Associate Professor of International Studies, University of Nottingham

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

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has established a National Food Security Council to address challenges in the country’s food and agriculture sectors. Food security is a huge problem in Nigeria. It ranks 84th out of 119 countries on the 2017 Global Hunger Index, coming in just below the Republic of Congo.

If a person is food secure it typically means that sufficient quality food is available, they have enough resources to buy food for a nutritious diet and they have stable access to adequate food at all times.

In Nigeria, about 3.7 million people, across 16 states, are food insecure. Several factors have driven this. These include civil conflicts, large-scale displacement, rising food prices, climate change, natural resource degradation, poverty and population growth.

Buhari’s newly established council and agriculture policy show that his administration is committed to promoting national food security. But the council is made up only of government officials who have busy schedules and lack firsthand experience in the food and agriculture sectors. This, along with the lack of an action plan, will prevent the task force from achieving its objectives.

I have designed a five-point plan which could guide the council’s strategy. It includes engaging a range of stakeholders, coming up with solutions to the food security challenges and advice on proper execution. These steps would ensure that a sustainable food security project is set up, unlike past attempts which failed because they weren’t implemented effectively.

Conflict

Civil conflict is one of the leading causes of food insecurity, affecting food and agriculture. In Nigeria the conflicts are Boko Haram’s insurgency, conflict in the Niger delta and clashes over resources between Fulani herdsmen and farmers.

Current data on the exact number of people affected by the civil conflicts is unavailable. But what is known is that farmers and livestock have been killed, crops destroyed, and farming communities displaced.

Boko Haram attacks in resource rich Northern Nigeria resulted in stalled food production, large-scale displacement of people, loss of livelihoods and increased food prices in Nigeria and neighbouring Lake Chad basin countries – Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Last year the Boko Haram insurgency resulted in the displacement of 1.7 million people in north-eastern Nigeria alone, and caused food insecurity for over 4.5 million people from Nigeria, Cameron, Chad and Niger.

Internally displaced children wait for food at a camp in Borno state, northeast Nigeria. Utenriksdepartementet/Flickr

Conflict in the Niger Delta, originally due to tensions between foreign oil corporations and minority ethnic groups, have also affected the country’s food security. Artisanal small-scale fish farmers from the Niger Delta produce about 50 % of the fish consumed in Nigeria. Exacerbated by oil spills and overfishing, the conflict hinders access to fish which contributes about 40% of the animal protein intake in Nigeria.

Natural causes

In addition to the man-made causes of food insecurity, natural events – like flooding, desertification, drought and erosion – have contributed to poor conditions for agriculture, land degradation and overall decline in agricultural productivity.

Small-scale farmers – with less than two hectares under cropping – produce about 90% of the food in Nigeria. Unless they employ sustainable farming practices to protect land, water, soil and genetic resources or precision farming practices, which would make them more resilient to the natural events, small-scale farmers won’t be able to produce enough food to feed their families or meet public demands.

By 2050 Nigeria is projected to become the third most populous country in the world, after China and India. The ability to consistently meet food demands of the growing population is crucial to food security.

Nutrition

Another dimension of food security is nutrition, since a balanced diet is vital for good health and well-being. This is another big challenge Nigeria faces.

For 68% of Nigerians living on less than USD$1.25 a day, there may be less of a focus on nutritional content as priority is placed on purchasing the cheapest food – which isn’t always nutritional – for survival. In contrast, some of the remaining 32% Nigerians living above the poverty line may prefer to consume unhealthy processed and ready-made food.

Both situations result in deficiencies in essential micro-nutrients, leading to malnutrition. However, poverty is not the only cause of malnutrition. Other causes include ignorance, poor food preparation or preservation techniques and poor sanitation.

A report revealed that 37% of children (over 6 million) in Nigeria have stunted growth as a result of chronic malnutrition. 18% of children also suffer from wasting, meaning they have low weight for their height. And 29% of children are underweight for their age.

Five-step framework

The proposed framework of action below outlines my suggestions on how the council could achieve its objectives and avoid the failures of previous similar initiatives. It is inspired by Nigeria’s paradoxical reality: it has the human and natural resources required to solve its food security challenges, but it hasn’t put them to use.

Step 1: Engage

Identify and engage with a range of stakeholders. This includes; government officials, academics, private sector actors, civil society organisations, farmers, farmers’ organisations and retailers. Carefully select competent stakeholders to be represented on the council, ensuring they have a real voice.

Step 2: Express

Brainstorm for solutions to the food security challenges. This should be followed by comprehensive research and analysis which will inform the strategy design. Some of these ideas include; looking at national security issues, job creation, research and dissemination of knowledge on sustainable agricultural practices and use of technologies, development of agricultural value-chains as well as circulation of knowledge on nutrition.

Step 3: Plan

Set goals to deliver impact and design a model that measures progress against the goals. Ensure that a time frame is laid out for when they must be executed.

Step 4: Execute

Strategically implement the goals across Nigeria.

Step 5: Review

Formally assess the plan and execution periodically. Renew or revise accordingly.

Following these five steps could contribute to fulfilling the president’s council objectives. It could also move Nigeria towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.

 

Titilayo Adebola, Tutor, Global Intellectual Property Law & Policy, School of Law, University of Warwick

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

Nigeria accounts for 90 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Anglophone countries in West Africa, a new report by the Ecobank Research team has revealed.

Anglophone West Africa, which stretches from Gambia in the West to Nigeria in the East, covers six countries; Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia and encompasses the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), which draws together the mostly English-speaking countries of West Africa.

The Ecobank Research team in its newly published Anglophone West Africa section of its flagship financial website, AfricaFICC, said economic forecast for the region looks brighter.

It said Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is at last moving out of recession, while Ghana’s growth continues to be strong, and the region’s smaller countries picking up as they shake off the lingering effects of the Ebola outbreak in 2013-16.

The report said the outlook for both Nigeria and Ghana, the second key member of the block, is good in 2018: Nigeria is improving oil production, Ghana is getting a boost from an expansionary 2018 government budget and rising energy production; Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are on the up as their recovery from the effects of Ebola gathers pace; and the positive political outlook in The Gambia is driving economic prospects.

Outside oil and gas, Anglophone West Africa is a major producer of soft commodities – cocoa, cashew nuts, natural rubber and wood – both for regional consumption and for export to world markets. The region is an important exporter of hard minerals, including gold, diamonds, and manganese, iron and aluminium ores, with Ghana the leading gold producer.

It is also a financial hub, having an estimated 39 percent of Middle Africa’s banking assets in 2015 (mostly in Nigeria). Nigeria and Ghana host two of the largest stock exchanges in Africa, in Lagos and Accra, respectively.

The report said Nigeria has developed the world’s largest sugar refining complex in Lagos, and has successfully phased out imports of packaged and refined sugar.

Regional Executive for Anglophone West Africa & Managing Director of Ecobank Ghana, Dan Sackey, stated that, “West Africa is coming out of a difficult period where it has faced many challenges – recession, Ebola, falling oil and other commodity prices – but we are now back on a growth trajectory.

“The recovery in commodity prices, notably oil and cocoa, has given a boost to economic growth, especially in Nigeria and Ghana, lifting the entire region.

“It is essential that West Africa uses this opportunity to press ahead with the diversification of the economy away from dependence on oil and minerals, with a focus on increasing output and processing of soft commodities, improving logistics and using the region’s financial and stock market leadership. Provided West Africa’s governments can maintain fiscal discipline, the growth outlook is very positive.”

“Ecobank understands regional and local business customs, regulations and country-specific risks better than any other bank in Africa because we operate on the ground in 33 markets,” said Dr Edward George, Ecobank’s Head of Group Research.

MTN Group plans to raise around $500 million through an IPO of its Nigerian unit, as part of a deal struck with the country’s regulators to settle a $1.7 billion fine, Bloomberg reported.

The operator is exploring the disposal of as much as 30 per cent of the business, which it will list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Shares will be sold mainly to local institutions and individudals, but non-domestic investors may be included in the process to ensure the IPO is a success, a source told Bloomberg.

MTN is being advised by Standard Bank Group and Citigroup and discussions are still ongoing.

The South Africa-based company, which is the largest operator in Nigeria, faced scrutiny in the country after being hit with a $1.7 billion fine in 2015 for failing to disconnect unregistered subscribers, violating a security measure designed to crackdown on crime and terrorism.

It then agreed to conduct an IPO as part of its settlement with Nigerian regulators and met with the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission in November 2016 to discuss the process.

Last month, MTN predicted improved annual earnings for 2017, as it bounces back from a net loss of ZAR3.1 billion ($255 million) in 2016 (its first such loss in 20 years).

In a stock market statement issued ahead of the release of its annual results in March, the company said earnings will improve due to the resolution of problems in Nigeria.

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