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COVID-19 Pause: Need for national reflection and self reliance

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Dr. Akinyele Okeremi

BY: Dr. Akinyele Okeremi

The COVID-19 pandemic brings to the fore a rare opportunity for African nations to reawaken and reconsider national strategies. However, if we needed an emergency, we have it. It hinges on our future.

It hinges on our children. It hinges on how we react to this timely reminder. Because it is difficult for anyone to have imagined that the world would get to a situation where local and international travels would be restricted while social and commercial activities are almost comatose.

The travel restrictions also have an adverse impact on the movement of goods and services. It is safe to state that global interdependence has never been challenged the way it is presently. While the world will remain interdependent, it is necessary for countries, especially Africans, to consider their capabilities to respond to challenges to become more self-reliant than they currently are.

With all due respect to many brilliant Africans, who are trying to create value legitimately, many riches in Africa are created through corruption and rent seeking. The economic situation in economies that depend heavily on natural resources such as petroleum-like Nigeria are likely to suffer a balance of trade deficits and may become unable to meet their financial obligations except they consciously move into other areas that are capable of generating sustenance and possible foreign exchange. More importantly, the challenges of the balance of trade are national security concerns for African countries.

Most of the critical activities that determine security and actual sovereignty are not in the control of nationals of African countries. It is funny. Why is it that all the time African countries must go begging? Why is Africa always at the receiving end?

Has anything ever happened in the world and Africa has offered help instead of begging for help? It tells you we are not thinking right and this is the same thing that has happened and not just in government but also in our private businesses.

Turn our youthful population into gold

African countries need to develop their abilities to create real value for themselves rather than expect wealth to come merely because we are endowed with natural resources (which we invite foreigners to exploit on our behalf). Africa must gravitate towards productive and knowledge-based economies.

Data shows that Africa is blessed with a young and well-educated population. This makes it possible for them to contribute to the economy beyond mere primary products. With proper national strategies and value systems, the teeming African youth can create solutions to the challenges that daily face them.

This is extremely dangerous as this makes many African countries to become mere glorified colonies that cannot make sound decisions in their own interests and may never stand by such decisions if they are ever taken because of pressure from the countries that control their critical assets and resources. What this translates into is that we dare not disagree seriously with those countries; otherwise our security will be in jeopardy. The security of African nations must be in the hands of Africans in substantive terms and not mere lip service.

Provide internally created solutions

Africa needs to rise to the challenge of becoming a continent to reckon with for providing solutions to challenges of the world. With no fear of equivocation, many Africans all over the world are working hard and have achieved great successes in their respective careers but the challenge is why does it appear that Africans do well in the diaspora? But do not do well on African soil?

My stab at this is that the institutions in the African continent need to be developed and strengthened to ensure that we can produce guaranteed relevant leaders. Africa needs to take another look at its compensation mechanism. There is an obvious need to ensure that the right processes and results are appropriately rewarded while unacceptable conducts are punished accordingly. As the balance of trade challenges stare brazenly at us, there is a need to encourage policies to conserve our financial resources.

We need to ensure that we consume what we produce and to produce what we consume. This will require hard work and heavy lifting on the part of the leadership at all levels of African society. We need to take another look at our food security – I do not know how much of our food is in our control as Africans and I am concerned about this.

Wean ourselves off foreign solutions  

A cursory look at our financial and the banking systems in Nigeria reveals that more than 90% of applications run by Nigerian banks come from foreign countries, mostly from India. The implication is that the Nigerian financial system could be switched off remotely with an attendant consequence of social unrest and possible removal of structures and even governments. While this may seem far-fetched, it is my honest opinion that the risk and possibilities are very present and discerning leadership need to take a closer look at the possibilities in doing their risk assessments and response preparation.

If Africa is to make the right progress in the right direction, we need to build our own society, create solutions to solve our own problems without the need for wholesale copy and paste. We will refer to the beautiful and nice works that are in existence in other countries, but we will only adopt them and own them wholly in Africa.

In conclusion, I posit that the challenges with our current level of development create a major opportunity for us to produce our own solutions to those challenges with minimal help from other countries. This will give us the opportunity to move towards development and simultaneously creating wealth for ourselves as a people.

Recently, I listened to an interview by a Ghanaian woman who said, “I do not blame you [Europeans] – you did and are doing [all this] for your survival; we [Africans] can’t blame you for that. The fact is, we [Africans] didn’t do enough for our own survival and we are still not doing enough for our survival – that is not your problem.” The context is that Africans, nay Nigerians, are not doing enough for our survival as a nation and as a people. COVID-19 has just exacerbated the situation we have put ourselves and the ramifications will come home to roost now unless we reflect and put in place many structures that will make us self-reliant soon.

Dr Okeremi is the MD/CEO of Precise Financial Systems headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached at [email protected]

Opinion

MarketWatch: Can gold mining support Nigeria’s economy?

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economy
Wildcast Nigerian gold miners (Source: Financial Times/ Google)

BY: Lukman Otunuga [Senior Research Analyst at FXTM]

Stratospheric Gold prices and spiritless Oil prices would seem to indicate that the state’s investment in Gold mining is a timely and positive one.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Gold remains a market-moving and safe-haven asset after spot prices hit all-time highs above $1981 in July. The precious metal appreciated almost 30 percent for the year-to-date and is roughly $50 away from $2000 at the time of writing.

Gold mining

Gold draws strength from fundamentals

There are several factors over-and-above the COVID-19 disease that are supporting Gold prices.

Safe-haven buying triggered by fears over tense US-China relations has boosted the metal’s spot and futures prices.

In recent events, the US closed one of its six consulates in China and a Chinese consulate in Houston was closed, raising questions about whether the second phase of trade talks can make any constructive progress.

In addition, the Dollar’s weakness due to low yields on Treasury bonds and exposure to negative COVID-19 sentiment has prompted investors to favour Gold over the USD.

So far this year, the Federal Reserve has followed a dovish approach as fears mount over a second wave of COVID-19 hampering an economic recovery.

Nigeria’s new Gold reserve

For the first time, Nigeria has refined its own reserve Gold bar and paid N268 million for the 12.5 kg bar to start a central bank stock, shining a bright spot amid all the economic headwinds.

Given the previously-mentioned support factors for the precious metal’s prices, Nigeria’s new Gold reserve comes at a promising juncture for the country’s emerging mining industry.

It is also an encouraging development in the diversification of the national economy which the government hopes could lead to a stronger job market. If well harnessed, Gold mining and trading has the ability to potentially generate more revenue than crude Oil for Nigeria.

Looking at the mathematics

The underlying maths in Nigeria’s Gold market show strong potential

Nigeria’s Gold reserve is estimated at 200 million metric tonnes, according to the Nigeria Mining Growth Roadmap. Meanwhile, Trading Economics places Nigeria as the six largest country with Gold deposits in Africa, with an average of 21.46 tonnes from 2000 to 2019, reaching an all-time high of 21.51 tonnes in July 2019. The nation’s current estimated Gold reserves are over 200 million ounces, most of which have not been exploited.

Gold mining

Gold mining

The newly-regulated Gold mining sector is expected to create 250,000 new jobs and provide the Federal Government with an additional estimated annual revenue of $150 million in taxes, $25 million in royalties and $500 million in foreign exchange reserves.

These positive developments in the Gold mining and central bank reserve initiatives may help to improve investor sentiment against the background of COVID-19, low Oil prices and the expectation that Nigeria’s economy could contract by anything from three to six percent this year.

We must also factor in another hit to export earnings caused by the deeper cuts imposed by OPEC on Nigeria and Iraq due to overproduction.

In conclusion, a well-managed diversification into precious metals mining and building a national Gold stock can support the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves long term, as well as boost other wider types of Gold trading like derivative investments and mining stocks.

However, care must be taken to protect the new sector’s reputation and government regulations would need to be seen as enforceable for long-term credibility.

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Opinion

4 ways to ensure your business software provider is doing all it can to protect your data

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data protection
data protection (source: Google)

BY: Andrew Bourne [Regional Manager, Africa, Zoho Corporation]

In the past few years, privacy breaches around the world have made technology users conscious about the way their data is being used. You only need to look at the growth of privacy-centric products like search engine DuckDuckGo to see how mainstream privacy awareness has become.

But data privacy issues don’t just affect private individuals. They can have a massive impact on businesses, with the average data breach costing in excess of US$3.8-million.

Zoho

Country Manager, Africa, Zoho Corp., Andrew Bourne

Surveillance companies, which rely heavily on showing ads to survive, collect user information even from adjunct properties (such as websites of service providers) without users’ permission. B2B companies frequently use products and services from these surveillance companies, giving them access to their users’ data.

What can you do to ensure that you find a business software provider that doesn’t drag you into this trap? 

1. Ensure they don’t allow third-party trackers

Many business software providers use third-party trackers that allow them to study their website visitors. However, the apps they use to track them use that data to sell ads. This is known as adjunct surveillance.

With the upcoming macOS Big Sur update, it will be easier for users to know which websites are tracking them.

When it comes to choosing a software solution for your organisation, look for the ones which entirely block third-party companies across all their properties. Another thumb-rule is that vendors who have ad-based revenue model, are dependent on selling your data so it’s best to avoid them, if you are serious about protecting your data.

2. Look for regulatory compliance

While governments around the globe have generally been slow when it comes to enacting protective legislation, they have made up ground in recent years.

In South Africa, for instance the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPI) recently came into effect, while the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been so since May 2018.

While being able to demonstrate compliance is by no means a guarantee that your business software provider will protect your data, it shows that they at least have basic privacy and security structure in place.

3. Regular communication around data protection

One of the most powerful tools any organisation has at its disposal when it comes to data protection is user education. The data and security landscape is, after all, evolving constantly and your business software provider needs to be on top of that.

If your provider is educating you on the latest data threats, it’s a powerful demonstration that it cares about you keeping your data secure. Moreover, a provider that empowers its clients in this way is a good indicator that it’s doing everything on its end to protect your data too.

4. It’s honest about its revenue streams

In the business software space, the old saying about cheap being expensive can be further extrapolated to “free can prove really expensive”.

If a service is free, think twice before using it in your organisation (no matter how much money you think it might save). Rather look for providers which at least have some form of paid product. This means they’re much less likely to depend on ad-revenue and therefore expose your data to other parties.

Prioritising privacy

Over the past few years, millions of words have been devoted to talking about how valuable user data is. Because of the value, we have probably swung too far when it comes to surveillance and harvesting.

It’s time to swing in the other direction. You should always own your data and, far from selling it, your business software provider should be doing everything in its power to protect it.

About the writer:

Andrew is Zoho‘s Regional Manager for the Africa region and is based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Zoho

Zoho

He has more than 15 years of experience in sales and marketing, and has spent the last five years focusing on the implementation and testing of various business technologies.

He is very passionate about Zoho and has exceptional insight into the business and marketing world.

 

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Opinion

Vox Pop: Is the NIPOST license fee increment a positive move?

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NIPOST Logo

It emerged on Saturday, July 25 that the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) was introducing new regulations for the logistics and courier service industry in Nigeria.

Tasked primarily with postal services in Nigeria, NIPOST also has the right to regulate the courier and logistics under the monitoring of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Under the proposed new regulations, courier and logistics services are supposed to pay the following fees for registration:

Logistics companies operating at the national level will pay N10 million for license and N4 million yearly.

Logistics companies operating within regions will pay N5 million for license and N2 million annually.

Logistics companies operating within states will pay N2 million for license, and N800,000 for annual renewal.

Logistics companies operating within the Municipal area will pay N1 million for license and N400,000 for renewal annually.

After the reports emerged, there was an uproar on social media platforms with many Nigerians calling the move insensitive.
Following that, Techeconomy’s Saviour Adugba sampled the opinions of Nigerians on the recent move by NIPOST. Excerpts are below:

Chidera Obiora, Lawyer:

“This is appalling. One thing about most of our government policies is that they keep trying to copy taxation ideologies of sane countries but totally ignore the tactics and plans these countries have put in place to develop their countries. This government has proved that they have no economic plans for the citizens. It will be a disaster to many logistic companies of this tax is implemented because many of them are still struggling in their businesses and I don’t think many of them can afford that fee”.

Cecilia Ogunduyile, Student:

“I was really shocked when I got the information. To be candid, how much are these logistic companies even making per annum for NIPOST to think of punishing them with such a crazy courier license increment. I guess NIPOST is on a mission to push many of these courier service organisations out of business.

John Chisoba, Writer:

“So many of these tax collecting government institutions are nothing but a group of plundering rogues. To what good is the increment going to be for the common Nigerian man. It is one thing to regulate private courier services another thing to make them redundant with outrageous fees and taxes. If we may ask, have they come out with any reasonable blueprint on how the taxes will be used towards developing courier services in Nigeria?

Blessing Enenaite, Entrepreneur:

“If NIPOST has done well in its duties, they would have been an active competitor to the private courier services which would have gone a long way in making the logistics industry more developed but that is not the case. NIPOST has decided to be a parasite doing nothing but feeding on the sweats and industriousness of private courier organisations. This tariff increase makes no sense and must not be allowed to see the light of day.

Kolade Olaniyan, Real Estate Consultant:

“Many Nigerian private organisations including courier service providers are still trying to adjust to the economic disruptions caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. It is really unfair for such an outrageous increment to be placed on these private investors. The government is supposed to ease the pressure off their shoulders rather than inflict more pressure on them.

Onyeka Chiemele, Teacher:

“NIPOST should think of a more sensible way to regulate the courier industry. NIPOST is supposed to be a force to reckon w with in the haulage and courier service sector but mismanagement and corruption has rendered it almost useless. While the private courier services are making strides, NIPOST has been more of a plague. The increment on courier taxes and fees is ludicrous.

Augusta Osamor, Journalist:

“It is evident the Government Treasury is no longer boisterous and the price of oil has fallen drastically. The only way they can generate revenue is to tax its citizens. The proposed increment on logistics companies by NIPOST should be discouraged and prevented from being implemented because I see it as outright robbery.

David Amuge, Content Creator:

“This is a very absurd and insensitive decision by NIPOST. Many businesses are currently struggling to stay afloat and the increase in courier operation fees is baseless. While other countries are granting tax rebates to encourage businesses to grow, businesses are being suffocated with exorbitant taxes and charges. I think NIPOST executives need to be investigated and made to account for reasons being suggesting such outrageous fees and they need to tell the public what they intend to do with the new tariff if implemented.

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