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Agritech: A panacea for Nigeria’s many farming ills?

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The many problems of agriculture in Nigeria have already gotten enough coverage in the Nigerian media space. With issues like acute lack of funding, lack of access to information, limited access to markets, transportation and logistic problems, the Nigerian agricultural sector does not lack for problems.

However, I believe that one of our problems in this part of the world is that we focus too much on problems without shining a light on, and amplifying the positives. One of the brightest beacons of hope in the agricultural industry in Nigeria right now is agricultural technology otherwise known as agritech.

Agritech simply means the use of technology in agriculture with the goal of bolstering the efficiency, sustainability, and profitability of agricultural processes and businesses. Agritech can be deployed to better the funding, planting, rearing, storage and sales of agricultural produce to mention a few.

Wikipedia defines agritech as “ the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability.”

Seedstars, a funding platform defines agritech as “the use of technology in agriculture with the aim of improving sustainability, efficiency, and profitability.”

It is important to note that agritech solutions could be any of services, applications or products aimed at specific aspects of agriculture in order to  improve processes.

In Nigeria, there has been a recent explosion in the agritech sub-sector to the extent where it feels like there is a new agritech solution on the market every other day. 

But are these solutions really agritech that provide solutions on a large scale or are they just agriculture entrepreneurs using tech to make their own business processes?

To answer that question, we must first agree on what qualifies as agritech. For a solution to be considered as agritech, it has to solve specific problems in the agriculture sector.

For context, these are the major problems in the Nigerian agriculture sector today:

  • Lack of information
  • Insufficient financial support
  • Market access
  • Transportation challenges

With that understanding, it is easy to see that there are many agritech solutions which are actually acting as a panacea to Nigeria’s many farming ills.
Tech entrepreneurs have seized the opportunities that abound in the Nigerian agricultural sector and they have actually create solutions that have bettered the lot of farmers.

Funding

There are many agritech that have been founded to help solve the problem of farmers not having an access to financial support. Many of the solutions in this space seek to connect willing investors with farmers who need access to funding to either improve or expand their farming activities. We have also seen many cases where the agritech solutions provider owns farmlands and farms on behalf of the investors with returns on investments ranging from 20% to as high as 50% in many cases. The agritech startups innovating in this space include the following

Market Access and Transportation challenges

Many tech solutions abound today in Nigeria that are providing Nigerian farmers who had hitherto been struggling access to the market. These agritech solutions mainly buy up produce from farmers in the most remote parts of the country, then sell the bought products in Nigeria’s urban centres. Some good examples of agritech solutions pushing the needle in this regard include the following:

Lack of information

Nigeria has a problem with keeping data generally and the agriculture sector is not spared. Agriculture around the world is now being driven by data in order to improve farming processes and yields.

Agritech solutions in Nigeria are now leading the charge in helping provide solutions that will help the farmers get data, and other important information like weather forecasts, tips etc.

At the forefront of this drive is Verdant Agritech. Verdant Agritech gathers data by offering farmers appealing services like weather forecasts, and financial advice. To access these services, farmers have to buy an access pin, then text a command to a shortcode provided by Verdant. Afterwards, Verdant validates the request, then contacts the farmer to schedule a visit where the farmer will be profiled.

After the profiling, Verdant thereafter provides reminders, advice and tips periodically to the farmer. This access to information helps farmers in no little way. 

Conclusion

With the points addressed above, one can easily agree that agritech is a recognisable panacea to the plenteous ills that farming has undergone in Nigeria. The truth is that agriculture is a strong part of nation building and in Nigeria, it has not been given the due attention that the sector deserves. Howbeit, with the emergence of agritech solutions, one can only hope that there is a better tomorrow around the corner.

Saviour Adugba is a journalist by day and a poet by night. He is fascinated by the internet of things, virtual reality and connecting the dots for brands. Saviour is the Lead, Content Development at TechEconomy.ng.

Opinion

MarketWatch: Can gold mining support Nigeria’s economy?

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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 (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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