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CBN may raise banks’ lending rate to 17% in January — LCCI

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The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) benchmark lending rate is expected to rise to 17 percent during the MPC meeting this month to curb persistent inflation and prevent capital flight.

The rates rose from 11.5 per cent in January and peaked at 16.5 per cent as at November 2022.

LCCI had earlier recommended that rate hikes alone is not enough to curb inflation, adding that issues around real factors like food supply disruptions, high energy cost, scarcity of FOREX, and the security challenges in the agricultural production locations, which have fuelled low production and high logistics cost, need to be addressed to curb inflation.

Nigeria’s inflation rate rose to a new high of 21.47 per cent in November 2022 from 21.09 per cent in October 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This translates to a 6.07 per cent increase compared to November 2021’s 15.40 per cent.

The advocacy body noted that the country needs fiscal interventions to support strategic sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, transport logistics, and more allocation of FOREX to productive sectors in 2023.

LCCI disclosed this in a statement titled “The LCCI New Year Statement on the Economy 2023,” which was signed by its Director-General, Dr. Chinyere Almona, and made available to Nigerian NewsDirect in Lagos on Monday.

The country’s economy in 2022 recorded growth in the first three quarters but slowing down from 3.54 percent in Q2 to 2.25 percent in Q3. LCCI said in 2023, the telecoms sub-sector is expected to record growth above the 10.1 percent achieved in Q3 2022.

“We expect to have a growth reported for the last quarter of 2022. The slowdown was driven by decline in aggregate demand in the face of inflation spikes, commodities’ supply chain disruption, high energy cost, and FOREX scarcity.  In 2023, we expect to see growth in sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, transport, telecommunications, and trade.

“With Nigeria having the third largest subscriber base in Africa (after South Africa and Egypt), the telecoms sub-sector is expected to record growth above the 10.1 per cent achieved in Q3 2022 driven by the growing deployment of Payment Service Banks (PSB) by the telcos, increase in subscribers using more telcos’ services, and the expected innovation coming with the launch of the 5G technology.

“The Government needs to be more sensitive to the regulation of the ICT sector to promote growth and support private sector operations,” LCCI said.

Despite insecurity, poor road network to connect markets, high cost of farm inputs to recently, the flooding disaster caused by climate change, LCCI said that the country’s agriculture sector recorded growth all through the year 2022.

The economic thinktank stated that government’s intervention in 2023, through targeted financing support to the sector can boost agricultural production, create jobs, and lower the spiking food inflation that has been responsible mainly for the rising headline inflation all through 2022.

LCCI said, “The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) provides huge opportunity to explore the African markets with our agricultural products. We urge the Federal Government to scale up plans of establishing special economic zones where agro-processing activities are supported to produce finished food products for our markets and for export. With some of these challenges resolved, we expect to see a higher growth rate at above 3 percent higher than the less than average 2 percent recorded in 2022. We reiterate our call earlier made that government at all levels should invest more on prevention of climate change induced natural disasters like flooding.”

The economic think tank also stated that scarcity of FOREX for import of inputs, weakened consumer demand due to weak purchasing power, high energy cost, logistical challenges, policy uncertainties, and harsh regulatory environment, impacted the manufacturing sector negatively in 2022.

“With these factors persisting into 2023, we may likely record a growth in the sector away from the negative growth of -1.9 per cent as at Q3 of 2022. With lowering imports due to forex scarcity, local manufacturing could rev up in growth to meet the growing unmet local demand for hitherto imported finished products.

“However, this can only happen if we address issues like rising inflation, scarcity of FOREX, high energy cost, high interest rates, and logistics challenge due to insecurity in most parts of the country. In the case of subsidy removal by the new administration, we should expect some shocks to the economy in the short term with possibility of adjusted pricing and demand in response to market forces in the long run.

“The Dangote Refinery coming into operations by mid-year will boost production levels and support growth in the manufacturing sector. However, the contribution of manufacturing to GDP may fall from the 8.2 per cent recorded during the third quarter of 2022 except the Government takes urgent and targeted financing support to critical productive infrastructure in the country,” LCCI said.

On construction and real estate sector, LCCI said the sector will respond positively to a rise in investment from people wishing to store value through real estate investment this year.

It said, “The last quarter of 2022 may have witnessed huge investment in this sector that would transmit into real growth in the first quarter of 2023. The coming on Stream of Ajaokuta Steel Company is expected to support a solid growth in the construction sector.

“The recently approved access to pension funds for mortgage policies can have a positive effect on the real estate sector as more people are able to afford a mortgage to purchase houses. Some of these innovative financing options may support a robust growth in connected sectors. This, again, calls for best practice regulation by the Government to create an enabling environment where private sector operations can thrive. The windfall from the electioneering campaigns by some actors may also find their way into the real estate sector.

“With the dire need to boost foreign exchange earnings, the Government should invest more in export support infrastructure and create linkages into the African market where we can export more products like steel from the Ajaokuta Steel Company to earn foreign exchange in the long run. With all of these, the sector can contribute higher rate than the 5.2 percent recorded in Q3 2022.”

As at the end of the first half of 2022, Nigeria’s total debt service stood at N2.597 trillion, higher than the prorated sum of N1.978 trillion by N619.81 billion (31.33 per cent). Also, the interest payments on Ways and Means collected from the CBN amounted to N714.74 billion. According to data from the Budget Office of the Federation, the sum of N1.333 trillion was used for domestic debt servicing, a difference of N52.34 billion (4.09 per cent) from the prorated half year projection, while N549.70 billion was spent on external debt servicing during the period under review. The economic thinktank said that with the approved plan of the Federal Government to restructure its Ways and Means loans of N23 trillion, Nigeria’s total debt stood effectively at N67.7 trillion by end of 2022.

LCCI called on the Federal Government to be watchful of the rising public debt, saying, “Clearly, we must watch the cost implications of our borrowing and spending.”

With increased spending by the Federal Government for census and general elections, the economic thinktank further noted that the government must block revenue leakages, reduce costs, and empower the private sector to create jobs and generate more revenue to the government.

“The Federal Government needs to sustain its targeted interventions in selected critical sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, export infrastructure, tackling insecurity, and free more money from subsidy payments. It is very imperative that we need sound monitoring and evaluation over the budget allocations to capital projects and defence spending to respectively tackle infrastructural deficit and the fight against insurgency.

“We urge the government to tackle oil theft to earn more foreign exchange, borrow from cheaper sources to reduce the burden of debt servicing, and pave way for the removal of the fuel subsidy by the incoming government,” LCCI added.

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Nigerians to pay more as Multichoice Nigeria hikes Dstv, Gotv subscription fees by 25%

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Multichoice Nigeria, a prominent Pay-TV operator, has once again announced a price increase for its DStv and GOtv packages, this time by at least 25 percent.

This marks the third increment since last year, following the initial adjustment implemented on May 1, 2023.

Multichoice stated that the latest increase will take effect from Wednesday, May 1, 2024. While last year’s increment ranged between 19 percent to 20 percent depending on the bouquet, the company is now announcing a 25 percent to 26 percent increase across its packages.

The new subscription fees were communicated to customers via an email titled “Price Adjustment on DStv and GOtv Packages” on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Below is an excerpt from the email message that subscribers received.

On Wednesday, 1 May 2024 we will adjust our prices across all our packages on OStv and GOtv. We understand the impact this change may have on you – our valued customer, but the rise in the cost of business operations has led us to make this difficult decision.

 It remains our mission to provide the best entertainment and viewing experience to you and are committed to continue to deliver high-quality content and unparalleled service.

“So, from Wednesday, 1 May 2024, the price adjustment will take effect as follows.”

According to the notice sent to its subscribers, customers on the DStv Premium package will see their monthly subscription fee increase to N37,000 starting from May 1, marking a 25.4 percent rise from the current N29,500.

 Similarly, the price of the Compact+ bouquet has been raised to N25,000 from N19,800 per month, reflecting a 26.2 percent increment.

DStv has also announced that subscribers on its Compact bouquet will now pay N15,700, up from the current N12,500, representing a 25.6 percent increase. Meanwhile, those on the Confam package will face a 25.6% hike as their monthly subscription rises to N9,300 from N7,400.

 Under the new pricing structure, viewers on the DStv Yanga bouquet will be charged N5,100 for their monthly subscription, marking a 21.43 percent increase over the current N4,200 fee.

Multichoice has announced price increases across its GOtv packages. Customers on the Supa Plus package will now pay N15,700, marking a 25.6 percent rise from the current price of N12,500. Similarly, the Supa bouquet will see its price increase to N9,600 from the current N7,600.

For the GOtv Max subscription, the new price is N7,200, up from N5,700, while the Jolli package will now cost N4,850, compared to the current price of N3,950. Multichoice has also adjusted the price of its lowest GOtv package, Jinja, which will now be N3,300 monthly instead of the current N2,700.

Although Multichoice Nigeria is yet to issue any statement regarding the factors behind the recent price review, Nigeria’s inflation increased to 33.2 percent.

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BPE seeks collaboration with NLC on privatisation process

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By Matthew Dennis

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), under the leadership of the Acting Director General, Mr. Ignatius Ayewoh, recently paid a courtesy visit to the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Joe Ajero, to seek collaboration with the Labour Union in the ongoing reform and privatisation program of the Federal Government.

This is contained in a statement signed by Head, Public Communications, Amina Tukur Othman, and made available to NewsDirect on Tuesday.

The statement stated that Mr. Ayewoh emphasised the importance of collaboration with the labour unions to ensure the welfare of workers during and after government agency reforms. He expressed gratitude to Mr. Ajero and the Union for their past support and urged them to continue partnering with the Bureau, particularly as members of the Technical Committee (TC) of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP).

Highlighting BPE’s previous successes in various sectors of the Nigerian economy such as telecoms, banking, Eleme petrochemical, and port terminal concessions, Mr. Ayewoh stated that the Bureau’s current strategy is focused on implementing Public Private Partnership (PPP) and concessioning in its transactions.

Furthermore, Mr. Ayewoh informed Mr. Ajero that BPE is working closely with the Accountant General’s Office to ensure the payment of all outstanding severance liabilities arising from the 2013 privatisation of the power sector, in accordance with agreements made with labour unions.

In response, Mr. Ajero thanked the Ag. DG for the visit and pledged the collaboration of the NLC with the Bureau in its reform activities.

It is worth noting that, in 2023 the BPE, along with other sister agencies, conducted a verification exercise for the payment of the agreed 16-month severance benefits to former staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), including certified Next-of-Kin (NOK) of deceased ex-staff. The exercise took place in twelve designated centres over four phases across the country.

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Qualcomm announces shortlisted startups for Make in Africa 2024

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Qualcomm has announced the shortlisted startups for Qualcomm Make in Africa 2024, as well as the winner of the 2023 Wireless Reach Social Impact Fund.

The Qualcomm Africa Innovation Platform, now in its second year, aims to work with and support the development of Africa’s emerging technology ecosystem by providing mentorship, education, and training programs with a focus on 5G, Edge-AI/ML, Compute, and IoT. This year, Qualcomm received an overwhelming response, with approximately 250 applications from 30 countries./

As the first initiative of its kind in Africa, Qualcomm Make in Africa is an equity-free mentorship program that identifies promising early-stage startups keen on applying advanced connectivity and processing technologies such as 5G, Edge-AI/ML, Compute, and IoT to innovative end-to-end systems solutions, including hardware.

These startups have demonstrated exceptional potential in applying advanced connectivity and processing technologies to innovative end-to-end systems solutions. The selected startups will receive free mentorship, business coaching, access to engineering consultation for product development, and guidance on protecting intellectual property.

The 2024 cohort includes the following startups (listed in alphabetical order):  Aurora Health from Kenya provides AI-based cardiovascular health care tools, CropScan from Kenya uses solar-powered smart farming IoT devices, Cure Bionics from Tunisia makes smart 3D printed prosthetic arms, DevisionX from Egypt provides AI-based low-code computer vision tools, Kalio from Cameroon is building AI tools for Agricultural IoT, Kitovu from Nigeria provides tools and software for smart agricultural warehouse management, NextAI Studios from Kenya builds AI-based emotion detection into toys for children’s mental healthcare, RIM Nextgen from Kenya, uses smart tools for monitoring propane consumption, Sparcx from South Africa uses AI for enhancing radar signal processing and Vizmerald from Tunisia, is working on AI-based textile industry inspection.

The company also announced the awardee of the 2023 Wireless Reach Social Impact Fund. This fund, provided by Qualcomm through its Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ Initiative, aims to support startups in scaling their societal and market impact. Ecorich Solutions Limited, a female-founded organization based in Nairobi, Kenya,/ will be awarded funding to help scale the impact of their smart organic food composter.

Wireless Reach funding will support Ecorich to address the dual challenge of organic waste management and the need for sustainable agricultural practices, with the goal of reducing environmental pollution, improving crop yields for farmers, and mitigating waste-related health risks for communities. The other nine startups from the 2023 cohort will also receive valuable stipends to continue fueling their growth. These startups have showcased innovative uses of wireless technology to address pressing needs in their communities./

In addition, Qualcomm is excited to highlight the progress of the L2Pro Africa IP e-learning Platform, a free online training program designed to empower startups, SMEs, and researchers in Africa to protect, secure, and maximise their innovations. This program has been created in collaboration with Adams and Adams, Africa’s leading intellectual property (IP) law firm. The education content has been updated with individual filing procedures for patents, industrial designs, and trademarks in the countries of Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda and within the two African patent organisations, ARIPO and OAPI. These step-by-step descriptions of per-country filing requirements empower inventors to interact effectively with IP professionals such as an IP attorney and their respective IP offices./

“I am thrilled with the overwhelming response to the Africa Innovation Platform this year,” said President, QTL & Global Affairs, Qualcomm Incorporated,  Alex Rogers.

“The quality and diversity of the applications received reflect the immense talent and potential within Africa’s technology ecosystem. We are excited to work with the shortlisted startups and provide them with the necessary resources and support to drive innovation and create a positive impact in their communities.

“We applaud Qualcomm for launching the second year of its Innovate in Africa Platform, which not only equips the upcoming generation of African entrepreneurs with expertise in pivotal areas like AI/ML, healthcare, agri-tech, smart cities, and communications but also empowers them to safeguard their intellectual property through the complimentary L2ProAfrica program,” said Secretary General, African Telecommunications Union (ATU), John Omo./

Mr. Omo also emphasised that the ATU remains steadfast in its commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship across the continent.

“Our youth innovation program, among other initiatives, plays a crucial role in cultivating the talents and aspirations of Africa’s young visionaries,” he affirmed. “We are ready to collaborate with additional partners to realize this objective.”

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