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NITDA inks MOU with SMEDAN to digitally empower SMEs to grow

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) aimed at digitally empowering Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

In his remark, the SMEDAN Director General, Charles Odii stated that the essence of the MOU agreement is to collaborate with NITDA in fulfilling the mandate of the President’s agenda in creating jobs and digitising Nigeria’s economy.

While stating that any business that does not take advantage of digital innovation and services is short-changing itself, Odii noted that if the 40 million small businesses in the country equip themselves with digital processes whereby each small business employs at least 5 people, it will have a significant impact on Nigeria’s economy.

“What we are doing here in addition to sensitising the public on the implementation of the Startup Act is to organise our small businesses where they can use innovative solutions to solve their problems,” he averred.

The signing of the MOU signified a crucial step towards harnessing the power of technology to revolutionise Nigeria’s SME landscape, thereby paving the way for sustainable growth and prosperity.

Recognising SMEs as the backbone of the nation’s economic landscape, the MOU was signed with a primary focus on the growth of SMEs and tackling startup challenges while implementing the Nigeria Startup Act.

The objective of the MOU is to establish a strategic partnership between NITDA and SMEDAN and to ensure that issues relating to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are addressed in implementing the Startup Act. Also speaking, the NITDA Director General, Kashifu Inuwa emphasised the critical importance of SMEs and cited their contribution to Nigeria’s economy, where they represent over 90 percent of businesses.

Underscoring the need for technological innovation to enhance productivity in the sector, Inuwa stated that “when you talk about critical sectors, SMEs are the first and if we want to create prosperity for our country, we should start by digitising SMEs.”

He further emphasised the necessity of creating a comprehensive database of SMEs to facilitate targeted incentives and foster digital literacy among entrepreneurs.

“As SMEs, you can use technology to expand your market reach and at NITDA, we have trained women on ICT and they have been able to expand their market reach and productivity using social media platforms. If we can do this, it will change the SMEs landscape in Nigeria,” he added.

The transformative power of technology within Nigeria was proudly exemplified by Inuwa, where he narrated how several SMEs have blossomed from nothing to become billion-dollar organisations.

“In Africa, we have 7 Unicorns and out of them, 5 originated from Nigeria. So, we believe that with technology, we can help all the SMEs to scale up, increase their productivity and create sustainable prosperity for our country,” he asserted.

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Nigerian Breweries embarks on strategic recovery plan to boost profitability

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Nigerian Breweries Plc has embarked on a company-wide reorganisation business recovery plan to ensure a sustainable future for its stakeholders.

The company’s Human Resource Director, Grace Omo-Lamai, said this in a statement signed by Mrs Sade Morgan, its Corporate Affairs Director, to the leadership of some food and beverage associations on Friday in Lagos.

The associations include the National Union of Food, Beverage & Tobacco Employees and the Food Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association.

Omo-Lamai said the move was essential to improve the company’s operational efficiency and return to profitability, in the face of the challenging business environment.

She said the proposed plan would include operational efficiency measures and a company-wide reorganisation that includes the temporary suspension of operations in two of its nine breweries.

“As a result, and in accordance with labour requirements, the company invited the unions to discussions on the implications of the proposed measures.

“It will be recalled that the company recently notified the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX) of its plan to raise capital of up to N600 billion by way of a rights issue.

“This is as a means of restoring the company’s balance sheet to a healthy position following the net finance expenses of N189 billion recorded in 2023 driven mainly by a foreign exchange loss of N153 billion resulting from the devaluation of the naira,” she said.

Also, the Managing Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr Hans Essaadi, described the business recovery plan as strategic and vital for business continuity.

Essaadi noted that the tough business landscape characterised by double-digit inflation rates, Naira devaluation, foreign exchange challenges and diminished consumer spending had taken its toll on many businesses.

This, he said, was why the company had taken the decision to further consolidate its business operations for efficient cost management and optimal use of resources for future sustainable growth.

“We recognise and regret the impact that the suspension of brewery operations in the two affected locations may have on our employees.

“We are committed to limiting the impact on our people as much as possible by exhausting all options available including the relocation and redistribution of employees to our other seven breweries; and providing strong support and severance packages to all those that become unavoidably affected.

“We are also committed to supporting our host communities in ways that ensure they continue to feel our presence.

“We remain wholly committed to having a positive impact on our host communities and our consumers; leveraging our strong supply chain footprint; excellent execution of our route to market strategy; and our rich portfolio of brands,” he said.

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FG to provide solar subsidy in Nigeria through $750m World Bank loan

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The federal government plans to provide subsidy to developers and operators of solar mini-grids in unserved and underserved areas in the country.

The subsidy will be provided through a World Bank approved loan of $750 million under the Distributed Access through Renewable Energy Scale-up (DARES) project.

This was disclosed in the financing agreement for the loan project.

The financing agreement for the loan was signed by the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, on March 31, 2024, and World Bank’s Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, on February 19, 2024.

The loan project is fundamentally aimed at augmenting the supply of electricity to both households and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) through a surge in private sector-led distributed renewable energy initiatives.

The document noted that the loan will be partly used to provide “Support to the development and operation of privately owned and operated solar hybrid mini grids in unserved and underserved areas through: 1.1. Minimum Subsidy Tender Carrying out of Minimum Subsidy Tender processes and provision of Minimum Capital Cost Subsidies to selected developers/operators of: (a) Isolated mini grids; (b) Interconnected mini grids; or (c) Solar rooftop solutions in Participating States.”

Asides from providing subsidy, the federal government plans to also provide performance-based grants.

The document noted that there will be “Provision of Performance-Based Grants to eligible mini grid operators based on new customer connections for isolated mini grids and percentage of capital expenditures for interconnected mini grid projects.”

The grant will also cover Standalone Solar (SAS) Systems for Households, MSMEs, and Agribusinesses. This grant will provide “Support to the expansion of SAS systems for households, MSMEs, and agribusinesses in rural areas through: 2.1. Performance Based Grants for Standalone Solar Provision of Performance Based Grants (‘PBGs’) to eligible companies to rapidly deploy SAS solutions in rural and underserved areas, through supply and demand side support and based on independently verified outputs, and to support deployment of solar productive use of electricity (PUE) equipment to MSMEs, agribusinesses and commercial customers.”

There will also be “Catalytic Grants Provision of Catalytic Grants, on a matching basis, to eligible SAS companies that target the poor, remote, or hardest to reach consumers in the country.”

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IMF charges banks to guide against cyber attacks

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…As hackers make off with $12bn

Following reports that cyber thieves stole $12bn from global financial institutions in the last 20 years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on Central Banks across the globe and financial institutions to strengthen resilience in the financial sector by developing an adequate national cybersecurity strategy accompanied by effective regulation and supervisory capacity.

This was contained in the April 2024 Rising Cyber Threats Pose Serious Concerns for Financial Stability report released by The Bretton Wood institution.

The report noted that greater digitalization and heightened geopolitical tensions imply that the risk of a cyberattack with systemic consequences has risen

The fund expressed concern that the rising incidents of cyberattacks on financial institutions globally could affect confidence in the financial system and destabilise economies while expressing worries that cyberattacks have more than doubled since the pandemic.

“Financial firms have reported significant direct losses, totaling almost $12 billion since 2004 and $2.5 billion since 2020,” the IMF stated.

According to the body, financial firms, given the large amounts of sensitive data and transactions they handle, are often targeted by criminals seeking to steal money or disrupt economic activity.

“Attacks on financial firms account for nearly one-fifth of the total, of which banks are the most exposed. Incidents in the financial sector could threaten financial and economic stability if they erode confidence in the financial system, disrupt critical services, or cause spillovers to other institutions.

“Cyber incidents that disrupt critical services like payment networks could also severely affect economic activity. For example, a December attack at the Central Bank of Lesotho disrupted the national payment system, preventing transactions by domestic banks,” IMF stated.

As part of measures proposed to guide against the attacks, the fund called for the periodic assessment of the cybersecurity landscape and identifying potential systemic risks from interconnectedness and concentrations, including from third-party service providers.

It further called for the encouragement of cyber “maturity” among financial sector firms, including board-level access to cybersecurity expertise, as supported by the chapter’s analysis which suggests that better cyber-related governance may reduce cyber risk.

Improving cyber hygiene of firms—that is, their online security and system health (such as antimalware and multifactor authentication)—and training and awareness.

Prioritising data reporting and collection of cyber incidents, and sharing information among financial sector participants to enhance their collective preparedness.

Noting that attacks often emanate from outside a financial firm’s home country and proceeds can be routed across borders, the IMF said international cooperation has also become imperative to address cyber risk successfully.

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