Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Nigeria Meets The World At The This Day New York Summit

Additional photos from the This Day summit (Nigeria Meets The World) held at Waldorf Astoria New York on Monday, September 24th 2007 are avilable here.

The full summit report by Paul Adujie is also available here.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Is Nigeria A Prefered Tourist Destination?


THERE has been a debate on whether Nigeria is a preferred destination for tourists. The debate has further led to questions as what has largely affected the country from being ranked as a top tourist destination in the world.

The proponents of the argument that Nigeria was indeed a preferred tourist destination hinged their fact on the numerous tourism destinations that abound in the country.
This issue however, came to the fore at the recently held aviation summit organised by Travel Business Magazine in Lagos. Managing directors of Six Continents and HRG Travel Agencies, Yomi Jones and Adefemi Adefope posited that the question of whether Nigeria was a preferred destination should not have arisen in the first place.

The duo, highly respected in the burgeoning travel industry, noted that the country had a lot of destinations to market and had done exceedingly well in that area. Jones, a former managing director of the liquidated Nigeria Airways, said the influx of foreign tourists to some tourism destinations signifies growth in the industry. He reiterated that he was not unmindful of some problems like erratic power failure, bad road network and insecurity, which he said were not limited to Nigeria.

He listed New York, South Africa, Kenya and so many other countries as worst in terms of security, adding that these countries have done tremendously well in the area of tourism, contributing heavily to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of their countries. He noted that the influx of foreign carriers (one of the great factors in promotion), readily shows that Nigeria is indeed a force to reckon with in tourism, if the sector was properly developed.

Mrs. Fatimah Garbati, head, Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), said what the tour operators needed was to organise themselves very well, adding that "there are so many tourist sites to explore."

It is a well-known fact that the development of tourism could lead to non-dependence on oil, just like Dubai has done. Dubai has long stopped to depend on the black gold, but has channelled all its resources into tourism, which is the highest revenue earner for the economy, and trade, pushing oil to a distant third place.

Dubai is fast becoming a contender in the worldwide tourism industry. It is already one of the world's favourite travel destinations, and the region continues to develop innovative and imaginative projects to keep tourists coming. The three Palm island projects, The Palm Jumeirah, The Palm Jebel Ali and The Palm Deira are to become one of the world's most iconic housing and tourism projects, each offering a host of villas and apartments for sale, as well as stunning resorts. They will be the world's largest man-made islands.

Tourism is essentially the industry of providing tours and services to tourists. Another key component of this industry group is attractions, which offer visitors a chance to explore the sights, facilities and wonders of their destination. Attractions generally include historic sites, heritage homes, museums, halls of fame, art galleries, botanical gardens, aquariums, zoos, water parks, amusement parks, casinos and cultural attractions.

Francis Ayigbe, a travel journalist, however differed. He said the fact that foreigners come to Nigeria does not make the country a preferred tourism destination. Tourism in the country is at a low ebb, not only because of the economic hardship, but because of "all the ingredients like a national carrier, good hotels and others that make for a preferred destination are not there."
His words, "Lack of consistency in policy has militated against Nigeria becoming a preferred tourism destination. For tourism to flourish, there must be high concentration of internationally acceptable rated hotels. South Africa has about 60 five-star hotels in Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria. Lagos has just two, Sheraton and Eko Hotel."

According to him, insecurity and perennial conflicts have further added to the problem of tourism in the country. The Director-General of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, however disagreed. According to Runsewe, "there is no country in Africa that can compete with Nigeria in terms of tourist attractions to offer. I can tell you that countries like Ghana, Gambia, South Africa that make a lot of money from tourism don't have close to probably 30 per cent of the tourism destinations (attractions) we have in Nigeria."

Runsewe noted that though there are problems of infrastructure in the country, this is being handled by the government. He said apart from the infrastructural problems, people often allude to the issue of insecurity in Nigeria, stressing that "the country is not as bad as other countries on the continent" as the issue of security should be that of everybody.
He explained that from the statistics at the disposal of the corporation, it shows that 53 per cent of those coming to the country stay in hotels, noting that the corporation has concluded arrangement with the biggest registration company in Europe called AA to classify the hotels in the country.

Turnkey Software Projects, a firm saddled with the responsibility of rating countries based on array of attractions they offer, in 2006 rated Croatia, China, Argentina, United States, Italy and Costa Rica as top travel destinations, while Kenya, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand also got mentioned.

Croatia is known for its beautiful coastline. Other attractions are cathedrals, churches and museums, the medieval architecture of Dubrovnic and the ancient Roman ruins at Split, which include the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, built in the fourth century A.D.
The United States has many tourists attractions. From historic buildings and museums to amusement parks and immense natural beauty. The country has an amazing variety of tourists of all ages. The White House, Capitol, Pentagon and Supreme Court Buildings in Washington D.C. The statue of Liberty in New York harbour, the museums and skyscrappers of New York and Boston.

Others are the glamour of Hollywood in Los Angeles, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the energy of Las Vegas, the amusement park at Disneyland, the wonders of Mount Rushmore and many others. Driving across America is a journey of discovery.

Bank PHB Nets N10.28 Bilion Profits, Assets Hit N480B

In a major breakthrough, Bank PHB at the weekend declared a profit before tax of N10.28 billion and total assets of N480 billion for the financial year ended June 30, 2007.
The records show that, the bank is growing three times faster than the average growth rate of the banking sector. The bank's financial results are being declared on the heels of its share price, which has made a capital gain of about 271 per cent since its last financial year end in June 2006 and about 400 per cent since its listing in December 2005 at N1.95 per share.

The bank's financial results also show in both earnings and profits more than doubling within the period.

Ahead of the expected release of the bank's result, its share price which had slipped from its year high of N30 last week in the grip of the general bearish trend in the market had regained its upward swing, closing at N31 per share last Friday. The bank's share price has made a capital gain of 231 percent this year alone.

Details of the financial results released at the weekend show that the bank's gross earnings, made up of both interest and non interest income, increased by 172 per cent to N36 billion in June 2007 from N13 billion in the corresponding period of 2006. Core income made up of interest earnings formed the greater part of earnings about 52 per cent of gross earnings, while non interest-fee based income made up the balance of Bank PHB's earnings.
Growth in the financial firm's profit before tax shows a profit before tax of N10.28 billion representing an increase of 192 per cent over the profit before tax of N3.52 billion in June 2006. Profit after tax at N7.75 billion was 217 per cent higher than the N2.45 billion within the same period.

The bank's growth has resulted in higher earnings per share, which at 119 kobo is a 644 per cent increase on 16 kobo in 2006. The bank's manifested board of directors is proposing a cash dividend of 70 kobo per share, 977 per cent higher than 6.5 kobo paid in 2006.
Total assets and contingents at N480 billion represents an increase of 155 per cent over N188 billion in 2006.

sourced from The Nigerian Guardian newspaper (Tuesday 25th September 2007)

Saturday, 22 September 2007

‘Why Nigeria’s Preferred Investment Destination’

From Paul Ibe in Guangzhou, China

The prevailing political stability in the country, huge returns on investment, the strengthening of public/private partnership and commitment to ongoing reforms are some of the factors that make Nigeria a preferred investment destination.This view was underscored in separate presentations by the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Charles Ugwu and Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Engr. Mustafa Bello at the 5th Sino-Nigeria Business and Investment Forum (NBCIF), which ended yesterday in Guangzhou, China.

Addressing the second plenary session of the 5th NCBIF at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, Ugwu said that though conditions precedent for attracting investment into the country exist, the Federal Government is working tirelessly to ensure that the enabling environment surpasses benchmarks elsewhere.“The environment that exists in our country is a safe one, the polity is stable, as we have just concluded a civilian-to-civilian transition and the opportunities that exist are tremendous,” the minister told the huge gathering of Chinese investors and Nigerian businessmen.He said that the consolidation of the banking and insurance sectors has put the Nigerian banks in good stead to provide the requisite financial services that will ensure the sustenance of Chinese businesses.

The Minister, who is also the leader of delegation, said that with returns of investment of 35-40 per cent and even as high as 70 per cent in some sectors, Nigeria presents one of the highest returns on investment (ROI) globally.He reaffirmed the commitment of the Federal Government to promoting peace and security in the country, and the safeguarding of investments.He said that the market for prospective Chinese investors desirous of coming into Nigeria is readily adding that such investors could also use the country as a foothold to access the West African sub-regional market.He listed the sectors yearning for investments to include agriculture, pharmaceuticals, ICT, tourism, power, solid minerals and oil and gas among others.

The minister, however, emphasized the need for Chinese investments in the development of the petrochemical sector because of its multiplier effect on other sectors of the economy.Using the pure water example, he said that producers of that commodity 500,000 tonnes of cellophane in the first six months, a figure which increased to 1.6 million tones at the end of the first year. He, however, regretted that this important component of pure water is still being imported.

He called on Chinese investors to make good the existing cordial relationship between both countries by making Nigeria their preferred investment destination.“We want to be like you. We want to learn from you so that we can improve our economy and give our people a better life,” he told the Chinese audience that included the Vice Governor of Guangdong province, Mr. Liang Guixuan, Vice Director General of the Department of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation of Guangdong Province and Mr. Wang Yongqiu, Special Envoy and former Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria.In his own presentation, Bello observed that the reforms, which has enthroned new era of due process, transparency and anti-corruption initiatives and other institutional reforms have all contributed to strengthening the investment climate in the country.

He said that the new regime of due process has saved the country $3 billion in the last three years.He reechoed Ugwu’s assertion that Nigeria remains one of the best investment destinations, citing the $500 million profit recorded by MTN in 2005, barley three years after setting up shop in Nigeria as indicative of this.Moreover, he said that the BB- credit rating of the country by Fitch and S&P, and the forecast by Goldman Sachs that Nigeria will emerge as one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020 show that the country is a haven for investors.He said that the new policy of government has ensured generous incentives for prospective investors.

These include 3-5 year corporate tax holiday, zero personal income tax, zero import duty on industrial machinery and equipment, abolition of all excise duties and negotiation of special incentive package for investors by NIPC.He assured investors of speedy processing of documents following the introduction of a one stop investment centre by the NIPC.He said that in the new regime, 13 relevant government agencies have been brought under one roof for easier coordination and efficient and transparent services to investors.Imo State Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim urged the Chinese investors to avail themselves of the prevailing atmosphere of peace and security and the investor-friendly disposition of the state and set up their businesses in Imo.

He said that Imo State not only boasts of an educated workforce, its citizens are unarguably the most enterprising in the country.He said that the state boasts of abundant arable land, is rich in palm produce, oil and gas and other minerals, which are awaiting investments.“The entrepreneurial spirit of the people is unmatched; the state is accessible to the trading hubs of Onitsha and Aba and we are one of the most peaceful states,” Ohakim courted the Chinese investors.

Governor of Ogun State who was represented invited more Chinese investments into the state, citing as selling points the state’s proximity to the Lagos ports and the financial centre of Nigeria.Presentations were also made by Godwin Obaseki of the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE), Mrs. Yinka Adeyemi, a director in the Ministry of Tourism, First Bank trio, which included a Chinese man, Mr. Wen Duanyu, Mr. Lateef Olaoluwa, Executive Director, UBA and Mr. Sunday Omoigiade, Charge d’affaires of the Embassy of Nigeria in Beijing.

sourced from This Day online (22nd September 2007)

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Nigeria's foreign reserves rise to 45 billion dollars

Nigeria's foreign currency reserves rose to 45 billion dollars in August 2007 from 43 billion dollars the previous month, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said Wednesday.
The CBN said the reserves can finance 22 months of imports.

It said the reserves which hit 45 billion dollars in 2005, dropped to 32 billion dollars after Nigeria paid 12.4 billion dollars in Paris Club debts.It said the reserves began to build from April 2006 when the figure climbed to 37 billion dollars. The figure rose to 41.95 billion last December and to 42.65 billion in the first weeks of 2007.

The Paris Club in 2005 cancelled 18 billion dollars of Nigeria's debt, leaving a total of 12.4 billion dollars, including arrears and interests.Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer, exporting a daily output of 2.14 million barrels and deriving around 95 percent of its foreign earnings from the sector.

source AFP, Wednesday 19th september 2007

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Nigerian Stock Exchange To launch New Share Index

The Nigerian Stock Exchange will launch a new index of 40 to 60 top shares by December which will attract new foreign investors seeking exposure to the nation, a top exchange official said on Tuesday. The exchange is in a race to develop new instruments to absorb a "wall of money" from domestic and foreign investors, the exchange's head of strategy and derivatives, Farook Oreagba, told Reuters in an interview. "In the next two or three months we expect to see a new tradeable index in Nigeria ," Oreagba said. The index is still being formulated by the exchange, but is likely to contain between 40 and 60 top shares and would be reviewed quarterly, he added.

"On the back of that we want to create exchange-traded funds. They will be another asset class which will probably take up a significant amount of the money we have in the market." The index will enable investors to bypass lengthy bureaucratic delays involved in investing directly in Nigerian stocks and will attract global index-tracking funds. "I expect it to be mostly new money ... mainly foreign investors who want Nigeria exposure," Oreagba said. The creation of such indexes in other markets has spurred investment in stocks that make the grade. The Nigerian market has seen outstanding growth in real terms over the last three years and ranks in the top three performing markets worldwide in three of the last five years, Oreagba said. The All Shares Index has risen 58 percent in the last 12 months, buoyed by a flood of new issues.

Investor confidence has been lifted by economic reforms starting in 2003 which earned Nigeria a BB- credit rating, led to an $18 billion debt write-off and created pension funds which now have more than $5 billion invested in Nigerian securities. Since last year Oreagba said the exchange had been racing against time to create new instruments to absorb a "wall of money" and avoid a bubble. The exchange launched a secondary market in treasury bonds in the middle of 2006 and volumes traded in the second half of the year surpassed the value of equities traded during the whole year, he said. A reform of the banking sector, which raised capitalisation levels and forced a wave of mergers, has also fuelled the boom. Most Nigerian bank stocks have doubled in value this year alone, despite billions of dollars of new shares being issued, with some stocks rising by more than 500 percent.

Some investors expressed fears last month that bank stocks were overvalued and were ripe for a sharp drop, and some bank shares did subsequently fall in the second half of August. Oreagba said there were several factors behind the recent correction, including the start of the school year which saw many parents liquidating assets to pay fees. The bourse is fast developing new instruments, including real estate investment trusts (REITs), Oreagba said, but these investments are on hold until the government confirms they are exempt from corporation tax.

"There is 150 billion naira waiting to come to Nigeria if regulations are in place for REITs," Oreagba said. The boom has also exposed some problems. Transaction costs, which were cut by 40 percent in April, are still among the highest in the world. And service can be poor. Investors in a recent bank offer waited for over a year to receive their share certificates. Oreagba said the exchange was addressing these issues and hoped the demutualisation of the exchange -- expected to take place within three years -- would make it more responsive.

sourced from Nigeria 2Day, Wednesday 19th September 2007

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Coca-Cola raises investment profile in Nigeria

By Babatola Adeyemi

IT was said to be the fulfilment of a pledge made to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 1999, and like a deity bound by his words, the Coca-Cola company, through its sole franchisee in Nigeria - Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), has invested over N10 billion naira in the country from 2000 to 2007.

Part of the investment in the country is the Abuja plant of NBC which was commisioned by President Umaru Yar'Adua, last week. Welcoming the guests to the remarkable event, the Managing Director, Mr Roland Ebelt, stated: "The commissioning of this facility is the culmination of a commitment made about eight years ago. In 1999, the Coca-Cola System in Nigeria made a commitment to the then newly elected President, Olusegun Obasanjo, to invest over $50 million in the economy.

"Over the past years, we have fulfilled more than this commitment in several ways, beginning with the commissioning of our ultra modern plant in Benin, we have also invested in modernising and upgrading all of our production lines as well as our electricity and water supply across the country. Our total investments over years- 2000 to 2007 have amounted to more than N10 billion."

He added: "We are proud today that we have made good our commitment, culminating with the commissioning of the Abuja plant, a state-of-the art facility that can compete with any modern bottling facility in the world."

The NBC boss stated further: "The commissioning of this plant, our 13th in the country, further re-affirms our commitment to the Nigerian economy and to all our stakeholders- the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the more than 50,000 stakeholders who are vital to the sustainability of our business, our customers who have made our products the most popular in the country, our customers whose support and enthusiasm for the business is much appreciated, our suppliers who provide the needed service on time, associates of other companies, and last but not the least, the Coca-Cola Company and the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, whose partnership and substantial technical support are so vital to our continuity as well as our staff who strive each day to ensure the success of the business."

Ebelt specially thanked the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar, for his support in making the project a reality as the then Commerce and Industry minister.
Similarly, the chief Operating Officer of the Coca-Cola Company, Mr Muhtar Kent lauded the past and present administrations for creating an enabling environment that made the dream a reality, assuring of the company's readiness to establish more plants in the country.

Umar, who lauded Coca-Cola's commitment to the country's ecomomic development assured the company of easy access to land for their future imvestments in the country. Yar'Adua, who was represented by Industry Minister, Charles Ugwu, promised that government will not relent in its efforts at encouragimg industrial growth.

The latest plant brings to 13 NBC's plants in the country. NBC was incorporated in November, 1951, as a subsidiary of the AG Leventis Group, with the sole franchise to bottle and sell Coca-Cola products in Nigeria

sourced from the Nigerian Guardian Saturday 15th September 2007

Thursday, 13 September 2007

AP names Otedola CEO

AP sacks MD, names Otedola CEO, to raise N35billion

From Emeka Anuforo, Abuja

ZENON Oil President, Mr. Femi Otedola was yesterday named the new chairman and chief executive of African Petroleum (AP) Plc.

He is taking over from Malam Zira Maigadi who was relieved of his position as the managing director.

Also, the firm announced that it had concluded arrangements to now venture into the capital market to raise N35 billion as approved at its yearly general meeting held last month.
Otedola officially took over as the chairman and chief executive of the company at a meeting of the board in Abuja.

Otedola acquired 12.5 per cent shares in AP while his firm, Zenon Oil bought over most of the 28 per cent shares held by the NNPC. He is also said to have formed a strategic alliance with Afribank International Plc for its 21 per cent shares making him a major shareholder in the company.

A member of the board of AP Rev. Layi Bolodeoku, who briefed journalists after its meeting in Abuja added that the change in the management of the company would definitely turn around its fortune. He said: "We have been witnessing changes upon changes. But what has just happened now is the ultimate consummation of the full take-over of the company by Otedola as the chairman and head of the company, an executive chairman of a kind, to put it that way, and the Managing Director (MD) of the company, Malam Zira Maigadi, has been relieved of his appointment because of these changes.

"With effect from today, he is no longer the MD. The core investors, Zenon or Femi Otedola, and of course, the Afribank Plc the third party which I represent. The core shareholders are Zenon or Femi Otedola and Afribank. So, the board is really being reconstituted now and we are having people joining us from the Zenon Group.

"And then, we have NNPC still retaining its slot as a member of the Board. We are going to the capital market soon to raise substantial sum of money and of course, increase on our working capital," he said.

Bolodeoku added: "We are optimistic that the new structure would propel forward with the policies of the board. We have the strong will to propel the company forward with the strong weight of NNPC and Afribank. We have over 150,000 shareholders throughout the country and they are quite expectant now. So, the phenomenal changes we are witnessing currently are bound to build the company to the prominent position. Of course, we are leading in the aviation sector, which has been due to AP's ability to supply aviation fuel.

"We expect that a number of our stations throughout the country will be well established, renovated and the distribution channels will be coordinated round the entire country. With this infusion of Zenon ability, and Afribank's financial ability and the good will of our shareholders, AP is standing in a most prominent position more than ever before, he added.

The AP chief stressed: "More than other times, this is the best time for AP. We are seeking a capitalisation of N35 billion. We are optimistic that we are going to raise this."
Insisting that there were no court cases standing against the company, he stressed that the company was at liberty to accelerate its expansion drive.

"We have a management consultancy with KPMG and we are hoping that in two to three weeks, they should have somebody in place. A committee is in place right now to take care of things until the new management come in under Otedola's strong leadership," he disclosed.

sourced from the The Nigerian Guardian Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nigeria's Arik Air orders more Boeing jets

SEATTLE: Arik Air, Nigeria's newest commercial carrier, has ordered 10 single-aisle 737s, four midsize 787s and one extended-range 777 jetliner, Boeing Co. said Wednesday.
The order was worth $1.8 billion (€1.3 billion) at list prices, the aircraft maker said, though airlines typically negotiate steep discounts.

The 777-300ER was previously booked as an order from an unidentified customer on Boeing's orders and deliveries Web site. Arik's 10 737-800s and four 787-9s will be added to the online order tally in the next regularly scheduled update Thursday, Boeing said.

In April, Arik took delivery of two 737-700s and announced it had ordered seven Boeing jets: three 787s and four 777s worth roughly $1.5 billion (€1.08 billion) at list prices.
Boeing billed that order as the beginning of the largest and most aggressive fleet modernization in Nigeria's aviation history.

Arik Air, which is privately owned, serves about 11 domestic routes with a fleet of 16 airplanes.

Sourced from The Associated Press, Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Nigeria to Adopt Citizenship Diplomacy

From Chuks Okocha and Onwuka Nzeshi in Abuja

Nigeria has announced a “retaliatory” foreign policy, warning that any country that presents Nigeria as corrupt without showcasing the intellect of Nigerians would be declared a “hostile nation”.

The new foreign policy tagged “Citizenship Diplo-macy” was unfolded by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, yesterday.It is geared towards “protecting” the image and integrity of Nigeria and retaliates against countries who are hostile and who brand Nigeria as “corrupt”, he said.

Ojo, who spoke at a book presentation by former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, in Abuja, disclosed that Nigeria’s foreign policy, without any fundamental change in content, “is now what we like to call Citizens Diplomacy. It is going to be a citizen-centred foreign policy, which is: how does this benefit Nigeria and Nigerians? It is a way of strengthening our commitment to Africa.

“We believe that it is time to let the world know that Nigeria is not a beggar nation that has to be made to feel ashamed by the actions of a few criminals who disgrace us at airports in the world by their activities.

“So we have urged that for every Nigerian drug pusher arrested or 419 arrested or a suspect arrested in the major stations of the world, they have a responsibility to showcase those Nigerian surgeons that are making a difference in their communities of those countries.”
Accordingly, he said, “failure to tell the good story about Nigeria from now on, would be considered as a hostile act. Because if you brand us a nation of scammers, as a nation where nothing works, you will be undermining our self-esteem, you undermine our national unity and you make it difficult for investors to come to our country and that could bring unemployment and poverty and of course there is a linkage between poverty and insecurity.”

In this regard, Maduekwe said “we are simply saying, this diplomacy would be a diplomacy of consequences. If you are nice to us, then of course, we should be nice to you. If you were not nice to us, then of course there would be a cost. This is called the concept of reciprocity. This is called the diplomacy of consequences.”

He explained further: “Our foreign policy has come of age and the age of innocence is over. We remain proud of our track record right from Tafawa Balewa up till now. The country that has the largest black nation in the world could not have done otherwise. A world where every six black man is a Nigerian could not have done otherwise, or where every four Africans is a Nigerian could not have done otherwise.

“We should ask ourselves some hard questions: to what extents has our foreign policy benefited Nigerians? To what extent has our foreign policy put food on our tables? In other words, where is the citizen in our foreign policy?”

Quoting Williams Dubois, the Minister said, “The colour of the skin remains the defining paradigm of international relations. And I think that it would not be out of naivety for the largest black country in the world not to be conscious of the fact that colour of corruption is black, so long as the colour of corruption is black, so long as the colour of HIV/AIDS is black, so long as the colour of ethnic conflicts is black…all black people all over the world, whether they are Congress men in the United States or the United Kingdom, they will never walk proud any where in the world.”

He said that Nigeria carried enormous burden to be the symbol of the success of the black nation and there could never be a black success story, “unless it is a Nigeria success story.”

Sourced from This Day newspaper of 12.09.2007

Monday, 10 September 2007

Boosting Brand Nigeria With The Golden Eaglets Win

If there were any such team or group responsible for managing the internal and external images of Brand Nigeria, perhaps they would be thanking the gods now for the opportunities they have laid out for them on a golden platter, or rather on a golden cup. This can only be the stuff that brand management dreams are made of; to have your brand being thrust onto the global stage by the activities of a few young men still in their teenage years who through sheer endeavour have used their God-given talent to do themselves, their families and country proud.

Brand Nigeria received the biggest boost it could ever receive in its quest to put some shine on its already globally battered image on Sunday, September 9th 2007 when the Under-17 football team – the Golden Eaglets beat Spain’s Under -17 in the finals of the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Seoul, South Korea.

The victory was hard fought though and came after 120-minutes of full-time play. The goalless stalemate then led to a penalty shoot – out but by then, the gods had already decided that it was Nigeria’s turn to shine once again. Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets scored all three of their spot kicks while Spain’s Under -17 were wasteful in front of the goal, one shot went wild while the Eaglets’ goalkeeper Oladele Ajiboye saved two of the Spanish side's spot kicks.

For the records, Nigeria had previously won the Under-17 championships in 1985 (China) and 1993 (Japan) but has not managed to sustain the promise shown at the youth level and carrying over the same prowess to the Under-21 and senior teams.

This particular victory is important in many respects; it comes a few weeks ahead of Nigeria’s 47th independence anniversary scheduled for October 1st 2007, a much better birthday present therefore could not be more appropriate. The victory will help unite Nigerians and give them something positive to talk about in the coming months. The past few months have not been particularly cheerful ones, especially the disappointing conduct of the April 2007 general elections. The desperate situation has not been helped by the rising hopelessness in the land, increasing cases of crime and insecurity to lives and properties, poverty, killings and kidnappings arising from mass unrest in the Niger Delta region etc.

The victory will also help to enhance the image of Nigeria as a country, and reinforce its reputation as not only a football loving nation, but also as a strong African and emerging market brand. The worth in advertising or PR dollars of the reports and mentioning of this victory in several global media platforms is actually unquantifiable, and beats the botched attempts by the former president Olusegun Obasanjo to sell Nigeria through paid-for spot advertisements on CNN.

One can only hope that the new government in Nigeria will capitalise on the feel-good factor resulting from this victory by engaging Nigerians in constructive discussions with the aim of finding out important areas of needs to be addressed through sound socio-economic policies. The Yar’Adua government should build on the euphoria of this victory and not let this opportunity pass Nigerians by.

Just like the patriotic tidal wave that swept through Germany as a result of the Jurgen Klinsman effect during the FIFA world cup hosted by Germany in 2006, Nigerian governments at the three tiers – federal, state and local should key into this victory and use it to whip up an avalanche of patriotic emotions and feelings amongst Nigerians, they should tap into their now dulled and lulled senses of nationalism and patriotism as we all march towards a Nigerian national rebirth.

This victory by the Coaches Yemi Tella and Ben Iroha –led Under-17 team should be used to rekindle the ‘Can Do’ spirit amongst Nigerians once again, there is no better way to bring back our national self-belief than by showing how our indigenous coaches and home-grown talents can beat the best and hold their own anywhere in the world. The underlying theme should be that such winning ways are influenced by an enterprising spirit, that this is possible not only in football but that it can also be replicated across all the sectors.

For brand Nigeria, this is a priceless PR coup and this is good as it gets. This is indeed Nigeria’s chance not only in PR terms but also in economic terms. Not only will the Under-17 team be poached by foreign football clubs from where they would eventually start remitting some of their earnings back to Nigeria to boost the economy, but a recharged and self-believing nation will also be more productive, creative and enterprising in the long run. The victory will also further enhance the marketability of the next Under-17 championships which Nigeria will be hosting.

For the government and their officials, including the several communication advisers including the Heart of Africa project team, the time to do this is actually now, before the euphoria of the win dies down and we all get back to our ways again.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Nigeria Open For Business

By Jocelyn Newmarch, Johannesburg , South Africa

Business in Nigeria is booming -- and South African companies are determined to be a part of an economy they say has sky-high potential, despite the challenges posed by unpredictable regulations, unreliable power and a lack of infrastructure. In recent years more than 100 South African companies -- among them MTN, Nando's, Shoprite, Game, Naspers and Johncom -- have entered the Nigerian market. Mvelaphanda Resources is said to be eyeing the underdeveloped Nigerian minerals sector, along with bigger players such as BHP Billiton. Of these companies, MTN has enjoyed the most obvious success, with revenue of R14,9-billion last year. But other players are upbeat.

Investment is helped by official market rates moving closer to those of the parallel market. A unified exchange rate has been a long-standing demand of the International Monetary Fund and was one of the goals of former president Olusegun Obasanjo's government. This means that money, which was previously laundered to invest outside the country, is now being used to invest in legitimate Nigerian companies, according to a business insider.

The perception of "Briberia" still exists, with several companies saying there is a hidden cost to doing business in Nigeria . Two public relations companies said that when organising media events journalists had asked for payment. South African expats said they are asked constantly for bribes at roadblocks and they are asked to pay more because they are foreigners. A patronage system is in place. Many Nigerians are expected by their communities to give jobs to relatives. But one expat said Western companies constantly give favours to clients, such as tickets to high-profile sporting events. The only difference seems to be that Nigerian clients prefer cash to freebies.

A commentator said South African companies face three major challenges in Nigeria . Often the regulatory environment is unpredictable, with import bans on certain items creating difficulties for big retail groups in particular, including Game and Shoprite. He said it seemed the intention was to remove the import bans, which were intended as part of an import substitution programme. The import bans, which can cover "anything from toothpicks to imported furniture", says expat Ian Taylor, have been roundly criticised.

Taylor said Woolworths opened a store in Nigeria , but closed shop when a ban on imported clothing took effect. Imported beers are banned, as are imported apples, although Nigeria produces no apples of its own. Consequently, smuggled apples are for sale on every street corner and in the Shoprite in Lagos . The commentator said the physical infrastructure is weak, particularly in terms of energy. "Wherever you go you have to put in private power sources. Most of these are diesel-driven. As fuel prices have increased since deregulation, this is a considerable additional cost." Companies also face logistical challenges as Nigeria has tried to diversify away from an oil-based economy.

Infrastructure development has not kept pace and remains geared towards exporting oil. Consequently, there are long delays at ports and in clearing goods. "The potential here is unbelievable," said Taylor, a regional director of brand-activation agency Exp. "The question is: How do you get the product to the people?" Middle-class consumers can afford to buy a tube of toothpaste, which lasts a month, but working-class consumers buy a sachet, which is enough for three or four days. Understanding the market is important, as is living with what he terms inefficiencies. "We came in with certain standards, because of the way we were brought up, but 90% of Nigerians have never been exposed to anything outside Nigeria ."

But those companies that get the market right are printing money. Shoprite's first supermarket opened in Lagos at the end of 2005 and was profitable within the first year. Its deli section, where cold meat is sold, reputedly makes more money than any other deli in the group, including South African stores. Although most of the products it sells are imported, local products are marked with stickers of the Nigerian flag on the shelves. Shoprite also works with local farmers to source fresh produce from within Nigeria .

Nando's, which has partnered with local company UAC, opened its sixth restaurant in Lagos this month and credits UAC's local knowledge with its success. Marc Schreuder, a director of UAC Franchising, said his company doubled its share value in the past year and it has 230 franchise applications now, the same number as UAC's existing restaurants. With Famous Brands and St Elmo's, South African companies now dominate the fast-food market. South African companies have targeted mainly the retail, environment and food sectors of the economy. Johncom bought Business Day Nigeria and moved its Nu Metro cinemas and media stores into Lagos . Success doesn't come easy, though. One South African expat said that at the end of every week he and his partners tally scores in the continuing game of Nigeria versus Us. "For just one week in two years we beat Nigeria 4-0. And the following week we were kicked out of our offices for the next three weeks," he said.

Although credit cards are available now, visitors are cautioned to use cash to avoid scams. Rumour has it that MasterCard had to suspend its card offering for a few months after several top businessmen maxed out their cards and refused to pay what they owed. "Making money in Africa is a long-haul process. There are no quick bucks. And growth is still in very limited areas. You need to be careful what you invest in," said the commentator.

De-oiling the economy

There's certainly a lot of money available for investing, helped in part by the booming oil price. Oil and gas contributed 21,5% of Nigeria 's GDP last year, according to the country's National Bureau of Statistics. Oil also contributed 95% of foreign exchange earnings and 65% of budgetary revenues, said the CIA Factbook for Nigeria . Rumour has it that Nigeria is home to more sterling billionaires than the United Kingdom . In Lagos , the commercial capital, luxury cars are as evident on the roads as the beaten-up minibus taxis. Those who have wealth flaunt it and are expected to help out their less fortunate relatives. The country is trying to break away from its over-reliance on oil revenue with a tiny manufacturing sector, an endemic lack of skills and high poverty rates. Inequalities are stark. Just more than a third of the 140-million strong population is formally employed. The astronomical growth of the mobile market -- which has reached 30-million users in less than six years, according to Reuters -- has proved that there is money to be made and that the Nigerian middle class is huge.

MTN is the country's biggest operator with 45% market share. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo's government kick-started a process of democratic economic liberalism with the auction of cellphone licences. More importantly, stability was introduced when the banking system was restructured from more than 100 small banks to 25. In recent years this has consolidated further. With this there has been an increase in banks' capitalisation and a focus on retail banking products. For the first time credit cards, hire-purchase agreements and mortgage bonds are available, leading to a surge in disposable income. "I'm investing in banking stocks," said UAC franchising director Marc Schreuder. He said the stocks have tripled in value in the past three years.

sourced from Nigeria 2Day Friday September 7th 2007

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Oceanic Bank Extends $15m Loan to Maritime Company

Oceanic Bank International Plc has extended a credit facility worth $14.5 million to an indigenous firm, Vigeo Limited to acquire a state of the art anchor handler vessel from Farstad Shipping of Norway. Speaking before signing the credit agreement in London the Chief Executive Officer, of the bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, said the its decision to finance the transaction was as a result o the need to encourage indigenous companies to actively participate in the sector which is dominated by non - indigenes.

A statement from the bank reported her as saying that it was another form of technology transfer aimed at supporting the growth of the nation's maritime, and oil and gas industry. "Our decision to finance the acquisition of the vessel by Vigeo Limited is part of our contributions to the growth of indigenous participation in the more technical aspect of oil and gas industry. It is targeted at encouraging active participation of Nigerian companies in oil and gas activities, which is mainly dominated by foreign multinationals. It is a way of encouraging them to take a bigger slice in the sector. We are out to assist in the best way we can," she said.

The MD revealed that the bank has concluded plans to finance the acquisition of four other vessels for Nigerian entrepreneurs, maintaining that the bank believes strongly in their potentials to develop the nation's economy which informed the extension of credit facilities to them to develop the various sectors of the economy.

"This is one of the five vessels Oceanic Bank has made plans to finance. We firmly believe in the potential of the wholly owned Nigerian entrepreneurs. That is why we are giving all the necessary funding support to them by way of project financing to develop the various sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, agriculture, aviation, maritime, oil and gas, and the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), among others."

According to the Chairman, Vigeo Holdings, Mr. Victor Osibodu, Oceanic Bank's recognition of the role of indigenous entrepreneurs in the nation's economy was quite commendable, stating that the vessel would enable his company become a key player in the sector.

Osibodu urged other financial institutions in the country to emulate Oceanic Bank's various initiatives at developing the various sector of the economy, stating that the local entrepreneurs would engender rapid transformation of the sector without compromise to standards.

The Chief Operating Officer, Vigeo Shipping Limited, Mr. Kingsley Uwagbale, said the acquisition of the specialized vessel, AHTS Lady Margaret by his company was a landmark in the industry's history, stating that it was the first time a Nigerian company was owing a vessel of such capacity.

Story written by Bright Ewulu and sourced from Daily Trust (Abuja) 3 September 2007

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Superbrands Recognises Nigerian Brands

Click here to watch video

Celtel to change name in huge rebranding exercise

Celtel International is considering a major re-branding strategy that would see it drop the ‘Celtel’ brand and adopt a completely new identity — Zain. The plan is expected to create unique difficulties in Nigeria and Kenya, where the Celtel brand is still quite new, as well as across all non-Arab operations. It is part of a long-term strategy by Kuwait’s MTC Group, which owns the mobile telephone operator, to re-invent itself through the launch of a global brand. MTC, which has expanded significantly through acquisitions, is seeking to consolidate recent growth under one banner. "We have a new brand that will be launched as single global brand for all our operations," Dr Saad Al-Barrak, MTC’s deputy chairman and chief executive officer, said recently. "We will start any new operation with this new global brand."

Controversy has already erupted over the brand name chosen. Critics feel Zain, leaked in Kuwait in early August, has limited appeal to cultures outside the Arab world. A recent valuation of MTC by analysts from investment banker Morgan Stanley found that Africa accounted for 70 per cent of the company’s fair value. The new logo has also been described as too dark and moody. The re-branding process has reportedly begun in Kuwait and is expected to spread to other MTC-branded operations in the Middle East. Change will come to Africa and its Celtel-branded operations from 2008. The new changes come shortly after a regional marketing blitz to announce the expansion of Celtel’s borderless mobile network to include the Republic of Congo, Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo. The service was previously limited to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The decision to re-brand will create a costly marketing and logistical challenge for the Kenya and Nigeria operations, given that the two only recently re-branded to Celtel from KenCell and V-Mobile respectively. Before that V-Mobile was known as Econet Wireless. Analysts believe the rebranding exercise will cause huge marketing problems for Celtel in Nigeria.

The change from KenCell, which began in 2004, is yet to be completed by Celtel Kenya: Many of their telephone booths — admittedly an atrophied part of the business — is still branded KenCell. Nigeria’s switch from VMobile, which began last year, will also have to be scrapped. Speaking during the Second Annual Connecting Rural Communities Africa Forum in Nairobi, Mwaghazi Mwachofi, Celtel International Vice-President for Regulatory Affairs, confirmed that discussions on rebranding were in progress. "Nothing has been decided as yet, nothing concrete," Mwachofi said when pressed on the matter. "The Celtel brand is strong and powerful and re-branding is huge task." MTC Kuwait is also expected to form a new subsidiary, MTC International, as a private company to hold all the MTC Group’s foreign assets and operations. A newspaper report on the plan several weeks ago saw the Kuwait Stock Exchange halt trading in MTC shares pending clarification of the issues raised.
A local Arabic-language daily had reported that MTC was going to form an entity with $1.73 billion (Sh116 billion) in capital as an umbrella company under which MTC Kuwait and MTC International, called Zain, would operate. The paper had also said the international unit would sell a stake — possibly 40 per cent or more — in an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange next year. The re-branding confirms MTC’s ambitions to become one of the biggest mobile operators in the world.

According Al-Barrak, the company was looking for a global brand that would work from China to Gabon, in Rio-de-Janeiro and Madras, in Moscow and Iceland. Currently, MTC is looking to fill gaps in sub-Saharan Africa — for example Angola Ethiopia and Senegal — and eyeing Saudi Arabia’s third licence. The company is also making noises about moving its headquarters because of Kuwait’s investor-unfriendly laws. "The Kuwaiti business environment repels investment and the country’s laws are not good for a financial hub," Al-Barrak was recently quoted as saying. Kuwait has been dragging its feet on reforms to create a more transparent stock exchange.
Another Kuwaiti law imposes a 55 per cent tax on foreign investors. MTC, Kuwait’s largest publicly traded company, said last week that it could move to Dubai or Bahrain, the Gulf’s financial centres, or to Amsterdam, headquarters of its subsidiary Celtel. The firm operates in Bahrain in partnership with Britain’s Vodafone Group and acquired Netherlands-based Celtel in 2005. It has no presence in Dubai. "MTC is today thinking on the global scale... especially since Kuwait accounts for only 15 per cent of its revenue, (a figure that) will fall below seven per cent in the next two years." Incorporated in 1983 in Kuwait, MTC now has a presence in 20 countries.

The Group is a leading mobile operator in six Middle Eastern and 14 sub-Saharan African countries providing a comprehensive range of mobile voice and data services to over 29.7 million active individual and business customers. It operates in Kuwait and Bahrain as MTCVodafone, in Jordan as Fastlink, in Iraq as MTC-Atheer, in Lebanon as MTC-Touch and in Sudan as Mobitel. It also has 14 operations in sub-Saharan Africa as Celtel. These are Burkina Faso , Chad , Democratic Republic of the Congo , Republic of the Congo , Gabon , Kenya , Malawi , Madagascar , Niger , Nigeria , Sierra Leone , Tanzania , Uganda and Zambia . The company has also won Saudi Arabia’s third mobile license and is expected to roll-out a network soon. The change of identity is part of MTC’s plan to re-brand its operations across all networks in line with their "three by three by three (3x3x3)" strategy."In the first three years we wanted to be a regional company and we are already beyond that," Al-Barrak explains. "In the second three years, we wanted to be an international company, expanding beyond the Middle East and Africa, to Asia and other parts of the world. In the final stage, we would aspire to be a global company, in the big league. This is our dream." Since it embarked on going regional in January 2003, MTC has entered 19 new countries. By geographical area covered, MTC is now the fourth largest telecommunication company worldwide.
Early this year, MTC launched a programme dubbed ACE (accelerate, consolidate and expand) to help it realise the target of the 3x3x3 vision. The programme seeks to extract superior value from existing assets through acceleration of growth, consolidation of operations and further expansion of the business. Based on organic growth through ACE, MTC Group aims to serve 70 million subscribers across all the markets it operates by 2011, attain a $6 billion EBITDA (Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation), and emerge among the top in mobile operations in the world.

Sourced from Nigeria 2Day on Tuesday September 4, 2007

Monday, 3 September 2007

Nigeria Celebrates Six Years of GSM Mobile Phones

It has now been six years since GSM was introduced to Nigeria, and the telecoms regulator, the NCC has published a review of how telecoms in the country has changed since those first mobile phone licenses were sold. Prior to 2001, the number of connected phone lines in the country before the introduction of GSM services was a mere 450,000 for an estimated population of 120 million at the time and the level of investment in the telecommunications sector was just about US$50 million only. Six years on, the growth of the telecommunications sector is unmatched by any other sector and it has recorded a phenomenal growth both in terms of subscriber's base and infrastructural development in the country. In January 2001, the Commission conducted an auction for Digital Mobile Licenses. This auction was acclaimed locally and internationally as one of the best in the world due to the high level of transparency associated with the exercise.

The auction brought about the emergence of three mobile Operators; ECONET Wireless now (CELTEL), MTN and MTEL, a subsidiary of the incumbent operator. The Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), which was also awarded an operating license as a National Carrier. In 2002 a fourth Digital Mobile License (DML) was issued to Globacom (Glomobile) through another transparent auction process. To further increase competition a fifth Mobile License (with GSM spectrum) was awarded to Emerging Market Telecommunications Services Limited, early this year.

The transparent manner in which the Commissions handled the DML gave the impetus to other licensing auctions that followed. These include, the Second National Operator (SNO) granted to Globacom, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) licenses granted to 24 companies on Regional basis, the Unified Access Service Licenses (UASL), 3G Licenses granted to 4 companies. Through the award of these licenses the NCC facilitated a phenomenal expansion of telephone lines in Nigeria, from about 450,000 connected lines in May 1999 to over 38 million lines by July 2007, boosting teledensity growth from 0.4% to 24%. The capacity for growth in the number of phone lines in the country over the next decade remains quite high, as some parts of the country are yet to be covered.

Investments in the Telecommunications Sector

Prior to the licensing of the Digital Mobile Operators, private investment in the telecommunications sector was just about US$50 million. Between 2001 and now, the sector has attracted over US$9.5 Billion, substantial part of which are direct foreign investment. With the rapid expansion plans by many of the major service providers, another US$3 Billion of investment is expected before the end of the year. Nigeria has thus become one of the most desired investment destinations for ICT in Africa . This could not have been possible without a conducive and predictable regulatory environment.

Revenue to Federal Government

In addition to this, the Federal government has earned over US$2.5 Billion from Spectrum licensing fees alone between 2001 and now. Import duties and taxes from the telecom industry have also contributed substantial revenue to the Federal Government.

Review of Tariff Rates

By the introduction of competition, telecommunication services are now easily available at affordable prices. Before the advent of digital mobile services in 2001, cost of subscription to Mtel analogue mobile services was over N60,000. In 2001, GSM subscription started with a price of N20,000 per line and today, has fallen to almost zero. The introductory tariff was high at N50 per minute and can be as low as about N25 per minute on-net (mobile to mobile). Instead of intervention in retail call rates, the Commission has instead intervened in determining interconnect rates for the industry.

The combined effect of the two interconnect rate determinations in 2004 and 2006 was a reduction of the mobile termination rate from N18.00 per minute to N11.40 per minute. This has enabled the fixed operators to reduce their retail tariffs for calls to mobile networks to as low as N20.00 per minute. The Commission will be initiating a process for reviewing the interconnect rates in the next few months in line with international best practice. Ownership of phones now cuts across the various social classes, opening good opportunities for the e-health, e-education, e-security, e-commerce and e-banking in the country.

The outstanding growth in the telecommunications sector has correspondingly created a significant number of new jobs in the economy. Also, other sectors such as advertising, real estate and finance have gained tremendously from the ripple effect of the growth in this sector. Today the telecom sector is a key contributor to the nation's Gross Domestic Products (GDP)

Socio-Economic Impact

The great improvement in access to telecoms in the country has had a positive impact on virtually all facets of life in the country's political, social as well as economic. Government's interface with the citizens is now faster, people now contact their folks in most parts of the country from anywhere instantly whenever they wish and clients now easily reach their various service providers such as mechanics and tailors, all thanks to the telecommunications revolution!

The Digital Bridge Institute

The growth of the number of skilled manpower in the telecom industry over the last six years has been remarkable. The NCC took certain timely initiatives to ensure that the dearth of skilled Nigerians to run the fast expanding telecom industry in the country was remedied. A milestone was achieved on May 20, 2004 when Mr. President commissioned the ultra modern Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) in Utako, Abuja , established by the NCC as an international centre for advanced telecommunication studies. Apart from training technical manpower, the DBI trains personnel in other specialist areas such as economic analysis, financial planning, law, arbitration, mediation, interconnection, e-commerce, business management, human resources and consultancy services. The Telecommunications Training Schools in Kano and Oshodi have been recently transferred to the Commission by the Federal Government and are being resuscitated to become campuses of the DBI. It is planned that from next year the expanded DBI will be providing multifarious ICT training programs for over 2000 graduates annually to service both local and international markets.

Quality of Service Challenges

Though tremendous progress has been witnessed in the telecommunications sector, there remain numerous challenges. One of such challenges is the present poor quality of service being experienced in the network. However, the Commission is working assiduously to ensure that the quality of service improves significantly within the shortest possible time. The Commission is now working with operators to achieve network optimization and speed up the rate of deployment of new base Stations, switches and transmission infrastructure. In addition, the Commission has stopped all Service Providers from all promotional activities that will lead to increase in the volume of traffic until such a time that there is substantial improvement in the Quality of Service on the networks. We condemned in absolute terms the irresponsible action of major mobile operators in embarking on promos that their networks were ill equipped to carry.

NCC has further directed that as long as the poor Quality of Service persists, service providers should not place any restriction or time limitation on validity of airtime credits so that subscribers are not compelled to utilize their call minutes within restricted time frames. It is believed that these measures will further reduce the pressure on the networks of service providers and thus contribute to an improvement in the Quality of Service. The major contributor to the current QoS challenges is network capacity constraints. The operating companies have not been able to expand their networks fast enough to meet the ever growing demand by subscribers.

This was further aggravated by a few factors such as the near total collapse of Nitel Long distance transmission infrastructure which a number of Service Providers depended on for their interstate links. With the fall of Nitel also came the collapse of Mtel which depended heavily on Nitel for its transmission requirements. Thus several subscribers to the Mtel service migrated to the other three networks with its attendant effect on aggregate network capacity generally.

Other issues such as major deterioration in the public power supply situation in the past twelve months; security challenges; theft; transmission cable cuts; delay in securing approval for siting of new base stations; etc, have also contributed in various degrees to the problem. With the current rapid expansion programs being implemented by all the service providers, and other measures the Commission has put in place, the QoS situation has started to record improvements.

The recent intervention of the Ministers of Information/Communications and the FCT in the case of Abuja will also translate to major improvement in QoS in the Federal Capital Territory . To ensure that this situation remains the focus of the industry stakeholders always, the Commission has constituted an industry working group on Quality of Service. Also, Guidelines on Infrastructure sharing which was published last year will be strictly enforced to encourage infrastructure sharing at all levels

The Future Outlook

At the present rate of network growth it has been predicted that Nigeria will overtake South Africa to become the largest Telecom Market in Africa. A lot of emphasis is also being placed on growing Nigeria’s data capability by promoting large scale broadband internet and optic fiber rollout across the country.

Sourced from Nigeria 2Day, an online publication – Sept 3rd 2007

Intercontinental Bank Gets Highest Global Rating in Nigeria

Fitch Assigns the Bank A+ National & B+ Global Ratings

Intercontinental Bank Plc continues to receive accolades on its stellar performance and increasing domestic franchise from global rating agencies. Only last week, FitchRating, the globally acclaimed rating agency, upgraded the bank’s National Long-term rating to ‘A+’ from ‘A’ while affirming its National Short-term rating at ‘F1’. Fitch equally assigned the bank, a Long-term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating, (IDR) ‘B+’ with a stable outlook, Short-term Foreign Currency, IDR ‘B’, Individual ’D’ and Support ‘4’ as well as a Support Rating Floor of ‘B+’.

The Fitch rating is in particular reference to the bank’s consistently outstanding performance in earnings, growth and capitalisation. The ratings, according to the internationally reputed rating agency, reflects the bank’s developing domestic franchise, consistent levels of earnings growth and above average levels of capitalisation.

The global rating, which is an acclaim of global confidence in the bank, is the best that any Nigerian bank has been assigned by Fitch. It is a vote of confidence in both the domestic and international investment potentials of the bank and engendering strong growth in patronage from both the private and public sector of the local and international economy. The rating, according to analysts, is the affirmation of the bank’s leading position in Nigeria, Africa and the world.

Only recently, in what is best described as extraordinary performance, The Banker magazine, a subsidiary of the Financial Times of London, in its 2007 edition of its TOP 1000 WORLD BANKS publication ranked Intercontinental, the biggest bank in Nigeria, fifth biggest in Africa and the 355th biggest bank in the world by first tier capital. This makes Intercontinental bank the first Nigerian bank to be rated among the world’s elite top 500 banks.

The Banker Magazine also ranked the bank as the second fastest growing bank in the world. It described Intercontinental Bank’s outstanding growth as symbolic of the massive impact of Nigeria’s banking reform. It noted that: “Nigeria’s Intercontinental bank reflects the huge consolidation and regulatory change that has taken place in Nigerian banking in the past two years,” adding that the bank rose by a record 522 places to be ranked at 355, with capital ballooning to $1277 million at the end of February 2007.”

The Fitch rating acknowledged the risks relating to the bank’s difficult operating environment and commended the bank for the exceptional performance in its profit after tax which increased by 104 per cent to N15.5 billion for the financial year ended February 2007.Fitch noted that: “Intercontinental net after-tax earnings increased by 104 % to NGN15.5bn during FY07 on the back of strong growth that led to improvement in both net interest and non-interest income,” Fitch noted.

The international rating agency further expressed satisfaction with the bank’s Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio and the boosting of capitalisation by significant capital raising activities, which has positioned the bank as a strong and reliable financial institution within the Nigerian and international markets.

Intercontinental is one of the largest banks in Nigeria by system assets and capitalisation. The bank boasts of one of the highest returns on investment in the industry in the last 15 years. It has consistently paid dividend to its shareholders and issued bonus shares six times within the same period. In addition, shareholders of the bank have continued to enjoy huge capital gain on the bank shares. Between 2004 and 2006 the shares recorded capital gain of over 165 per cent.
Intercontinental Bank has consistently led the banking industry with managerial and financial accomplishments. The bank enjoys massive market support due to its avowed passion for excellent customer service delivery as encapsulated in the bank’s tagline: Happy Customer Happy Bank.

Sourced from ThisDay newspaper, 3rd September 2007