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NEWS UPDATE (Sat. 10.08.19)

michael okonma

ILO, AEA, SMEDAN PARTNER ON YOUTH EMPOWERMENT, POVERTY ERADICATION

A mission to boost youth empowerment and eradicate poverty through entrepreneurship is being championed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Abuja Enterprise Agency (AEA), and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN).
The partnership will provide sufficient support in material and human resources to the AEA, which, in turn, will scale up its numerous empowerment schemes to accommodate more persons.
At an exhibition in Abuja, in honour of the visiting ILO Director-General, Mr. Guy Ryder, AEA Managing Director Mr Arabi Muhammad Tukur said the agency was established in 2006 as the Federal Capital Teritory’s administration’s vehicle for entrepreneurial development, poverty reduction and wealth creation.
He said the agency, in the last 10 years, has supported 73,450 persons and businesses (90 per cent of whom were youths), in critical entrepreneurial areas like business clinics, access to finance, counselling, sensitisation, workspace and market linkage among others.
He added that AEA had supported 31,100 rural entrepreneurs in 160 communities of the FCT with capacity-building training, access to finance, equipment and other critical areas.
These are just some of the few achievements the Agency has attained over the years.
He said: “The agency has designed to expand its grants programme to support the provision of work tools which will eliminate drudgery, share new technology to rural entrepreneurs and finance Start-ups, who are confronted with inadequate access to finance.
“We are also focused on youth and women development. We have in the past three years trained over 800 youths and women on ICT, skills acquisition programmes covering areas such as shoes production and other leather works, cosmetology, confectionary and entrepreneurial training.
“Plans are under way to undertake a financial literacy sensitisation programme to increase the number of entrepreneurs who have access to financial services to understand how to properly use the funds they received for their business.”
Earlier in his remarks, Ryder assured that the body will assist AEA scale up its entrepreneurship drive.
He said: “It was good listening to the beneficiaries of the training. All suggestions have been taken. The idea of working with the NLC, other bodies in the future is noted. The energy, vibrancy of Nigerians is excellent” he said.
The representative of the Director-General of SMEDAN, Mr Monday Ewang described AEA as its baby.

“We’ve partnered them ever since they took off. We’re ensuring they deliver their mandate and on ours too.
“We’re happy to welcome the DG of ILO. SMEDAN will ensure it works closely with ILO”, he noted.

AFREXIMBANK REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO AFRICA’S TRANSFORMATION VIA TRADE

The African Import Export Bank (Afreximbank) has reiterated its commitment to integrate and transform African economies by promoting intra-African trade.
The bank, in a statement on Monday quoted its Managing Director on Intra-African Trade, Mrs. Kanayo Awani, as saying this at the “Trade with Africa Business Summit’’ in Chicago, United States of America.
Awani said efforts to open up African markets should be accompanied with industrialisation and capacity building initiatives to help African countries produce value-added goods.
She said such an approach would allow for such value-added goods to be traded within the continent and globally in a competitive manner.
“Afreximbank is already financing and facilitating the production of such value-added goods, using a number of instruments which also support intra-African trade.
“This includes supporting the establishment of industrial parks and export processing zones, establishing Africa quality assurance centres, and setting up export trading companies.
“The bank has also recently inaugurated the Pan-African Payments and Settlements System, established MANSA, an Africa customer due diligence repository platform, and instituted the Intra-African Trade Fair.
“This is to further boost intra-African trade and support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),’’ she said.
Awani said the bank was ready to work with partners, including the United States to promote inclusive growth and socio-economic transformation in Africa.
She said with the number of Africans in Diaspora, there were opportunities for growth in Diaspora-focused trade in ethnic foods, textiles, the creative industry, including music and film, and tourism.

LCCI RAISES CONCERN OVER MULTIPLE EXCHANGE RATES

The Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has raised concern over the multiplicity of exchange rates in the country, saying the situation creates undue arbitrage opportunities and transparency issues in the market.
The President, Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, therefore, urged the Federal Government to address the issue, noting the wide gap between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) N305 rate and other rates at N360 and above.
The LCCI chief, who lauded the Federal Government’s efforts in making the forex market relatively calm with stable rates and liquidity ease across the market, however, said a market driven approach to exchange rate offers a more sustainable option of managing the forex market.
“This is because the Nigerian foreign exchange earnings are largely dependent on oil, and if there is a crash in the oil receipt, the CBN may not be able to sustain the intervention.
“We, therefore, need to diversify the economy so there would be more flow of forex from other sectors of the economy than just crude oil whose price remains volatile” Ruwase said.
He also noted with grave concern the increasing wave of insecurity in the country especially as it concerns kidnapping, herdsmen attacks on communities, ethnic and religious clashes and many more.
While acknowledging that the Federal Government through its security agencies are making concerted efforts to stem the cycle of criminalities across the country, Ruwase urged the government to be more strategic in its approach so that its efforts will yield the desired results.
“It is important to stress that this wave of insecurity is doing a lot of damage to the image of the country and the economy, as prospective investors may become discouraged to invest in the economy while local businesses continue to groan under the uncertainty created by continued insecurity in the land,” he said.

ROADBLOCK TO SUGAR SELF – SUFFICIENCY

As a committed investor in the sugar industry, the Group Executive Director, BUA Group, Alhaji Kabiru Rabiu, is in a vantage position to know what ails the industry. And, by extension, he also knows what is required to turn it around in order to achieve Nigeria’s target to become self-sufficient in sugar production and consumption and also guarantee a bountiful Return on Investment (RoI) for investors.
To make these happen, Rabiu said, for instance, that the Federal Government should double its efforts in addressing some of the observed deficiencies holding the sugar industry down. He listed some of the issues to include huge capital cost for investors,unending conflicts with landowners/communities over land acquisition, insecurity, infrastructure deficit, water and environmental issues, as well as lack of synergy among regulatory agencies.
The BUA Group executive director spoke penultimate week on the “Challenges of emerging sugar companies in meeting the sugar demand of Nigeria” at the maiden conference of the Sugarcane Technologies Society of Nigeria (STSN) in Abuja.
He said other factors contributing to the slow implementation of the Federal Government’s Backward Integration Programme (BIP) for sugar include skill deficit and lack of synergy among various stakeholders.
The BIP for sugar was aimed at boosting the implementation of the National Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), which began in January 2013. The NSMP was aimed at encouraging local production of sugar and halting the importation of the product, which was costing the nation a whopping N350 billion annually. Specifically, Nigeria, under the plan, targeted domestic production of 1.7 million metric tonnes of sugar by 2020.
The plan also sought to create jobs, contribute to the production of ethanol and generate electricity. While 37,378 and 79,803 direct and indirect/seasonal jobs were expected to be churned out from the sector, respectively, the plan targeted the production of 161.2 million litres of ethanol annually. It was also envisaged that Nigeria will ride on the back of the sugar master plan to generate 411.7 megawatts (mw) of electricity yearly.
To meet these ambitious targets, the NSMP said there was the need to establish about 28 sugar factories of varying capacities, and bring about 250,000 hectares of land into sugarcane cultivation. The National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, which developed the sugar master plan, made it clear that the bulk of the investment capital required to meet the targets would come from private investors.
This was why the Federal Government entered into a tripartite arrangement with the three major investors in the sugar value chain namely, Dangote Sugar Refinery Plc, BUA Sugar Refinery Limited and Golden Sugar Company to drive the implementation of the roadmap. But six years down the line, and with only few months to the 2020 target, there are no visible signs on the horizon that Nigeria will be self-sufficiency in sugar.

Unending conflicts with landowners
For BUA Group and indeed, other investors in the BIP for the sugar industry, reining in host communities whose disposition to investors has been everything but friendly has become imperative. The Nation learnt, for instance, that many of the projects in some communities, which would have raised the NSMP’s implementation profile, have been stalled by government and host community’s unwillingness to give out land.
For instance, BUA Group’s investment of $300 million in its integrated LASUCO Sugar Company in Lafiagi, Kwara State, is expected to produce 35 megawatts (MW) of electricity to be used for the factory, while the excess supply will be added to the national grid. Also, the plant, when completed in 2020, will produce 20 million litres of ethanol per annum and 200,000 metric tonnes of refined sugar annually.
Despite these mouth-watering deliverables, BUA Group was said to have reported community hostilities against operations at its project site in Lafiagi Sugar Estate. It also recorded incidents of physical attacks against contractors working on estate roads and irrigation canals. Flood protection dykes constructed at very huge costs were breached and cane fields washed away. Farm infrastructures – irrigation systems were damaged.
The story is the same for Dangote Sugar Refinery, which acquired 6,500 hectares of land in Guyuk for the expansion of its Savannah Sugar Company Limited, Numan, in Adamawa State. The project was reportedly stalled at some point by unrealistic demands by local community leaders.
The company’s project site in Lau/Tau in Taraba State, also suffered the same fate. After the company was said to have gotten a Certificate of Occupancy (CoO), and had paid compensation following which 20 hectares of nursery was established for further development, the Taraba State administration allegedly frustrated the projects with its “untenable demands.”
Golden Sugar Company Limited, another investor, also suffered similar fate when its Golden Sugar Estate in Sunti witnessed many disruptions during its development, requiring, at some point, interventions by police and local chiefs. The company’s intention to expand its cane fields was also stalled due to hostile and anti¬-investment sentiments.

Reeling under high production cost
Although Rabiu praised the NSDC for stimulating investment in local sugar production for self-sufficiency, he lamented the high cost of sugar production and heavy capital investment. He noted that Nigeria is Africa’s largest sugar importer, with consumption ranging from 1.5 million to 1.7 million tonnes per annum.
This, according to him, translates to about 8kg per head, which is low compared to the Africa average of 17kg. He said Nigeria’s low consumption capacity was due to lack of infrastructure, which drives up project cost, as well as heavy capital investment in plantation development, irrigation facilities, mills construction, and direct land acquisition by investors etc.
Synergy among stakeholders, regulators imperative
Although Rabiu said his company has made significant progress and that BUA’s LASUCO Company will be the biggest integrated sugar plantation in Nigeria upon completion in 2020, the need for synergy among various stakeholders and building capacity among the industry regulators is not lost on him.
For one, such synergy will ensure optimal and sustainable development of the value chain for sugar as a commodity right from production to the market. And the value chain, according to experts, begins with farmers, who must be provided with all the necessary inputs including the variety of sugarcane to plant to be able to deliver the quality of sugar required, and the right quantity per hectare.
It will also encourage not just large scale sugar cane plantation, but also Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) to provide their own support to the sugar master plan. There will also be full involvement of members of host communities as farmers who will be involved in the sugar value chain instead of allowing them become a spanner in the works for investors.
Synergy and collaboration will also ensure that sugarcane out grower farmers are encouraged and supported through the provision of credit facilities, procurement of necessary inputs and development of basic infrastructure.
On the other hand, building the capacity of industry regulators will ensure that NSDC, working with relevant government agencies, walk the talk on halting the smuggling of sugar into the country. NSDC Executive Secretary Dr. Latif Busari stated earlier that smuggling was threatening the businesses of local cubing and packaging companies.
Although Busari said then that the Council had evolved new strategies for effective implementation of the NSMP going forward, including increased inter-agency cooperation and sanctions for defaulters, such inter-agency cooperation has yet to halt the smuggling of sugar through the nation’s numerous porous borders.
Sadly, the Federal Government has also not been able to enforce the ban on the importation of sugar to encourage operators in the sugar value chain.
Push for sugar hubs, intervention fund
At the STSN conference in Abuja, Busari told participants that the Council was committed to achieving self-reliance in sugar development as contained in the NSMP. However, Rabiu said the Federal Government, through the Council, can help by creating sugar hubs and sugar sector intervention fund to stimulate the sector.

DEVELOPMENT OF AUDACITY SKYLINE TO BEGIN OCTOBER

LandWey Group has concluded arrangements to begin the development of “The Audacity Skyline”, a 28-floor, coastal shoreline, mixed-use high rise, proposed to sit on 3,500 square metres inside Eko Atlantic City.
Making this known in Lagos, during the week, CEO/Founder of LandWey Group, Olawale Ayilara, said the ground-breaking ceremony of The Audacity Skyline is scheduled to hold on October 1, 2019.
He said: “The Audacity Skyline is an architectural masterpiece that will feature tastefully finished beachfront residences and penthouses.
Ayilara added that the monumental project will also feature commercial spaces, multi-level parking, designated elevators, personalised concierge services-all executed with best-in-class construction procedures and standards.
“As a brand, we are ready and equipped to take on the project armed with our robust experience in construction, as well as our strong partnerships with world class architects, engineers and designers,” Ayilara said.
He stated that LandWey has continued to break barriers and set the pace in the real estate sector within the past half a decade. “We’re excited to witness the greatest feat yet in this massive project. The ground-breaking ceremony of The Audacity Skyline is scheduled to hold on October 1, 2019,” he added.
The CEO noted that the real estate sector in Lagos has witnessed a lot of growth and innovation within the past three to five years, with an abundance of investment options as well as creative marketing ideas.
He, however, said one brand that actively contributes immensely to that growth is the LandWey Group, which boasts a growing asset base of real estate products that are tailored to the middle market, a niche that it has performed comfortably well in.
Having conquered that range, the company is now poised to venture into high-end real estate investment products in the most befitting location – the prestigious Eko Atlantic.

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