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Internet access in Nigeria set to triple by 2013

written by Nmachi Jidenma

Internet access in Nigeria is set to triple in the next two years, Reuters reports. According to Funke Opeke, C.E.O. of the Main One Cable Company, a leading West African submarine cable company which has laid a 7,000 km fibre optic cable linking West Africa to Europe “at least one in three people in Nigeria could have direct Internet access by 2013. We would say a number in the 35-40 percent for Internet access penetration over the next 18-24 months would be a worthwhile objective.” In a nation of about 150 million people, this portends strong prospects for web based businesses.

The market potential in Nigeria is huge. Already, the mobile phone subscription market in the country is the continent’s largest with South Africa’s MTN Group, India’s Bharti Airtel, Abu Dhabi based Etisalat and Nigeria’s Globacom serving as key industry players. As of May this year, the country’s telecommunications regulator estimated that there were 80 million plus mobile phone subscribers. At the same time, mobile Internet is quickly becoming the platform of choice for young Internet users in the country. A survey conducted by Opera in its State of the Mobile Web report last year revealed that 90% of Nigerian Internet users between the ages of 18-27 said they use their mobile phones more than desktop or laptop computers to access the Internet.

“We have a large young population, if you think of all the students in tertiary education and if you think of businesses which are not yet fully automated. If access now becomes more available and prices are within reach then all of those groups stand to benefit and would enable the attainment of 35 to 40 percent number, which we believe will have significant impact on the economy,” Opeke said.

Web based services especially those with a strong mobile component appear poised to experience a boon in the next two years given these projections. It would be interesting to monitor Nigeria’s web start up scene as more entrepreneurs respond to the favourable growth rates in the country’s Internet market.

For more on Nigeria’s Internet market, read this interview with Nigerian Internet entrepreneur/former NBA player, Obinna Ekezie

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Concessioning: Our ports now safer — Customs

Written by Lanre Oyetade

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has declared that Nigerian ports are now safer following the concessioning of services at the ports.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos, on Thursday, the Area Controller of the Tin Can Island Port Command, Lagos, Austen Warikoru, said that before now, there was a lot of pilferage going on at the ports by ‘wharf rats’ but “today, this no longer happens.”

“Vehicles are no longer vandalised and things are much better in terms of security of goods,”  he said, adding, however, that the main problem since concessioning took effect has been infrastructure. “We need better infrastructure, for example, offices, which are currently on a makeshift arrangement.”

The controller added that his command also needed more equipment, such as forklifts, asserting that there was incessant breakdown of equipment at the command.

While agreeing that the concessionaires generally rendered better service compared to what was obtainable in the past, he lamented that their charges were usually too high. He believed, however, that with growing competition, the charges would soon go down.

While fielding questions from the pressmen, Warikoru stated that being a service in a “third world” country, the major objective of the Nigeria Customs Service was revenue generation and collection, while not losing sight of security, especially as relating to the enforcement of the list

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Making agriculture work for jobs in Africa

There is a jobs cow waiting to be milked in Africa. It is agriculture and agri-business.

In its initial condition, Africa’s agriculture bears a striking resemblance to its telecom sector in the late 1990s. A decade on, a combination of right policies and strengthened regulatory framework has seen the sector open up to free enterprise, attracting about $60 billion in private investments and leading to today’s ICT boom: 450 million mobile phones in Africa, which is more mobile phones than Canada, Mexico and the United States combined.

As with telecom, the “early movers” into Africa’s agriculture are likely to reap the most rewards. And we are seeing significant interests from Middle Eastern, North African, South African and Asian firms seeking to establish commercial farms and agri-businesses along the value chain.

With only one-fourth of Africa’s arable land (50 per cent of global arable land) currently in use accounting for a mere 10 per cent of global food production, an agriculture and agri-business sector in full bloom is likely to result in even more transformational change in the lives of the world’s bottom billion than ICTs.

This is not some distant, future dream. Even die-hard afro-pessimists now concede that the global tide is turning in Africa’s favour, revealing a virgin market of one billion people, and a potential trillion dollar economy with enormous staying power and no less than 29 per cent of the world’s youth by 2025.

But timing matters, and huge windows of financial and economic opportunity are open to the pacesetters. Agriculture, I must reiterate, is not only Africa’s “next big thing.” It is already its life wire: it is Africa’s leading private sector. Some 70 per cent of Africans depend on it for their livelihoods, and it accounts for about 40 per cent of the region’s GDP.

During my dialogue last week with hundreds of young civil society leaders from 18 African countries, I was not surprised by their optimism about agriculture. Their eagerness to be involved in the sector was as infectious as it was enlightening for me and my colleagues. However, they were very clear as to what must be done by their governments and partners, to make agriculture work for jobs. I would summarize their views in four major areas.

First, governments (traditional, local and national) need to guarantee land rights for farmers, ensuring that large commercial farms – which are bound to employ fewer people — co-exist with the millions of smallholder farms – which preserve and maximize the job opportunities the sector offers, as well as provide the nucleus for establishing small and medium-size agri-businesses along the value chain. Attention must also be paid to ensure that male farmers – often the first to hop on a tractor and the ones most likely in rural areas to manage the money flowing from agriculture — do not marginalise women farmers, who hold the key to food security.

Valorising land and ensuring that Africa’s banking and financial sectors recognise it as one of the most tangible economic assets of Africa is just as important as building and maintaining adequate infrastructure like farm-to-market roads.

Second, young Africans do not want to be the farmers their grandparents were: hoe in hand, tilling the soil in scorching sun all year round, harvesting barely enough to feed, shelter and house their families. Making the sector more attractive to the African youth – seven-to-ten million of whom join the labour force each year – must entail modernising agriculture, raising productivity, boosting incomes, and expanding links to export markets.

Smallholder farmers would need access not only to more productive seeds and other farm inputs, but also to irrigation, research, technology and finance. Seed funding, notably in the form of grants, patient capital or loans from commercial banks guaranteed by some facility or the valorised farmland could make the difference between a farm start-up failing or prospering. Obstructionist policies, such as price controls, food export bans, and restrictions to cross-and within-border trade, need to be eliminated.

As one participant from Sierra Leone put it: “The market is the problem,” he said, complaining about the ban on his country’s food exports to such neighbouring countries as Gambia, Liberia and Senegal.

A third priority must be that of linking farmers to markets, including the sale opportunities that school feeding or food voucher programmes can generate by buying from local farmers. Pilot initiatives like the World Food Programme’s “Purchasing for Progress,” which has sourced about $1 billion worth of humanitarian food directly from African farmers over the last three years, would need to be expanded. Electronic vouchers, provided through “scratch cards” similar to prepaid phone cards and mobile phone-enabled platforms, have offered funding for food purchases for the poor in Liberia.

Connecting African farmers to Internet-based platforms such as the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange, which made deals worth $1 billion in its first three years of existence would be as essential as linking these farmers to giant global retailers like the U.S.-based Walmart, whose foundation plans to plow about $1 billion in Africa in order to have direct influence over its supply chain. So, too, would be an integrated approach to infrastructure development that combines highway or railroad construction with the setting up of vast agricultural plantations under the so-called “development corridor” model.

Devising these and other smarter ways of reaching markets and consumers would help trim the estimated 35 per cent of food supplies lost on the continent during the post-harvest, transport to market, storage, processing and conservation phases.

Fourth, reforms across Africa will work only if global food markets work for Africa and unfair trade practices are ended. The issue of subsidies by developed countries — currently estimated at $360 billion – will need to be resolved. Young African farmers entering the sector will prosper not only if they can trade, but if trade is fair and if mechanisms to promote transparency on existing stocks help prevent speculators from using food as a commodity to make money on the backs of farmers.

Success would require an integrated approach such as that offered within the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) framework – with the strategic pillars of land and water management, markets and infrastructure, food security and vulnerability and agricultural technology. It would also require significant investments. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says the $22 billion pledged by the G20 at the Pittsburgh Summit barely gets things started. However, while foreign investors and donors can help, African countries which committed in Maputo in 2002 to devote at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture are those who must step up to the plate.

Mali, which currently devotes 13 per cent of its national budget to the sector, is one of very few countries that have either met or surpassed this target. Too many other countries invest far too little. Cameroon, for example, devotes an estimated one per cent of the national budget to the agriculture sector, although the sector employs 70 per cent of the population and accounts for 40 per cent of the country’s GDP. Without significantly higher investments, the sector will not deliver on the millions of jobs it promises. Much worse: the 2002 World Food Summit warned that business as usual in agriculture could mean that the aim of halving world hunger by 2015 will only be met in 2150.

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NBC to expand business with N45Billion in Nigeria

 From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu

THE Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC) has unveiled plans to spend N45 billion on its expansion programme in Nigeria. The programme is expected to commence in the next three months.

According to the company, the planned investment would be on plant, as it intends to acquire new plants that would compete with similar plants around the globe.

The company’s Managing Director, Jim Lafferty, said in Benin, at the weekend, during a facility tour of the Benin plant, that the planned investment would put the company, especially in Nigeria, at a competitive  advantage.

He said the palnt in Benin, has since been repositioned after the fire outbreak of 2008, to become the most modern in Africa.

“The plant you are sitting on now, is probably the most modern plant in Africa. We have 13 in Nigeria, out of which three are modern, 10 needs upgrading and over the next three years we are going to invest N45 billion … that is part of our investment plans for the future. Our plan is to be world class and that’s where we want to take our  business to.

“That is the vision and that is where we want to take our plans in Nigeria to. It shows what happens when put investment in a great country like Nigeria. We have to put in the measures and that is what NBC is doing.

“If you go today, there are hundreds of thousands of businesses distributing our products, building a business, a legacy for the family and expanding every time. We could have concentrated on DTS (direct trading) but we did not, and anywhere you go you see the small distributor outlets and this has impacted so much on the economic power of the people.”

Lafferty added: “There is no challenge in Nigeria that is bad enough or worse than other places. Other places like the Philippines where you board a bus and then a boat or in places where you have to contend with pirates are far worse. There are challenges, but it’s incredibly exciting and if you decide to invest, it’s usually very rewarding.”

Besides, the Benin plant management has also embarked on a power generation project, as it is installing a 6.5 megawatt power plant, which would, from July, serve as its sole source of power.

Giving insight as to what propelled the company to embark on re-organisation of the plant, the Benin Plant Manager, David Iriabe, said: “As at 2000, when the plant started, we decided to preach a culture change but we did not get it quite right then, and after December 2008 when the plant was gutted by fire, we came out stronger, with massive training, home and abroad and putting in place of a plant structure that put Nigeria on the world map of industrial innovation.”

According to the Construction Manager and representative of ContourGlobal Solutions, Evans Igwe, the gas-powered plant will, “not only produce the power requirement, but will also guarantee carbondioxide and steam requirement for factory needs.”

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Echoes of the 32nd Kaduna Trade Fair

The 32nd Kaduna international trade fair has come and gone but its memory will continue to linger in the minds of manufacturers, exhibitors and traders who went there to market or launch their products.

While few business persons who participated at the fair which held from 25th February to 6th are counting gains, many of them are lamenting over the poor turnout at the fair.

“I’m not satisfied at all with the just concluded 32nd Kaduna International Trade Fair because they called it an international fair but I could not see anything international throughout the fair. This is the 5th country we are visiting to market our product called magic box. We were in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Egypt. Our aim of coming to this fair is to let the people know about our company and product. We prepared more than 30,000 pamphlets to create awareness,” a Chinese exhibitor who owns a company in Nigeria, called Firebird Land trading, Mr. David said

He said that they make a special design of the magic box that uses battery for Nigeria market knowing well that electricity is a challenge. According to him, only Nigeria has the new design which uses both electricity and battery.

He urged KADCCIMA, the organiser of the fair to do more in subsequent fairs in other to redeem the dying glory of the fair.

Like him, Second Secretary of Economic affairs in the Embassy of the Indonesia, Abuja, Mr. Kukuh Bedi Bjayadi thumped down the organiser of the fair.

“This kind of fair was the type organised during the 17th century in Indonesia. The organisation is very poor. In our country, we don’t organise fair like this again. There is need for the organisers to step up so as to make the fair an international one,’’ he told our correspondents at the country’s stand at the fair.

However, the workshop manager of Green Fingers Ltd, Mr. Daniel Owhutu blamed political rallies taking place in the state for the poor turnout.

“Kaduna exhibition is a well known trade fair for entrepreneurship, but this year there was poor turnout, nobody from the government was interested in what the exhibitors are doing. There is a bit of change this year; there were  a lot of exhibitors from all over Nigeria. Another factor responsible for the poor turnout was poor publicity,” he said.

He commended the management of KADCIMA for a job well done by getting the hawkers off the road; this he said made the fair to look more decent than it used to.

Numerous local traders also lamented. They complained soberly over the new arrangement introduced by the organisers in order to make the fair less chaotic.

One of the traders, Alhaji Aminu Haruna, a night gown seller says, “ We were pushed to an isolated area where there is no market, as you can see, I have been idle all along,” he lamented.

He stressed that the market in Kaduna town is far better than the fair because in the fair they pay to get space yet there is no market.

“This trade fair is not an extension of Gumi market because it is not every trader that comes to showcase their goods at the fair and there are some things you will find at the fair that you cannot get at the market,’’ a sales representative of SIMBA group, an Indian company, Mr. Christian Uduoba said.

He said that the fair was good and that they made reasonable sales, noting an improvement in the area of sales compared to the previous years.

Looking at the situation, the Head of Department of Economics of the Kaduna State University, Malam Zubairu Tajo Abdullahi identified the collapse of the manufacturing sector and the dwindling purchasing power of Nigerians as factors militating against the fairs.

“The manufacturing sector in the country has virtually collapsed, there is nothing to showcase. What are we going to showcase when the sector is almost dead? Are we going to showcase our traditional dances?  So the main objectives of the trade fair which is to showcase what we can produce and sell is no longer tainable. There is a loss of interest even on the part of serious business minded individuals,’’ he said

For the stimulation of the fair again, he said the manufacturing sector must be revived by putting in place favourable government policies.

“The second issue is that more and more of the resources of the nation is being concentrated in few hands. The so- called middle class which used to form the bulk of patronage of these trade fairs do no longer exist, this class has disappeared. We only now have the rich at the top and the poor at the bottom. The poor don’t have the purchasing power, the rich are too rich, they don’t care about these local fairs; they go oversees to buy what they want. So, there is a loss of interest in the trade fairs.

Veteran industrialist and Chairman of the Nigeria-Egypt Business council, Alhaji Mohammad Yusuf Lere, identified the transfer of major markets to the fair as the bane of its development.

“Most of the markets in the country are being transferred to the fair ground and nothing new is displayed.  This is why Nigerians are having apathy. Trade fairs are supposed to be an avenue for the display of new innovations, technologies and for the consolidation of business deals like signing of MoU, but it is now turned to a place for buying and selling alone,” he said.

Lack of proper follow up after the fair was also identified as another cause of the upturned in the sector by Lere. According to him, after the fair, there is need for the organizers to meet with the foreign exhibitors in order to know their successes, problems and they should together proffer solution to the problems.

“The organisers must show interest in all the participants. Appreciation letters should be written to them,” he added. Commending the organisers of Kaduna international trade fair for stepping up their campaigns, he said there is urgent need to address the chaotic situation and that adequate security should be provided in order to protect participants and their properties.

Lere who was a one-time Deputy President of KADCCIMA, said the organised private sector needs proper encouragement from the government because their role is very important in the development of the country’s economy.

On his part, the Director General of the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KADCCIMA), Alhaji Usman G. Saulawa blamed the situation on the world financial meltdown and lack of encouragement on the part of government.

He however ruled out the issue of security, saying Kaduna State is one of the most secure environments for business in the country following the security strategy of the state government.

“In other countries government are at the forefront in the promotion of trade fairs but here in Nigeria it is left for the organisers of the  fairs. The fair cannot grow in this situation. It is only when the fairs are fully supported by the government that the glamorous situation can return,’’ he said.

According to him, all the flourishing trade fairs in the world are booming because of the encouragement and backing of their government. To return to the glorious time, he said they have mapped out strategies. He said the strategies devised by them have started to yield result as many countries participated in this year’s fair.

“This is as a result of the trade missions we embarked upon to these countries to publicise our activities. We are working hard to return the glamour and flavour. It was not as if the fair was poorly attended, our new arrangement implemented this year to take hawkers off the roads, made it look that way,’’ he added.

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Furniture Making: The Millionare Business in Abuja

Mr. Taiwo Ojo is the MD/CEO of Grand Furnishing Company Limited based in Abuja. In this interview at his new factory, he bares his mind on the opportunities, innovations, challenges and the way forward for the furniture industry in Nigeria.

Can you tell us how you went into furniture business?

I started by working with another furniture company called Interior Woodwork Limited. It is one of the major furniture production companies in Abuja. I worked with them for seven years before I started my own. I’m very fortunate because I disengaged about a year ago and here I am today with a factory of mine. I was fortunate to win a contract with a major construction company here in Abuja. They gave me a job for the paneling of the wall and partition in the National Judicial Council and from where I was able to get the fund to set up my factory here.

Did you study anything related to what you are doing?

I’m a graduate of University of Ilorin. I graduated in 1992 and my discipline has nothing to do with furnishing because I’m a graduate of Social Administration. I also did Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.

I fell in love with the job when I moved from Kano to my former company, and I have been so many things to that company. I have been the head of production, head of Installation before I disengaged so I got to know the workings of furniture making through that company and I decided to make a vocation out of it.

What are the prospects of furniture industry in Nigeria?

The prospect is very great because if you look at Nigeria and particularly Abuja, many buildings are springing up. Though government pay lip service to the issue of building but private individuals and estate developers are all over the places and they require the services of carpenters like us to do the wardrobe,the kitchen, the doors and all that, so the prospect is really very high.

As a matter of fact, I want to believe now that we don’t have enough furniture makers in Nigeria to meet the demands, especially those who do the real thing not just the road side, we have quite a number of them but those who do the real thing that people want are very few.

How do you source your raw materials?

What we use here are what we called melamine face cheep boards or MFC. We import them mostly from China and these are boards that are fully finished in terms of the surface, all we do here is to cut them to sizes and then assemble and it become whatever we want it to be.

Can’t we manufacture some of these things in the country?

Of course we can. They are simple things. If you look at the Ajaokuta steel industry, we have everything but I don’t know what is keeping it down up till now. It’s just negligence on the part of government otherwise these are very simple things.

If you go to most Saw Mills, there are so many dust in the plain wood they cut that you can convert as raw materials to produce some of these boards but if you go to saw mills, you see heap of sawdust which are just set on fire as waste but these are the things that are used to make these article boards we are talking about.

If government is serious, it can encourage people or release funds to us to bring the machines and produce them and employ people and pay back their money.

What will you say about the recent unbanning of imported furniture’s in the country?

It’s definitely bad. As a matter of fact, some of us are thriving because of that ban. It is helping us to grow and develop but the good news is that I was speaking with my former MD few days ago, he said that unbanning did not hold water because it was not gazetted and that a lot of people that were importing furniture encountered problem at the point of arrival as Customs were seizing them because the Customs said though they heard over the news that there was an unbanning but there was no gazette to that effect so they are not working based on newspaper information or a circular from government.

As it is now, the unbanning has seized so we have gone back to the status quo whereby importation is still prohibited for furniture items and which is good for the company and Nigeria at large.

As small as this company is, we have employed not less than 20 people even though we have not started full operations because of the delay of the machines we are expecting but 20 people is not bad. If there is an unbanning, that means we will close shop and cause such people to go into the labour market which will further deplete the economy.

Does the quality of your products meet international standards?

Yes. The machines that are being used abroad are the machines that we imported into the country. So rather than go there and bring the finished goods, we have endeavored to bring those machines down to our country, the raw materials like I said earlier, are also imported.

The only thing that we are trying to do here is skill training. The difference between what we have here and there is the human being doing the job. Abroad they are more exposed and have good workers but here you have to train them to imbibe international standard and practices in what they do so if you see any difference, is the factor of the human doing the production element but for the machines, the raw materials, they are the same things.

Have you ever received assistance either from the government or financial institutions?

Absolutely no. When I was about to start my company, I had a challenge of how to raise money. Unfortunately I had no money, I just left my former place of employment. I approached my bank, unfortunately, the bankers too are not helping. All they were asking for was that I should bring collateral which I didn’t have.

They said if I have landed property here in Abuja, they could tie it to whatever money I want to collect but I said this is a contract paper from a reputable company. This is the value of the paper, you can do everything within your policy to release fund for this project but they said no, the best way out is for me to look for property anywhere.

I ran to an insurance company to see if I can get something like an insurance or performance bond which the company was requiring before they can give advance payment but they too were asking for collateral.

I was lucky to run into one of our old customer who also imports. He was the one that gave me the initial materials which I used to secure that particular job. So there is no support at all from government and most unfortunately even from banks that are supposed to be helping out.

Have you made any effort or know somebody who has been able to secure the N200 billion SMEs bailout fund?

I have not heard about anybody who has secured the fund for now.

How is the patronage like in the furniture business?

The patronage is very good and high especially in Abuja. Abuja residents go for quality. As long as you can give them what they want at an affordable price, the sky cannot even limit you. So many sites all over the place, the patronage is very impressive.

Can you tell us how much you make in a month even though you have not fully started?

My turnover in a month is about N5 million  just because I have not mounted my machines and I’m also careful not to take jobs that will stress and cause me to disappoint customers because I don’t have all the facilities right here now.

What are some of your challenges?

Number one constraint that is very well known to everybody is power as you can see I bought a 75KVA generator which is on standby. The second constraints is that of manpower. Like I said earlier on our people are used to the old method of doing things and this is a new horizon.

The products we are trying to produce can compete favorably with anyone elsewhere in the world and you cannot produce without the human factor. So the challenge of getting quality workers is also there but we are trying to overcome that by training and retraining the ones that we have.

The other challenge is fund. I said earlier on that in my initial take off, I had that challenge. If not that I was lucky to meet a friend who was willing to give me materials on credit, I might have lost out on the job completely and what that means is that I might have lost out on my dreams of having a factory like this.

Another   one may be government inconsistency in policy. We just talk about the issue of banning and unbanning; another government will come and do another thing. Most times, government play politics with the decisions they take not bearing in mind the far reaching consequences on the economy.

What is your message to unemployed graduates?

My message is simple. It is good to be educated because it will prepare you for the challenges ahead but we should not rely on the certificates because it is no longer a thing that is in vogue all over the world now. What is in vogue is for you to think deep within you.

I was trained as a social administrator and what that means is that I was supposed to be administrating to people in the prison, giving counsel to those who are distressed but I have gone way beyond that to think of what I can do that can generate employment for people. That should be the focal point of the new people coming into the labour force.

Government also should create a programme that will no longer be focused on certificates but on skill acquisition.

As I m  talking to you now there is skill gap in this furniture industry and if government identify it they can do something to begin to train people so that they can become marketable especially in the furniture industry.

I’m married with three children, two of them are in the secondary school and one is in the primary school, one boy two girls.

What is your message to managers of our economy?

They should remember that everyone has his or her role to play in the development of our nation. China today is said to be the second largest economy in the world apart from America. They got to that stage as a result of dedicated minds.

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Chinese Investment company to inject N7billion into Mining in Zamfara

China based Shenzhen Investment and some private investors are injecting N7 billion into the Zamfara Minerals Processing factory, even as work has commenced, a statement said yesterday.

Zamfara Minerals Processing factory was commissioned last year by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The new company Chairman/CEO Mr Tan Zhangwe said the decision to invest in the Brightway Minerals & Mining Ltd is purely based on the viability of the project and the strong presence of strategic minerals deposit in the state and the need to re-invigorate the company under  private sector ownership.

Mr Tan said that work has now reached over 40% completion on the installation of the smelter and the new central minerals processing plant in Mafara while detailed engineering drawings for the Chemical Leaching plant as well as modified floatation and gravity mills have been completed.

“A technical services agreement have also been entered between the company and China Minmetals and Yunnan Copper group because of their expertise in the sector as well as being among the biggest companies in the world in terms of technical know-how financial strength in solid minerals exploration and exploitation,” it said.

The chairman said part of the N7 billion will be used to pay back the N1.5 billion invested in the company by Zamfara State Government in order to reduce public sector ownership as a condition for direct foreign investment and  private sector participation in line with international trend through private placement thereby allowing the state government minimal participation but will at the same time  continue to play its role as facilitator and guarantor  of private sector investment and security in the state.

“In appreciating the government efforts and to ensure maximum benefits from the project in terms of revenue, the investors will give a 10% stake in the company as bonus and by taking-over the premises of the abandoned Mafara Bricks factory built over 30 years ago valued at –N-195 Million by Jide Taiwo & Company, a reputable and leading assets valuation firm in the country,” the statement said.

It said the balance of N5.5 billion will be invested in the ongoing 400tons/day capacity smelting plant for copper and a 200tons/day chemical leaching plant, modification and increase the capacity of the floatation and gravity mills, purchase of exploration/laboratory equipment and heavy duty mining plants as soon as the company’s minerals license is granted by the Federal Government after submission of the necessary exploration result and environmental impact assessment proposals in line with government regulations.

Mr Tan further said that because of the new capital injection, the company will increase its processing capacity to process 1000tons/day of assorted minerals.

As a result of that, the present site in Damba, Gusau cannot contain the smelter, leaching plant and increase capacity of the two mills. A decision was therefore taken to move some parts of the plant and machinery to the central smelting and processing facility now under construction in Mafara where the three processing techniques of smelting, leaching, floatation and gravity will be integrated. It is the first of its kind in the whole of Africa.

The present factory in Damba will now serve as corporate office, minerals buying and export Centre as well as laboratory.

Finally, Mr Tan assured indigenes in the state and all Nigerians willing to invest in solid minerals sector that, in line with the state governor’s plan, 40% of the company shares will be offered for sale to private investors in the next two years when the company is fully developed.

In his remark, the project promoter and businessman, Alhaji Muktar A Shinkafi commended the company for investing in the state.

He said he succeeded in bringing them to Nigeria purely because of President Jonathan’s power sector reform agenda and his desire to develop the solid minerals sector in Northern Nigeria, a sector that is vital to our economy but neglected by the previous regimes.

Alhaji Shinkafi further appealed to President Jonathan to make it mandatory for any company coming into the state for mining activities to invest part of its resources in the host communities by providing basic amenities like schools, hospital, road, employment etc, in order to avoid what is going on with our brothers in the Niger Delta regarding environmental degradation and lack of basic facilities for the host communities.

He also urge Mr president to create Mining University in Zamfara State, just like the one in Ghana or the Colorado because Zamfara have the highest concentration of strategic minerals like copper, gold, wolfromite etc. in the country.

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South Korea to establish cassava centres in Nigeria

 Usman A. Bello
The National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) would next month commission four cassava processing centres in Nigeria.

The two countries had in 2008 signed a bilateral agreement for the establishment of four agricultural processing centres at $1. 6 million dollars funded by the Korean government.

In a statement signed by the public relations officer of NAPEP,  Phil Oshodin, the National Coordinator of NAPEP, Dr. Magnus Kpakol, who disclosed this, said the equipment for the centres have been sent by the Korean government and are currently being cleared from Nigeria’s ports and that it was Korean efforts to help fight community poverty in Nigeria.

“The equipments consist of washing, peeling and grinding, compressing, drying, frying, and packaging machines. Each centre, would have a power generating set, water and other relevant facilities. The centre would be established in Enugu, Kogi, Ogun and Taraba states” the statement said.

He said about eight officials from the communities hosting the centres have concluded a training programme on how to use the equipment in South Korea.

”The Koreans have also donated six outside broadcast vehicles to NAPEP to enhance community economic sensitization. We have also proposed the training of 15 Niger Delta people in deep sea fishing in the next phase of the community poverty eradication scheme of the South Korean government,” the statement said

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How die/mould industry can lift Nigeria’s economy

written by Joseph Jibueze

Nigeria needs a virile die and moulds industry to propel its economic growth, winner of The Nigeria Prize for Science 2010, Prof. Akaehomen Ibhadode, has said.

The birth of such industry will help conserve foreign exchange spent on die/mould importation, stimulate industrial production, enhance non-oil exports, create wealth and generate employment, he further said.

Ibhadode won the prize, jointly organised by the Nigeria LNG Limited and the Nigerian Academy of Science, with his work entitled: ‘Development of New Methods for Precision Die Design.’ He was presented to the public in Lagos on Tuesday.

The Professor of Production Engineering at the University of Benin, in a paper he presented at the event, said modern manufacturers of automobile parts, and machines such as a kitchen blender, a paper clip or even an office pin, are made from dye and moulds.

He explained that a mould is any hollow-shaped container in which a solid product or article is made. It is used in a wide variety of manufacturing processes such as wire, rod and tube drawing, extrusion, forging and compression molding, and is, therefore, indispensable in any economy.

Ibhadode said it was unfortunate that Nigeria does not have “this all-important die/mould making technology.”

He added that dies/moulds used by the local plastics and bottle-making factories and the few automobile parts makers are imported at very high cost.

“Nigeria spent about N4billion in 2008 on the importation of dies and moulds. It is, therefore, important to develop the die/mould making industry. An investment of about N20million to N100million will give the capability for making a fairly wide range of dies/moulds.

“As the Nigerian business environment is currently not very friendly, it will be advisable for entrepreneurs and, indeed, all manufacturers to ‘get out of the box’ and apply the Nollywood Model for success, which entails ingenuity, inventiveness, innovativeness, hardwork, and putting your fate into your hands without looking up to government.

“Investment in new technologies and designing production for the international market are the other success strategies.

‘’We have lost so much ground in global competition despite our enormous endowments.’’

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Blackberry Apps launched in Nigeria

Developers of the Blackberry phone; Research In Motion (RIM) has through it’s Managing Director for Africa, Mr. Deon Liebenberg announced that the Blackberry App World, an application that had initially been closed to users on the continent has now been launched in Nigeria.

BlackBerry App World, the official application store for BlackBerry smartphones, provides BlackBerry smartphone customers with an integrated service for discovering, downloading, recommending and managing mobile applications for personal or business use. Application stores have traditionally been closed to users in Africa and so the launch of Blackberry App World in Nigeria is a major milestone in the process of increasing access to online content and tools for African and Nigerian consumers.

Customers can now download BlackBerry App World directly to their smart phone as it automatically presents customers with the relevant catalogue of applications available for their specific BlackBerry smartphone model.

Speaking at the Mobile Web West Africa conference in Lagos RIM Managing Director for Africa Deon Liebenberg said: “We are very pleased to offer this experience to our customers in Nigeria, which we see as a very exciting market going forward.”

Blackberry had not given reasons for the blockage, but CyberLife had probed and a source had opened up. The reason for the initial blockage is clear. Nigeria and similar other African nations were not recognised internationally as a major market bloc because the Apps had to be paid for online and Nigeria like most third world nations had been unable to do this until recently. With any of the internationally recognised smartcard, users of the Blackberry phone in the country can now pay for and have the applications.

This problem had shut the country out but only for a short while as the nation has fast transformed into a phenomenal market with blackberry users in the country going into their hundreds of thousands.

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Stock market loses N168billion

Written by Kayode Ekundayo

Trading activities on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange dipped further by N168.09 billion as market experienced intense selling activities.

About 122 equities were traded yesterday with more activities in Banking, Insurance, Food & Beverages, Maritime, Chemical & Paints sectors and at the close of trading session, the NSE All-Share Index dropped further by 1.92 per cent to close at 26,830.67 as against a dip by 0.77 per cent recorded previous session to close at 27,356.59. In the same vein, market capitalization moved down by N168.09billion to close at N8.57 trillion as against depreciation by N67.87billion recorded on preceding session to close at N8.74 trillion.

Four sectoral indices closed negative as NSE 30 which basically measures the performance of blue chips in the market dropped by 2.94 per cent, NSE Banking dropped the highest points by 2.97 per cent, NSE Oil & Gas declined by 2.56 per cent while NSE Food & Beverages retraced by 0.26 per cent while NSE Insurance, the only gainer, maintained the positive posture to gain by 0.83 per cent.

As usual, Banking sector led the market transaction volume today with 208.28 million units valued at N1.84billion exchanged in 3,275 deals as against 247.64 million units valued at N1.72billion exchanged in 3,913 deals recorded previous session.

The volume recorded in the sector was driven by transaction in the shares of UBA Plc, First Bank Plc, Oceanic Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and the total volume of 129.25 million units valued at N1.58 billion traded in the shares of the five stocks accounted for 45.72 per cent of the entire market volume and their value represented 50.78 per cent of the market’s value.

Transaction volume on the exchange dipped further marginally by 22.69 per cent to close at 282.72 million units exchanged in 5,768 deals as against a growth by 6.83 per cent recorded previous trading to close at 365.70 million units exchanged in 6,873 deals.

Also, market value moved down by 8.93 per cent to close at N3.11billion as against a decline by 4.91% recorded previous trading session to close at N3.42billion

The intense selling activities witnessed towards blue chips and stocks that have recorded impressive price appreciation, particularly in Banking, Building Materials, Breweries, Food & Beverages and Oil sectors impacted the negative outlook recorded. However, moderate buying recorded in Insurance sector.

The number of gainers at the close of trading session closed lower at 16 positions as against 34 gainers recorded previous session while decliners closed higher at 50 position compared with 34 losers in the previous trading day.

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Chinese Traders take over Nigerian Market

The chairman of Kanti Kwari Traders Association, Alhaji Jibril Muhammad, says Chinese traders have colonised the famous Kantin Kwari Market in Kano.

Can you tell us the genesis of the feud in the Kanti Kwari Market Association that led to your emergence as its chairman?

Well! To God we give all the glory; sincerely speaking the issue of elections in this market has been an issue for over two years. Initially, we had finished all arrangements to conduct the association’s election when all of a sudden the state government waded in on the issue. It brought politics into the whole thing by conniving with some of the business men in the market, most of whom were major shop owners in the market. And I am appealing to all stakeholders in the market to cooperate with the new leadership by giving their moral and financial support to help the market grow stronger. However, the challenges we are going to face now are more serious than those we faced before, because now we are not alone. We are dealing with other gigantic business empires probably stronger than ours-the Chinese.

Can you explain further?

I am referring to the Chinese here. You see you cannot compare the situation with when we were dealing with the Lebanese. With the Lebanese we operated almost on equal footing, but with the Chinese it is different. Today dealers do not go to China to bring goods any longer. Rather the Chinese bring their goods directly.

They are the manufacturers, the importers and the retailers.  They have their government support, making them more powerful than any of us. We have been reduced to just mere agents in the market, it is a game of if you can’t defeat them you join them.

Does that mean they are doing more harm than good to the business?

A kind of, because, they are helping others and at the same time pushing others out of the business arena. What we are saying is that we will devise a way of looking into these things with a view to finding a lasting solution to it.

How do you plan to solve the Chinese problem?

We hope to have a government that will cooperate with us in urging the Chinese to go back and let our people go to them and import. I believe if we are able to achieve that the market will regain its vigour.

Can we say that the Chinese have taken over the market from you?

Yes of course. The Chinese have taken over the market and the business entirely. It is an open secret. You can only be in business now when you are with the Chinese as their agent and if care is not taken, you will end up indebted to them for the rest of your life.

Did your association officially report this development to the government?

When I was chairman of the traders association, about seven years ago, traders from Cotonou in Benin Republic warned us about these Chinese atrocities.

They told us that the Chinese people have already taken over their market and their next target is Kano. We thanked them and planned strategies to counter that. We held meetings with business stakeholders in the state on the issue. But we were handicap with the Federal Government position. Our idea was that they could bring in goods and our people will go and buy wholesale from them when they bring containers.

In fact our preference was for them to allow our people to go there directly.

Before if you make a trip to China and bring one container you can easily sell, make gain and go back. In fact if you are lucky and business is good, from one container you can progress to three or four in less than five months. Today, traders do not have the capacity to travel anymore. In fact, the worse part of it is that they are now retailers in Kantin Kwari. They own shops now. They have connived with some traders and government official to destroy the market. Though we have tried our best but you know the government is more powerful than everybody. I could remember some of our business partners even organized a protest against our stand. But this cannot continue. You can’t try this nonsense in China. How can we develop when we have mortgaged our future and business to China? The government owes it as a patriotic duty to arrest this situation before it gets out of hand.

Recently Kanti Kwari market was razed down by fire. There are complains on monetary compensation and the need for the restructuring of the market. What is your take on this?

The issue of market restructuring God willing if we have the chance and we have a government that has the will the market leadership will do something on it.

We have the plan if possible to seek for the relocation of the Sani Abacha Stadium to another place far away from the town so as to have enough space for expansion.

This stadium is a nightmare for traders anytime there is a match. Anytime they have football match, hooligans will always seize the opportunity to cause one trouble or the others so that they could come and loot the market. Anytime there is a match we close as early as 4 pm. That is bad for business. If the stadium is relocated, the market can take over that space and decongest the whole area.

The compensation money has run into problem because in most cases those genuinely affected hardly benefit but I don’t want to comment too much lest I be accused of playing politics. I respect Governor Ibrahim Shekarau. I respect his level of faith in Allah.

But I think that issues like this should not be left for Allah alone because public money is involved. Kano State leadership ought to have checked on the activities of the committee inaugurated to disburse over N500 million gathered for the victims of the fire incidence. We are not satisfied with the state government’s attitude of not checking the activities of the committee. Because we know that they are not doing the right thing.

We know individuals who have pocketed monies meant for compensation and that is wrong.

Apart from the relocation of the Sani Abacha Stadium, don’t you have any other plan to restructure the market?

You see, the issue here is that only a business man knows the plight of a business colleague. The issue of relocating the market here does not arise, because there are a lot of things that needs to be taken into consideration; for instance the distance and accessibility to basic infrastructures.

Fire outbreak in the market has been a recurrent issue. What is the real solution?

If you attribute the fire to overcrowding, we will seek for the business community’s cooperation in ensuring that all crowded places were decongested by constructing access roads.

And I know we will encounter problem with the major shop owners whose sole aim is to expand their business empires even if it means blocking a major road.

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