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COVID-19 Pause: Need for National Reflection and Self Reliance

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By Akinyele Okeremi

The COVID-19 pandemic brings to the fore a rare opportunity for African nations to reawaken and reconsider national strategies. However, if we needed an emergency, we have it. It hinges on our future.

It hinges on our children. It hinges on how we react to this timely reminder. Because it is difficult for anyone to have imagined that the world would get to a situation where local and international travels would be restricted while social and commercial activities are almost comatose.

The travel restrictions also have an adverse impact on the movement of goods and services. It is safe to state that global interdependence has never been challenged the way it is presently.

While the world will remain interdependent, it is necessary for countries, especially Africans, to consider their capabilities to respond to challenges to become more self-reliant than they currently are.

With all due respect to many brilliant Africans, who are trying to create value legitimately, many riches in Africa are created through corruption and rent seeking. The economic situation in economies that depend heavily on natural resources such as petroleum-like Nigeria are likely to suffer a balance of trade deficits and may become unable to meet their financial obligations except they consciously move into other areas that are capable of generating sustenance and possible foreign exchange. More importantly, the challenges of the balance of trade are national security concerns for African countries.

Most of the critical activities that determine security and actual sovereignty are not in the control of nationals of African countries. It is funny. Why is it that all the time African countries must go begging? Why is Africa always at the receiving end? Has anything ever happened in the world and Africa has offered help instead of begging for help? It tells you we are not thinking right and this is the same thing that has happened and not just in government but also in our private businesses.

Turn our youthful population into gold

African countries need to develop their abilities to create real value for themselves rather than expect wealth to come merely because we are endowed with natural resources (which we invite foreigners to exploit on our behalf).

Africa must gravitate towards productive and knowledge-based economies. Data shows that Africa is blessed with a young and well-educated population. This makes it possible for them to contribute to the economy beyond mere primary products. With proper national strategies and value systems, the teeming African youth can create solutions to the challenges that daily face them.

This is extremely dangerous as this makes many African countries to become mere glorified colonies that cannot make sound decisions in their own interests and may never stand by such decisions if they are ever taken because of pressure from the countries that control their critical assets and resources.

What this translates into is that we dare not disagree seriously with those countries; otherwise our security will be in jeopardy. The security of African nations must be in the hands of Africans in substantive terms and not mere lip service.

Provide internally created solutions

Africa needs to rise to the challenge of becoming a continent to reckon with for providing solutions to challenges of the world. With no fear of equivocation, many Africans all over the world are working hard and have achieved great successes in their respective careers but the challenge is why does it appear that Africans do well in the diaspora? But do not do well on African soil?

My stab at this is that the institutions in the African continent need to be developed and strengthened to ensure that we can produce guaranteed relevant leaders. Africa needs to take another look at its compensation mechanism.

There is an obvious need to ensure that the right processes and results are appropriately rewarded while unacceptable conducts are punished accordingly. As the balance of trade challenges stare brazenly at us, there is a need to encourage policies to conserve our financial resources.

We need to ensure that we consume what we produce and to produce what we consume. This will require hard work and heavy lifting on the part of the leadership at all levels of African society. We need to take another look at our food security – I do not know how much of our food is in our control as Africans and I am concerned about this.

Wean ourselves off foreign solutions 

A cursory look at our financial and the banking systems in Nigeria reveals that more than 90% of applications run by Nigerian banks come from foreign countries, mostly from India. The implication is that the Nigerian financial system could be switched off remotely with an attendant consequence of social unrest and possible removal of structures and even governments.

While this may seem far-fetched, it is my honest opinion that the risk and possibilities are very present and discerning leadership need to take a closer look at the possibilities in doing their risk assessments and response preparation.

If Africa is to make the right progress in the right direction, we need to build our own society, create solutions to solve our own problems without the need for wholesale copy and paste. We will refer to the beautiful and nice works that are in existence in other countries, but we will only adopt them and own them wholly in Africa.

In conclusion, I posit that the challenges with our current level of development create a major opportunity for us to produce our own solutions to those challenges with minimal help from other countries. This will give us the opportunity to move towards development and simultaneously creating wealth for ourselves as a people.

Recently, I listened to an interview by a Ghanaian woman who said, “I do not blame you [Europeans] – you did and are doing [all this] for your survival; we [Africans] can’t blame you for that. The fact is, we [Africans] didn’t do enough for our own survival and we are still not doing enough for our survival – that is not your problem.”

The context is that Africans, nay Nigerians, are not doing enough for our survival as a nation and as a people. COVID-19 has just exacerbated the situation we have put ourselves and the ramifications will come home to roost now unless we reflect and put in place many structures that will make us self-reliant soon.

 

Dr Okeremi is the MD/CEO of Precise Financial Systems headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria.


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Verve Rewards 600 Customers in Good Life Promo

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Africa’s leading payment technology and card brand, Verve International, has rewarded 600 customers so far after the third weekly draws in the ongoing Verve ‘Good Life’ Promo.

Verve rewarded the lucky cardholders at prize presentation ceremonies held in various locations across the country recently.

Amongst the 300 lucky cardholders that emerged winners of the N10,000 cash prize in the weekly raffle draws that have held three times were: Adeleke Moshood, a student from Oyo State; Adeogun Shakiru, an automobile specialist and Rashidat Abolaji, a businesswoman, both from Lagos State.

Another set of 300 Verve cardholders emerged winners of airtime worth N5,000, bringing the total amount won so far to N4.5 million Naira.

Speaking during the draws, Cherry Eromosele, Group Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Interswitch Group, expressed her delight about the number of cardholders that have been rewarded lately.

Eromosele reiterated Verve’s resolve to continue to provide secure, convenient and reliable payment solutions for its cardholders.

She said: “Because our cardholders are of priority to us at Verve, beyond providing them brilliant payment solutions, we are rewarding them for their loyalty with the expectation that the reward helps them achieve the good life, whatever the good life means to them”.

Verve recently launched a nationwide promo tagged The Verve ‘Good Life’ Promo which kicked off on September 1, 2020 and will run till November 29, 2020.

The promo seeks to enable Verve’s loyal cardholders to live the good life, whatever the ‘good life’ means to them.

The promo is targeted at rewarding over 2,500 Verve cardholders nationwide, with over N27million Naira in cash and airtime, during the course of 12 weeks duration of the promo.

With three weeks concluded out of the twelve weeks of the promo, Verve cardholders have eight more weeks to keep transacting with their cards and standing the chance to win.

Other Nigerians presently without Verve cards but have the desire to enjoy the good life, can take advantage of this eight-week window to ask their respective banks for a Verve card in order to start transacting, to qualify to win from an array of exciting prizes.

The prizes have been categorized into four segments, with their respective qualification requirements as follows:

Weekly Prize category 1 – N10,000 cash for 100 winners weekly, requires at least 3 transactions weekly. Weekly Prize category 2 – N5,000 for 100 airtime every week, requires at least 3 transactions weekly.

Monthly Prize category – N50,000 cash for 50 winners every month, requires at least 12 times monthly Grand Prize category – N1,000,000 cash for 2 winners, requires at least 36 transactions from now till the end of the promo.

Prospective winners of the Verve ‘Good Life’ promo should consistently use their Verve cards within the next eight weeks, across payment channels such as Point of Sale (POS) terminals, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Web and agent banking centers.


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World Cleanup Day: Coca-Cola Partners NGOs, Recovers Over 900kg of Plastic Waste

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World Cleanup Day, celebrated globally on September 19, 2020, saw diverse people come together to combat the solid waste problem through numerous community cleanup activities.

 

To mark this day, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited partnered with two local NGOs – African Cleanup Initiative and Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children (MEDIC), on cleanup activities across Lagos and Ibadan.

African Cleanup Initiative held cleanup activities across numerous locations in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states. This outreach saw more than 200 volunteers gather to collect over 1,500kg of solid waste materials and about 300kg of recyclable waste materials.

 

At the Lagos event, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Mrs Belinda Aderonke Odeneye, applauded the programme.

 

She expressed the Lagos State Government’s delight at being part of the cleanup activity. Odeneye, who was represented by the Assistant Director, Sanitation Services Department of the Ministry, Mrs Toyin Oguntola, went further to encourage citizens to be environmentally responsible.

She stated, “The government can only perform excellently with law-abiding citizens. We all have a role to play in waste management and ignoring those responsibilities will make all the efforts of the government futile”. 

 

Similarly, the International Coastal Cleanup held at Bonny Camp Coastline by Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children (MEDIC) also produced outstanding results with about 600kg of marine plastic waste materials recovered and over 250kg of marine debris sent to the landfill. The outreach saw participation from over 100 volunteers.

 

These activities are in line with Coca-Cola’s vision for a World Without Waste and the company’s commitment to doing business sustainably.

 

Speaking on its World Without Waste initiatives, Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability Manager, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, explained, “We all have a responsibility to keep our environment clean and Coca-Cola is not left out as we remain committed to promoting a sustainable environment through our plastic recycling and recovery activities, as well as other environmental initiatives”. 

With the award of grants of over $800,000 by The Coca-Cola Foundation to multiple local NGOs, several recycling and women empowerment programs are being implemented to help address the issue of environmental protection while simultaneously empowering women who remain significant pillars of the environment.

 


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TETFund Seeks Increased Annual Research Funding of $1bn

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The Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, Thursday, urged the federal to increase its yearly funding for Research and Development (R&D) to $1 billion. This was as it hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for his recent increase of the research grant from N5 billion to N7.5 billion.

Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, executive secretary of TETFund, speaking at the inauguration of TETFund’s R&D Standing Committee in Abuja, said massive investment in research would bring about the much-needed development in the country.

Bogoro also said it was time for the promulgation of a law that will bring into full place what he referred to as the “National R&D Foundation (NRDF)” to deepen research in the country.

Hear him:”To galvanize our vision towards making R&D the ace and game changer in our national development agenda, the need for an appropriate law to support the establishment of a National R&D Foundation (NRDF) cannot be overstated.

“We need a robust institutional framework and arrangement for the NRDF. I am recommending a minimum annual budgetary threshold of 1billion dollars as the funding portfolio for this Foundation.

“When we consider the inevitable benefits of R&D and the inevitable benefits of R&D and the socio-economic challenges in Nigeria, this amount begins to look like a drop of water in the ocean-population of 200 million people in 2020 and projected to become double in 10 years for now.”

Prof. Bogoro, who said the TETFund’s R&D Standing Committee is expected to come up with its own recommendation on the required amount that is suitable for efficient research activities in the country, called for a robust collaboration between researchers and the private sector to bring about all-round development in the country.

“It is envisaged that the private sector of the economy should pick the gauntlet to steamroll the lofty initiative by taking ownership of it,” he said.

Prof. Bogoro lauded the recent performance of Nigerian universities in the world’s ranking, saying TETFund intervention projects have continued to encourage such feats.

On his side, Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, while inaugurating the committee, called on members to put their best to the work he described as ‘national assignment.’

Represented by the Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukuemeka Nwajuiba, Adamu said that continued investment in research would herald a rebirth of Nigeria.

“Nigeria voted us into power predicated on our being able to transform our national aspirations and make them a national achievement.

“It is in recognition of this direction that the Executive Secretary, TETFund, presented his vision of a research-driven nation and how to finance that ambition through the Board of Trustees (BOT).

“To a large extent, Nigeria’s future depends on you. You have been summoned to a national service that is not available to the rest of the 200 million population. It is a national calling that requires almost all of you,” he said.

On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on Tertiary Education and Services, Hon. Aminu Suleiman said the work of the committee would open the windows of opportunities to tackle various developmental challenges confronting the country.

Suleiman, represented by Hon. Ikenna Elezieanya, lamented the way Nigeria has shown less concern to research, saying that many developed countries invested in research and development and thus helped to improve on their economy.

He said, “Research is the gateway of innovation. It is said that while countries like the USA, Korea, and the like have been investing in research and development, we seem to show less concern.”

He encouraged beneficiaries to take good advantage of the initiative to solve problems for the betterment of the country.

Responding, the Chairman of the over 160-member TETFund’s R & D Committee, Prof. Njidda M. Gadzama, said the epoch-making event will transform the socio-economic sector by ensuring the robust promotion of cutting-edge innovations.

“We promise to carry out our assignment with commitment and diligence and this will result in the R & D Culture and R&D Foundation to drive industrialization of the country,” he said.

The standing committee whose membership is drawn from the academic, industry, and private sector, has the President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, Mansur Ahmed, as one of the three Vice Presidents.


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