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Nigeria’s Economy Gets Fitch’s ‘BB’ Rating

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Fitch Ratings has affirmed Nigeria’s long-term foreign and local currency IDRs and senior unsecured bond ratings at ‘BB-’ and ‘BB’ .

The outlook is stable, according to the agency, which also affirmed Nigeria’s short-term foreign currency IDR at ‘B’ and Country Ceiling at ‘BB-’.

The affirmation reflects the following key rating drivers: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slowed to 6.4per cent in last quarter 2013, but has shown resilience in the face of exogenous shocks: severe floods in 2012, which hit agricultural output; security problems, especially in the North earlier this year; and increased oil theft and vandalism and the consequent repair shutdowns which have caused oil output to contract for the second year in a row.

The non-oil economy has slowed but still grew by 7.9per cent in 2012 and 7.6per cent in H113. Non-oil growth should pick-up in H213 as normal weather has resumed and the authorities have responded to security problems.

Reforms to the electricity and agriculture sectors could start to boost potential growth. Inflation has been in single digits all year – the lowest in five years and the longest stretch of single digit inflation since 2008. Policy rates are also unchanged.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has the twin aims of achieving single-digit inflation and maintaining exchange rate stability.

Public finances remain comfortable. Fitch estimates a general government deficit of around 1.8per cent of GDP this year and next. Both oil and non-oil revenues are under-budget and the Excess Crude Account (ECA) has been tapped to compensate. Capital spending also remains under budget. The draft 2014 budget plans ambitious fiscal consolidation, with lower oil production and benchmark oil prices and lower spending than the 2013 budget.

However, Fitch expects that oil production will likely fall short again, and the final budget that emerges from the National Assembly (NA) is likely to be more expansionary. Nevertheless, Fitch expects general government debt to remain stable at just over 20per cent of GDP.

Nigeria’s sovereign and overall external balance sheets, current account surplus, debt service ratio and external liquidity are all stronger than ‘BB’ category medians.

Foreign reserves rose steadily in early 2013 but have been falling since May due to reduced oil output, prompting ECA drawdown, and global market turbulence, which has reduced foreign appetite for NGN paper (though net inflows have continued).

The CBN intervened to support the naira when it came under pressure mid-year after Fed-tapering turbulence, although reserves have held up much better than many large emerging markets.

Nigeria effectively re-opened the Eurobond market in July, raising $1billion in its second issuance. Reform progress remains mixed. Electricity privatisation has passed a key milestone with generators and distributors now in private hands. Output seems to be on a rising trend, although it has been affected by gas pipeline damage and an impact on GDP growth is hard to discern. Agricultural reforms are also gaining traction.

The most obvious benefit to the economy has been a fall in imports last year, due to reduced oil subsidy payments, a crackdown on fraud in the oil subsidy system and substitution in the agricultural sector.

However, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) remains stalled in the National Assembly. Strong vested interests will make structural reform a continual struggle, especially with elections in 2015.

Nigeria’s ratings remain constrained by weak governance, low per capita income and vulnerability to oil price volatility. The government is responding to the Boko Haram insurgency mainly with security measures. Data weaknesses hamper the monitoring of economic and fiscal performance and reform progress.

The Stable Outlook reflects the fact that in Fitch’s view, upside and downside risks are well balanced. The main factors that individually or collectively might lead to rating action are as follows: Positive: – Continuing structural reforms that brought faster, more diverse and inclusive growth and higher employment and per capita incomes. – A longer track record of low single-digit inflation. – Improved external buffers, either in the ECA or the new Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSIA). – Improved governance as reflected in World Bank and anti-corruption indicators. Negative: – A sustained period of lower oil prices or oil production and an inappropriate policy response, leading to serious reserve loss and deterioration in the fiscal position. – Reversal of key structural reforms. A serious deterioration in domestic security, whether stemming from terrorism or election-related violence.


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Microsoft Moves into 5G Race with Azure Cloud for Telecom Operators

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Microsoft Corp unveiled a new cloud platform on Monday aimed at enabling telecom operators to build 5G networks faster, reduce costs and sell customised services to business clients.

After banning China’s Huawei from its telecom network, the U.S. government has been pushing big American companies such as Microsoft to get more involved with 5G – a technology which promises to enable everything from self-driving cars to remote surgery and more automated manufacturing.

The new platform will be on Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud computing business, and the company says it will reduce infrastructure costs, give flexibility to add services on demand and use artificial intelligence to automate operations.

Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president for Azure Networking, told Reuters that it could cut costs by 30%-40% in some cases.

The developer of Windows and Office software entered the 5G arena after its acquisition of cloud networking companies Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch earlier this year.

“The telco DNA was obtained through those acquisitions and we went from a small number of engineers in this space to literally hundreds of engineers,” said Khalidi. “On the other hand, the foundational pieces, including edge compute, we have had in a pipeline for many years.”

The company has already partnered with companies ranging from telecom operators such as Verizon VZ.N and AT&T T.N to network equipment firms such as Samsung 005930.KS and Mavenir to either use or sell the new platform to clients.

Microsoft’s move will increase competition for existing 5G service vendors like Nokia NOKIA.HE and Ericsson ERICb.ST, said CCS Insight analyst Nicholas McQuire.


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Interior Ministry Boosts Digitization Process with New ICT Projects

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Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior, over the weekend commissioned the e-Library, e-Law Library, CCTV Surveillance network services and other projects in his office in Abuja to digitize work processes and procedures in the Ministry.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Georgina Ekeoma Ehuriah, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said that the projects were part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts at repositioning the Ministry for better performance in line with its mandate of providing internal security and citizenship integrity for Nigerians and foreigners alike.

According to him, the e-Library will avail officers the opportunity to access the right information, in the right form and time.

“The e-Library gives our legal and other officers 24/7 access to a wide range of online resources, which can be updated in real time and we believe this will enhance the quality of their work to the benefit of the Ministry”, he said.

The Minister further assured of government’s commitment to putting in place measures that will boost staff capacity and also ensure self-development, with a view to ensuring proper implementation of projects, policies and programmes that will improve the lives of Nigerians which would lead to economic transformation in line with the present Administration’s policy thrust.

Aregbesola emphasized that crime and criminality has become complex to handle, the world over, hence the need to deploy modern technology to fight it.

He therefore called on staff to see the projects as morale booster for self-development and urged them to continue to support the efforts of government towards improving the lives of its citizens.

Earlier, Lanre Adesuyi, the Chief Executive Officer, Havillah Merchants Limited, thanked the Minister for giving them the opportunity to provide workers with state of the art equipment for efficient service delivery.

On his own part, Mr. Mohammed Mustapha, the Managing Director, Aliph Technologies, called on government at all levels to see the deployment of modern technology as one of the best ways to tackle security challenges in the contemporary world.


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Heritage Bank, PWC, Deloitte Canvass Use of Tech to Tackle Fraud & Rescind Effects of Covid-19

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Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s Most Innovative Banking Service provider has called on internal auditors of banks to adopt the various digital technologies to prevent fraud and annul the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the financial ecosystem.

Ifie Sekibo, managing director/CEO of Heritage Bank, speaking at the just concluded 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN), disclosed that for improved banking operations and safer financial system for stakeholders, internal auditors must be dynamic and quick to adopt various digital measures.

Raising the alarming impact of fraudulent activities in the banking sector, Sekibo quoted PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PWC’s) Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020, revealing that that the total cost of cybercrimes is worth an eye-watering $42 billion, which was cash taken straight off companies’ bottom line, whilst 13% of those who had experienced  fraud said they had lost $50 million-plus.

Sekibo, who spoke on the theme, “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities” organised virtually and hosted by the Heritage Bank, urged, “While it was sufficient for yesterday’s auditor to understand regular and routine banking practices such as credit, treasury, etc in his traditional assurance role, for him to be relevant in harnessing the opportunities in today’s business world, he must become versed in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, fraud management, regulatory pronouncements, forensics etc and having equipped himself, present balanced, objective audit reports to Executive Management while striking the right balance between the assurance and consulting responsibilities.”

In her keynote address, titled, “Elevating Internal Audit Role In The Face Of Emerging Risks and Opportunities,” Ibukun Beecroft, Partner Risk Advisory at Deloitte, noted that the banking industry in Nigeria today has adopted various digital measures to keep the business running and delivering services to the customers but there was need for Internal Audit (IA) positioned to provide the required assurance and consulting services in the face of the changes and attendant risk, particularly increased cyber-risks.

Quoting 2018 Financial Stability Report by the Central Bank of Nigeria, she stated that Banks recorded 25,029 confirmed cases of fraud and this resulted in a loss of N2.21 billion. More than 90% of fraud cases in 2018 were perpetrated via technologically driven channels.

“As Internal Auditors, the knowledge of technology would enable us identify gaps in our core banking applications and other applications and provide relevant recommendations to eliminating loopholes that may serve as an avenue for potential fraud.

She, however, advised auditors on the need to focus on advanced technologies and risk management operations as reflected around the Three Lines of Defense (3LOD) churned out by the Institute of Internal Auditors, which create opportunities for IA and its future role.

Beecroft warned that the ever-changing landscape and evolving risks in the banking industry could render the current internal audit plan obsolete.

According to her, internal auditors should reprioritise the audit plan as soon as possible to provide assurance over the most consequential risks while being cognisant of the impact on operations.

“To take advantage of these changes and disruptions, auditors need to rethink their role by adapting to and embracing change, enabling the IA function to become more agile, nimble, and forward-looking, thus driving change through the 3LOD,” Beecroft stated.

Yetunde Oladeji, director Internal Audit Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers Limited (PWC), who spoke on the theme, “Elevating IA’s role to meet today’s emerging risks,” advised that the banking sector should be dynamic, prioritse digitization and flexibible workforce strategies as these would determine its ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances to survive and thrive.


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