Items filtered by date: Monday, 13 August 2018

The Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, said his company is the frontrunner to set up and manage Nigeria’s new national carrier, Nigeria Air.

Gebremariam made this known on Friday at a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city.

He said his airline belongs to a small group of investors interested in establishing the national carrier.

“We are among a small group with an interest in establishing a national carrier (in Nigeria)… we do not know the results (of the tender), though we are frontrunners,” Gebremariam told Reuters at the event.

Recall that the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had, last month, unveiled the new national at the Farnborough International Public Airshow in London, United Kingdom.

“It is a business, not a social service. Government will not be involved in running it or deciding who runs it. The investors will have full responsibility for this

“Though, you need that initial government financial to make it take off, but what is important is that the national carrier will be entirely private sector controlled.

“There will be zero government interference. But if that happens, it invalidates the certificate (Outline Business Case Certificate of Compliance for the establishment of the airline) and the entire process,” he said.

In July, Gebremariam had disclosed that the Ethiopian Airlines was interested in the Nigerian project.

Ethiopian Airlines, the only consistently profitable carrier in Africa, serves about 70 global cities and 60 across Africa from its hub in Addis Ababa with a fleet of over 100 aircraft.

The air company already owns stakes in carriers in Malawi and Togo and is seeking to establish holdings in Zambia, Chad, Mozambique, Guinea and Eritrea while helping to manage existing operators in Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Presently, the airline is ranked the largest carrier in African continent by revenue and profit, according to the International Air Transport Association.

 

Source: The Ripples

Published in Business

As a part of measures to promote Made-in-Nigeria goods that would meet international standards, the Bank of Industry (BOI) has provided a total of N400 million to local manufacturers.

The funds, which would be made available quarterly to over 300 members of the Leather Products Manufacturers Association of Abia State (LEPMAAS), are expected to be disbursed through the Fidelity Bank Plc, while the Ford Foundation would be providing other technical support.

Speaking at the formal launch of the Aba Finished Goods Cluster Financing programme in Aba, Abia state, the Managing Director of the BOI, Olukayode Pitan, said the programme was designed to provide financial aid to qualified members of the LEPMAAS.

“It was this significant opportunity to substitute import volumes by supporting quality improvement of Made in Aba products, create additional jobs and improve the qualities of lives of the Artisans that led the Bank of Industry to design this tailored programme.

“By providing low interest, non-collaterised loans, the Bank has provided flexibility for qualified members of LEPMAAS recommended by their lines and zonal chairman to access up to N300,000 towards the procurement of materials to expand and improve their production activities,” he said.

In June, in a bid to address inadequate access to credit facilities facing fashion entrepreneurs in the country, the BOI had issued N1 billion fashion fund to support entrepreneurs producing and marketing fashion items such as clothes, handbags, shoes, jewelry/accessories etc.

Source: Vanguard

Published in Business

The trade volume between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Nigeria in 2017 stood at $7.7 billion, the Malaysia High Commissioner-designate to Nigeria, Gloria Tiwet, has said.

ASEAN comprises 10 countries, with only five represented in Nigeria. They are Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

Tiwet made this disclosure while leading Embassies’ Heads of Missions and ASEAN member-states’ High Commissioners on a visit to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, on Thursday in Abuja.

She said the envoys were in the ministry to familiarise the minister on ASEAN Day and Film Festival scheduled to hold soon in Abuja, noting that the festival was aimed at strengthening relations between Nigeria and ASEAN, particularly in the area of culture.

“In 2017, the trade volume between ASEAN and Nigeria amounted to $7.7 billion. That is very promising and portrayed good relations between our countries and Nigeria.

“Trade is one area that we looked into to strengthen our bilateral relations, and respectively, we represent our countries here as ambassadors and high commissioners to strengthen our bilateral relations as much as we can,” she said.

 

Source: The Business Insider

Published in Business
At the end of last week’s trading, the NSE All-Share Index depreciated by 2.89 per cent, while the market capitalisation dipped by 2.86 per cent to close at 35,446.47 points and N12.941 trillion respectively.
 
Similarly, all other indices finished lower with the exception of the ASeM Index that remained flat.
 
A further breakdown of activities last week, showed that 20 equities appreciated in price, lower than 34 in the previous week.
 
Also, 47 equities depreciated in price, lower than 48 equities of the previous week, while 103 equities remained unchanged higher than 87 equities recorded in the previous week.
 
Consequently, a turnover of 925.630 million shares worth N8.333 billion in 15,565 deals was achieved by investors on the floor of the Exchange, against 1.391 billion shares valued at N20.316 billion that were exchanged the previous week in 20,064 deals.
 
The financial services industry (measured by volume), led the activity chart with 680.751 million shares, valued at N5.283 billion and traded in 8,524 deals, thus contributing 73.54 per cent to the total equity turnover volume and value respectively.
 
The healthcare industry followed with 47.664 million shares worth N31.197 million in 531 deals.
 
The third place was occupied by conglomerates industry with a turnover of 40.814 million shares worth N63.710 million in 728 deals.
 
Trading in the top three equities namely- United Bank for Africa Plc, Wema Bank Plc and Zenith International Bank Plc (measured by volume), accounted for 260.554 million shares worth N2.790 billion in 2,266 deals, contributing 28.15 per cent to the total equity turnover volume.
 
Also traded during the week were 1,727 units of Exchange Traded Products (ETPs), valued at N333,925.78 and executed in nine deals, compared with 2,304 units valued at N376,541.65 that were transacted in previous week in 16 deals.
 
A total of 7,787 units of Federal Government Bond valued at N8.005 million was traded last week in 11 deals compared with 16,463 units valued at N18.200 million transacted the previous week in 27 deals.
 
Additional volumes of 46,394,252, 11,580,600 and 8,925,500 units were added to the following bonds 13.98 per cent FGN Feb 2028; 13.53 per cent FGN MAR 2025; and 12.75 per cent FGN APR 2023, respectively on Tuesday August 7, 2018.
 
 
Vanguard.
Published in Bank & Finance

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has granted N14.9 billion loan to the North East Commodity Association (NECAS), on the platform of its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP). Alhaji Sadiq Deware, National President, NECAS, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja, that the loan is for a period of one year at a single digit of 9 per cent. He said under the programme 27,000 farmers would benefit while 75,000 hectares of land would be cultivated in the four participating states.

“The beneficiaries were farmers were mainly affected by the insurgency in Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa and Yobe states. Deware explained that Borno state was not included as a result of the insecurity in the state. He explained that out of the 27,000 farmers 10,000 out of them were from Gombe State, and attributed the development to their dedication and commitment in terms of farming activities. “For example 11,525 farmers are cultivating 38,678 hectares of land for maize, sorghum, soya beans , rice and cotton, while the nearest to it Yobe state is cultivating 14,666 hectares of land by 5,676 farmers. He said the programme would cover all the commodities that the North east have comparative advantage of producing which includes, rice, maize, millet, sorghum and even small ruminants amongst others. Deware said that inputs would be given to farmers on loan basis and they were expected to pay back in three phases.

“Starting with first payment of 40 per cent after the first farming cycle, then they would pay the remaining two cycles of 30 per cent making a total of 100 per cent. “Before now, the size of each farm had been captured and an identity card was issued to each of the beneficiaries of the project for easy identification and documentation to enable them to access the required support,’’ he said. Daware said that the project was a modified version of the ABP, which was aimed at strengthening efforts to attain bumper harvests and expressed the optimism that the new initiative would double the achievements of the ABP. He said that under the new initiative, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had modified the programme to facilitate its direct relations with NECAS so as to ensure timely disbursement and full repayment of ABP loans, unlike what obtained in the past. Deware disclosed that the association has re-absorbed some of the retired extension agents in the beneficiary states and re-trained them on modern technologies in enhancing their job performance.

“NECAS under the programme has commenced the recruitment of retired but willing to work extension workers in order to boost support for farmers and ensure proper sensitisation on new farming methods as well as advise on any problem faced by farmers. He said that more than 128 extension agents were recruited for the programme in Adamawa state as it was in other states. Dware said that for the successful implementation of the exercise the extension workers have been taught the working systems of modern technologies in service delivery and they are optimistic that the training would be beneficial to the farmers. According to him, the efforts are geared toward encouraging increased agricultural production in line with the drive to diversify the economy. He said this has become imperative because the role of agricultural extension agents in the development of agriculture throughout the world is very essential. “It has remained one of the prime movers in the development of agriculture and invariably in the rural development.

“There specific objectives as agricultural extension officers were to provide advice to farmers on problems or opportunities in agricultural production, facilitate development of local skills and transfer new technologies to farmers and rural people,’’ he said. Deware said they have also developed a suitable extension service that is gender specific and tailored to women farmers. (NAN)

Published in Bank & Finance

Deep in the rainforest in a northern corner of the Republic of Congo, some of the most sophisticated monitoring of animal sounds on earth is taking place. Acoustic sensors are collecting large amounts of data around the clock for the Elephant Listening Project.

These sensors capture the soundscape in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park and adjacent logging areas: chimpanzees, gorillas, forest buffalo, endangered African grey parrots, fruit hitting the ground, blood-sucking insects, chainsaws, engines, human voices, gunshots. But researchers and local land managers who placed them there are listening for one sound in particular — the calls of elusive forest elephants.

Forest elephants are in steep decline; scientists estimate two-thirds of Africa’s population has likely been lost to ivory poaching in recent decades. Africa’s savannah elephants have also declined by 30 percent over a recent seven-year period, primarily because of poaching, according to results released in 2016 from Paul G. Allen’s Great Elephant Census.

But those working to save these species, which are critical to keeping ecosystems in balance and that also draw wildlife tourists, have a powerful new tool at their disposal: artificial intelligence.

Conservation Metrics, a Microsoft AI for Earth grantee based in Santa Cruz, California, uses machine learning to monitor wildlife and evaluate conservation efforts. It is applying its sophisticated algorithms to help the Elephant Listening Project, based at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, distinguish between forest elephant calls and the other sounds in a noisy tropical rainforest. It’s a perfect job for AI — looking for these rare patterns in terabytes of data that would take humans years.

Researchers use the elephant call data to build more accurate and frequent population estimates, track their movements, provide better security and potentially to identify individual animals, which can’t be easily seen from the air.

It is one of many ways biologists, conservation groups and Microsoft data scientists are enlisting artificial intelligence to prevent the illegal killing of elephants across Africa, stop the global trade in their parts and preserve critical habitat. Efforts include using machine learning to detect real-time movement patterns that could alert rangers to poaching and blocking online ads that attempt to sell illegal ivory or elephant parts.

Scientists with the Elephant Listening Project estimate that Africa’s population of forest elephants has dropped from roughly 100,000 animals in 2011 to fewer than 40,000 animals today. But those numbers are largely based on indirect evidence: ivory seizures, signs of poaching and labor-intensive surveys that are too expensive to be done regularly.

The Elephant Listening Project has spent more than three decades researching how elephants use low-frequency rumbling sounds to communicate with one another. More recently, those scientists began to use acoustic sensors at research sites to build population estimates and, ultimately, to track and protect forest elephants across their ranges in Central and West Africa.

If scientists find, for example, that at specific times of year elephants are using clearings in an unprotected logging concession to access scarce minerals or find mates, scientists can work with the loggers to schedule their work to minimize disturbance and reduce conflicts.

But there has been a bottleneck in getting data out of these remote African forests and analyzing information quickly, says Peter Wrege, a senior research associate at Cornell who directs the Elephant Listening Project.

“Right now, when we come out of the field with our data, the managers of these protected areas are asking right away, ‘What have you found? Are there fewer elephants? Is there a crisis we need to address immediately?’ And sometimes it takes me months and months before I can give them an answer,” says Wrege.

Conservation Metrics began collaborating with the Elephant Listening Project in 2017 to help boost that efficiency. Its machine learning algorithms have been able to identify elephant calls more accurately and will hopefully begin to shortcut the need for human review. But the volume of data from the acoustic monitors is taxing the company’s local servers and computational capacity.

Microsoft’s AI for Earth program has given a two-year grant to Conservation Metrics to build a cloud-based workflow in Microsoft Azure for analyzing and processing wildlife metrics. It has also donated Azure computing resources to the Elephant Listening Project to support its data-processing costs for the project. The computational power of Azure will speed processing time dramatically, says Matthew McKown, the CEO of Conservation Metrics. The platform also offers new opportunities for clients to upload and interact with their data directly.

It takes about three weeks for computers to process a few months of sound data from this landscape-scale study, says McKown. Once the Azure migration is complete later this year, that same job may take a single day.

“It’s a huge improvement. We’re really interested in speeding up that loop between having equipment monitoring things out in the field and going through this magic process to convert those signals into information you can send into the field where someone can take action,” says McKown. “Right now, that process can take a really long time.”

‘We’ve only scratched the surface’

Across the continent in East Africa, Jake Wall, a research scientist with Save the Elephants who collaborates with the Mara Elephant Project and other conservation groups, typically has more immediate access to data about the savannah elephants he studies in Kenya and seven other countries. That’s because animals in those populations have been outfitted with GPS tracking collars that transmit location data via satellites and cell networks.

That information is uploaded to the Domain Awareness System (DAS), a real-time data visualization and analysis platform now used in protected areas across Africa. It integrates data from about 15 different sources today, including ranger vehicle and radios, animal trackers, camera traps, drones, weather monitors, field reports, snare locations and satellite imagery. The tool was developed by Paul G. Allen’s Great Elephant Census, another AI for Earth partner that is moving the DAS system and its data onto the Azure cloud, to give managers a real-time dashboard that can inform tactical decisions for interdiction against suspected illegal activity or apparent threats to endangered wildlife.

In some areas, DAS also powers a Save the Elephants tracking app that can alert rangers when an animal has slowed or stopped moving via email or text message. The app can also warn when animals are heading toward human settlements where they might raid a farmer’s crops. Reserve managers or the farmer can then help herd the animals back to safety. From Gabon to Mozambique to the Congo, some 463 animal tracking devices are deployed, of which 358 are on elephants.

In other projects, Microsoft has worked with the Peace Parks Foundation, which combats rhino and other wildlife poaching in South Africa, to create remote sensing systems that can detect and evaluate poaching risks. Microsoft, through a NetHope Azure Showcase grant, is also helping move the open-source SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) Connect to the Azure cloud. It is used in dozens of conservation sites across Africa to improve the effectiveness of wildlife patrols.

AI for Earth has also provided grants to researchers at the USC Center for AI in Society (CAIS) and Carnegie Mellon University, who have created and are continuing to improve Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS). It uses machine learning to create patrol routes based on where poaching activity is most likely to occur. USC CAIS has also created and is continuing to improve the Systematic Poacher Detector, which detects poachers and wildlife in nighttime drone footage, now being used by organizations including Air Shepherd.

Even with advances in radio collar technology, sensors and imagery collection, a lot of additional work is needed to turn that data into scientific insights or actionable intelligence, says Wall. 

“I think we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible,” says Wall. “We’re really excited because the expertise that Microsoft and AI for Earth can bring to the table includes skillsets that field biologists don’t typically have.”

“Machine learning could be applied to seven or eight immediate things that I would love to know more about, whether it’s recognizing individual elephants or picking up on changes in movement behavior or figuring out what’s happening on a landscape level with human expansion and deforestation,” says Wall.

Wall has been collaborating with Dan Morris, a Microsoft researcher working with AI for Earth, on a half dozen project ideas. One examines how to use machine learning to identify streaking behaviors — when elephants run fast and in an unusually straight line — that can be a sign of poaching or other threats.

Morris has also been working to apply machine learning algorithms to camera traps, which are remote field cameras that are triggered by motion and photograph anything that crosses their path. But finding an animal of interest can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

“Sometimes no one has time to look through these images and they end up sitting on a grad student’s shelf somewhere,” says Morris. “The potential for machine learning to rapidly accelerate that progress is huge. Right now there is some really solid work being done by computer scientists in this space, and I would guess that we’re less than a year away from having a tool that biologists can actually use.”

Wall and Morris are also beginning to work on using AI to distinguish between elephants and other animals like buffalo or giraffes in aerial photography. Knowing when and where elephants are coming into contact with other wildlife — and particularly domesticated animals like cattle — can help rangers minimize conflicts with humans and help scientists better understand disease vectors.

These insights can also inform land-management decisions, such as where to lobby for protected areas and where to locate human infrastructure like roads and pipelines. That’s one of the most significant yet least understood threats to elephant survival, says Wall. With access to the right imagery data, AI tools could help begin to keep tabs on, and draw useful insights into, human encroachment into their habitat.

“We’re always focused on poaching and these acute problems, but really it’s the expansion of human settlements and the advancements of roads and railways and pipelines that are going to affect African elephant populations going forward,” says Wall.

‘AI is really the key piece’

Saving elephants isn’t just about stopping poachers where they hunt. Disrupting the global marketplace that rewards them economically is equally important.

Microsoft and other tech companies have joined the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and partners TRAFFIC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. After observing that trafficking in wildlife parts like elephant ivory, animal skins and live pets had largely moved from physical marketplaces to the internet, they convened companies from across the online landscape to combine forces to stop it.

Along with targeting the illegal trade in elephant products, the coalition partners target criminal transactions such as the sale of tiger cubs for pets and the trade in pangolin scales and illegal coral.

“Previously cybercriminals were able to operate pretty freely on the internet because there wasn’t much risk,” says Giavanna Grein, a wildlife crime program officer at WWF. “But now we’re creating deterrents and consistency across all the different platforms — if every time a criminal creates a new account and puts up a new post, it’s taken down immediately, that’s going to be really frustrating for that criminal.” 

The coalition has since worked with search engines like Bing, e-commerce sites and social media companies to adopt strong and consistent policies about what products are prohibited on their platforms. WWF also provides training to help companies recognize and shut down advertisements and customer accounts that traffic in illegal wildlife.

That involves some mix of human detective work and algorithms that search for keywords associated with wildlife trafficking. In September, Microsoft’s AI for Earth team will host an AI-focused workshop for tech companies and academics working to enhance automation to detect illegal wildlife and their products online. The goal is to advance technologies to identify and root out endangered species posts before anyone has a chance to see and purchase them.

“AI is really the key piece in combating wildlife trafficking online. While it’s not the only solution needed, automating the review of posts containing illegal wildlife and their products would drastically increase the barrier to entry for wildlife cybercriminals,” says Grein. 

Published in Travel & Tourism

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