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Friday, 18 October 2019
Friday, 18 October 2019 11:10

UBA brings Chat Banking to Liberia

United Bank for Africa (UBA) Liberia on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, launched its Chat Banking Product dubbed LEO.

The online banking product which can be accessed on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will allow customers to make use of their social media accounts, to open account, transfer money from one account to another, get account statement, buy airtime, get customer service assistance, load their UBA Pre-paid Card and whole lot more.

UBA’s Leo platform is a highly advanced development for a financial institution in Africa, particularly in Liberia, which aims to simplify the way customers transact. The bank says it is something that has become necessary in today’s fast-paced world with demands for quick-time transactions and responses.

UBA Liberia Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Olalekan Balogun, who introduced the online banking platform said, the aim of the product is to create an easy convenient and easy kind of banking in the 21st century thereby, making banking easier for those who do not have the time to stand in the banking hall and always on the go.

Balogun expressed thanks and appreciation to the students and the rest of the audience who turned out for the launch of the product on the campus of the African Methodist Episcopal University. He further encouraged them to be a part of the digital age in banking that is being introduced by UBA.

Earlier, Melody Mezay Ketter, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications at UBA Liberia, spoke on the importance of banking, informing the students of the many digital products UBA offers.

Mrs. Ketter said LEO is one of the many banking products being introduced by UBA, to encourage financial inclusion as part of the Central Bank of Liberia’s vision.

David Ojo, UBA Head of Digital Banking Sales, who made a step by step description about how to access the product, further give some statistics which according to him, birth the idea of the digital product.

He said, there are 2.2 million active users monthly on social media; Facebook, while 300,000 bots (an autonomous program on a network, especially the Internet, that can interact with computer systems or users) on Face Book.

He furthered that Facebook has 200 million subscribers in Africa, noting that 25,000 active Facebook subscribers are currently in Liberia.

“The idea of the Digital Product which started in 2017, is finally being introduced in Liberia” Ojo said, concluding his presentation.

To access the Artificial Intelligence LEO, existing and new customers should type UBA Chat Banking on Facebook Messenger, or send a WhatsApp Chat to +231777684919 and begin chatting.

The Central Bank of Liberia Assistant Director for IT and Cyber Security Regulation and Supervision Diakae Al Lewis, Sr., lauded UBA Liberia team for its innovative posture of bringing modern banking Liberia.

Published in Bank & Finance
The Federal Government is considering introducing excise duties on carbonated drinks, according to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.
Ahmed gave the indication in an interview with newsmen on Thursday on the sidelines of the ongoing World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington DC, United States.
She said the idea was one of the other areas, besides the proposed increase in VAT, that the government was looking at to broaden its revenue base.
The minister explained that the government was working hard to ensure efficiency in existing revenue streams while searching for new ones.
She said the government would consult with all stakeholders on the proposal in line with standard policy formulation process.
“Any tax that you are introducing will involve a lot of consultations and also amendments of some laws or introduction of new regulations,” she said.
Carbonated drinks include soft drink brands such as Coca Cola, Sprite and Fanta, while excise duty is a tax levied on locally produced goods.
Ahmed said her ministry was working with all the agencies to ensure that collaboration was strengthened in revenue generation.
“The government is trying to ensure that the work of the agencies are complementing each other as opposed to the past where everybody is working in silos.
“Efforts are ongoing to improve the monitoring performance of the revenue-generating agencies, especially government-owned enterprises.
“We have now in place a rigorous monthly reconciliation of revenues and that is ensuring that the leakages are minimised.
“There is several cost-cutting measures in the SRGI and a number of cost-cutting measures initiatives such as innovation and automation as well as capacity building of our people,” she said.
The minister reiterated the government’s resolve to sanction revenue generating agencies that fail to meet their targets.
“Mr President has said that targets will be set for ministers as well as heads of agencies and that when targets are met there will be recommendations and when there are not met there will be consequences.
“So, what was missing in the past was that there were no consequences, so if an agency underperformed there is no consequences for doing so.
“But now there will be consequences and we will be pushing to make sure that we provide all the support that the agencies will require to enable them perform,” she said.
Published in Business
Friday, 18 October 2019 10:51

Nigeria’s debt more than N25.7 trillion

The Nigerian Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on Thursday said there are debts owed by states and government enterprises that have not been captured in the N25.7 trillion recently declared as total national debt.
Ahmed made this known during a panel discussion on Debt Transparency at the ongoing World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington, United States.
This revelation is coming two days after the Debt Management Office (DMO) published a summary of the nation’s debt as at June 30.
The minister disclosed plans by the government to produce a more comprehensive debt database with emphasis on providing detailed breakdown of projects related to borrowings.
“Going forward, we want to scan the environment and have a good database of all the debts that government owes, whether at the sovereign or subnational level.
“Also, we are trying to capture debts of the state-owned enterprises, and debts we owe local creditors.
“We want to be able to show more clearly debts that are related to specific projects like debts that we owe to countries like China.
“Right now, they are reported as part of the public debt but there is no detailed drill down to show the projects tied to them,” she said.
Ahmed said the move was partly in response to increasing demand from the civil society and the Nigerian public for more transparency in the system.
She, however, enumerated measures currently in place to ensure transparency in government’s borrowing and debt management.
The minister explained that all government borrowings were subject to legislative approval conducted in a transparent manner.
“Nigeria also publishes quarterly data (sovereign and sub-national) as well as the composition of external and domestic debt.
“In addition, it publishes its Debt Management Strategy, Debt Sustainability Analysis and National Debt Management Framework, and all these are available at the DMO website,” she said.
She highlighted the benefits of transparency in the system to include helping local and foreign investors, and multilateral and bilateral creditors with their investment and lending decisions.
The Federal Government, according to the minister, is also undertaking a major programme to assist states with grants and technical assistance to strengthen their fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability.
She said the government was embarking on the programme with the support of a 750-million-dollar World Bank financing using the bank’s Programme-for-Results instrument.
According to her, the initiative will also help benefitting states in debt reporting, domestic expenditure arrears management, and debt sustainability analyses.
She, however, noted that the support would be given based on the performance of beneficiaries in fiscal transparency and debt management practices
Published in Bank & Finance
President Trump will host next year’s Group of 7 meetings next June at Trump Doral, his luxury resort near Miami, the president’s acting chief of staff told reporters on Thursday.
This is a move benefitting the Trump Organisation that will alarm ethics watchdogs.
“It’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event,” Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff told reporters, quoting what he said an unnamed official told him during a press briefing before quickly saying that the issue was not a conflict of interest.
“The president has made it clear since he’s been here that he hasn’t profited since he’s been here,” he added dismissing questions over the propriety of the president’s picking his hotel.
Mr. Mulvaney explained that the president had considered the possibility of the “political sort of criticism” in picking the resort. But he said Trump chose it anyway because administration officials had considered hotels throughout the country, and concluded that the Trump National Doral was “by far and away, far and away, the best physical facility for this meeting.”
Published in World

A corporate narrative on the Nigerian government’s decision to shut down its borders with illustrations on how this affects every spoon of rice residents in Nigeria eat, and details of its linear implications on neighbouring economies like Ghana, Benin, Togo among others.

Barely 8 days to the August 2019 Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), a revered African administrator seemed grossly irritated by various alleged illegal activities perpetrated along its country’s borders.

In response to this national buff, the administrator (remembering his military background) furiously ordered for the immediate closure of the borders, and administered (along its routes) heavy military surveillance troop to keep watch until further notice.

The administrator said it was a temporal development –that orders would be relaxed once measures are put in place to contain the situation. Off, in furry, he flew out to Pacifico Yokohama, the hosting Yokohama city in Japan to grace the conference where he would be meeting fellow administrators serving in his capacities in other countries.

On his way, he thought about a convincing explanation for his standing order –how to present it diplomatically without sounding harsh and hostile. Because the conference wasn’t staged purposely for this cause, he knew it won’t be a major deliberation, so, he made few jottings of his thoughts and moved on to rehearse other would-be key highlights of the 3-day meeting.

He was right. As soon as the conference commenced, he was quizzed on his decision. This time, a sensitive poser that (ordinarily) was sufficient to topple him met him readily confident. Without hesitation, he answered as collected as possible, noting that the borders have been a disaster through the years and long due for an urgent attention.

According to his sentiment, his administration would not blind his eyes to acknowledge that the porous borders have become an albatross to rapid economic viability. That, for as long as a solution to cub the menace would be developed; he was not going back on his orders –and that, if any time later, not just yet.


Nigeria, being a major market determiner in Africa courtesy of its bursting population of about 200 million, had made tens of thousands of people multi-millionaires via their engagement in various trans-border trades and deals.

Not limited to the green-white-green nationalities, citizens of neighbouring countries had also been benefitting from this large market potential of the country. The Republic of Benin, for instance, had enjoyed from this perk given its relative position as it shares borders at various points with Africa’s richest oil country.

This relationship made Benin, a country with less than 15 million population a top importer of rice. And, economists began to wonder if there were ghost rice consumers in Benin.

Investigations later revealed that most of the rice imported to Benin from Thailand and India were only warehoused for storage and then allegedly pushed illegally across the borders into the waiting Nigerian marketing where over 150 million citizens are hungry.

As far away as Ghana is from Nigeria with Benin dividing the two West African countries, goods from Ghana also travelled through the route to connect with the “ever accommodative” Nigerian market.

While some (Nigerians and foreigners) were profiting from this venture, making millions on daily basis; Nigeria, as a country on the other hand, was increasingly denied of gains that ought to be accrued from tariffs on goods when imported legally.

August 2019

President Muhammadu Buhari, the framed administrator in the story, had learnt that the recession had forced locals back into farming. The result, according to his team of researchers and consultants, was that rice production was gaining figures and can now sustain local demands.

In their advice, it was no longer economical “wasting” scarce foreign reserves on the importation of goods available or produce-able within the country. To make matter worse, the officer in charge of the sea port lamented of losses on account of indiscriminate smuggling across the borders.

He explained that goods that should have been imported through the port where import duties would have been duly charged were increasingly being smuggled in through the porous borders, technically cutting down on the nation’s non-oil revenue.

The pronouncement  

So, during the TICAD function in August, the administrator was armed with enough information and anger.

“Now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves, we cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue,” he blared.

What followed

Complaints from Nigerians

Shrinking foreign economies

Increased revenue through the port

Increased patronage of Made-in-Nigeria rice

Emergence of Made-in-Nigeria foreign rice

Revenue loss by some local manufacturers

Complaints from Nigerians

Aside the return of many to the farm, Nigerians in the first few weeks of the closure began to express displeasure as prices of goods (rice in particular rose). Foreign rice became scarce. Local rice, which no one patronized before, began to gain prominence as an alternative in the market.

Before long, seemingly short-charged importers began grunting but no one cared. Invariably, the administrator’s August order had just blocked an access to millions of naira for these businessmen.

Shrinking foreign economies

While the administrator and his policy team argued that the development will boost local production as over-dependant on importation will only further weaken the economy, countries like Benin and Ghana (in less than 60 days) were already feeling the bite on the lips of their economies.

Along the borders on the side of Benin, loads of tomatoes and other perishable goods were soon observed to be rotting. It was quite unfortunate because before the border closure this wouldn’t have happened. These goods would have, instead, been smuggled into the country without hitch.

Thing became so difficult that the experience of the economic down turn led Ghana to cry out to the mercy of the administrator. Reports revealed that Ghana, through its Foreign Minister and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey (on Tuesday, 15th of October), had voiced out, pleading that the ban be lifted so that “Ghana’s exports can enter” the Nigerian “market.”

Increased revenue through the port

Contrary to the general assumption, business did not stop as the sea ports and airports were not locked. In fact, business leaders and traders who could not stop their activities have moved on to access the Nigerian market through its ports. This, according to the administrator, was fine.

Following the trend of his administration, every discerning mind had already noticed he has only been particular on raising funds from different channels. Perhaps, what also led to the proposed increment in VAT from 5% to 7.5%.

So, with emerging reports from his officer in charge of the ports (Col Hameed Ali) disclosing that his agency currently generates over N5bn daily, the administrator seems more than excited. And, nothing (appeared) would be convincing for him to relax his verdict yet.

Increased patronage of Made-in-Nigeria rice

In the end, local farmers were one of the beneficiaries of the policy. The influx of Made-in-Nigeria rice became overwhelming. Analyzing the situation, the upward scale resulted on account of the scarce foreign rice in the market and its relative high cost (about N26, 000) where available.

This was how the local rice (as of October, 2019) continued to sell fast despite costing N17, 000 a bag. It was expected, however, as Nigerians with their cost-centric psychology would only have patronized the local option while trying to save cost. While this was going on, increased patronage was (in turn) boosting the income of local farmers.

Emergence of Made-in-Nigeria foreign rice

Unfortunately, however, greed soon found its way into hungry local businessmen as Made-in-Nigeria foreign rice began to emerge. Rice sellers, by the second week of October, were found stocking local rice in foreign bags to sell to unrepentant foreign rice consumers. This way, they started making about N10, 000 more from their local rice sales.

Although, measures (as at the 18th day of October) from the administrator were yet to be put in place to curb the corrupt practices –perhaps, a new rice reform policy would be signed so that those guilty would be sanctioned.

Revenue loss by some local manufacturers

Apart from the sacrifices of having to switch to local rice which is still struggling to taste as soft and as tasty as the foreign rice, some Nigerian manufacturing companies also suffered revenue drop in the process.

Fruit juice producing company, So Fresh, for instance, could no longer import some of its ingredients that were unavailable in Nigeria. Their likes have, since the border closure directives, been witnessing decline in its revenue.

While the administrator and team found a temporal victory in their efforts to stop smuggling that is equally helping them gain more revenue through due port uses, some local businesses paid heavily and painfully to see it come through.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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