Interswitch Group, the Nigeria Pan-African integrated digital payments and commerce company, has signed a multi-billion Naira deal with Bekoz UK Ltd, a British transport ticketing company, to enhance transportation ticketing in Nigeria.
The deal, which is worth £56 million (approx. N26 billion), will leverage British technology to keep Nigeria’s commuters on the move through the launch of three products developed exclusively for the Nigerian market – the BeCard, the BeVal and the BeReader, with scope to expand this offer throughout Africa.
The BeCard is a regular shaped card – like any bank card or the Oyster card in London. The BeVal is the device that is installed on the buses where the passenger taps on – just like on the London buses, whileBeReader is the mechanism that makes all these work.
Commenting on the partnership, Akeem Lawal, Divisional CEO for Payment Processing at Interswitch highlighted the tremendous potential the partnership offers for revolutionizing the transportation system with attendant impact on millions of commuters in Nigeria.
He said: “Interswitch believes that the transport system in Nigeria, Africa’s largest consumer market, is ready for innovation. This partnership is a key and timely milestone in our industry vertical markets’ focus. It is highly compatible with our vision for Interswitch Transport Solutions (Smart move) which is essentially to progressively facilitate a multi-modal and multi-operator transportation system underpinned by best-in-class technology”.
“This not only optimizes available infrastructural capacity, but also remarkably improves user experience for all parties in the transport and mobility ecosystem. Our partners, Bekoz, bring their expertise and experience to bear, and we are extremely optimistic about the multiplier effects that this initiative will ultimately have on economic activities across the nation,” he added.
Bekoz has co-created the technology with Interswitch and owns the intellectual property (IP) while the specifications and manufacturing is done by Delta Microelectronics, a global engineering company with a long and proud history of demonstrated excellence.
Speaking in Abuja, at the signing ceremony Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign Secretary announced that Bekoz will be providing the contactless transit token technology and associated electronic equipment that allows people to travel around Nigeria’s large and varied transport infrastructure, similar to London’s Oyster system. However this will be tailored to Nigeria’s unique needs.
Hunt said: “This is a great example of British and Nigerian companies working side by side to deliver a better, more prosperous future for us all.Africa’s success really matters to the UK, and this deal proves that we have a huge amount of expertise that we can share to contribute to that success. As we leave the European Union, now is the time to redouble our efforts, and commit to the partnerships we have with our African friends.”
Also commenting, Jack Dangoor, CEO of Bekoz said: “We are delighted to collaborate with Interswitch to deliver a British-made fully custom transport ticketing system for Nigeria and other parts of Africa. Our technology offers an efficient and cost-effective solution for commuters and transport operators that satisfies local needs and utilizes the existing infrastructure provided by Interswitch. The ecosystem of the Bekoz solution will provide significant retail business and job opportunities in Nigeria and beyond.”
In the UK, topping up an Oyster card is quite easy.However, factors like limited network connectivity and little or no electricity might make topping the BeCard in Nigeria more difficult. That is why theBeReader is solar-powered and does not require network connection all the time. It is a low-cost device and can transform anyone into an entrepreneur as every be reader creates a business opportunity for the operator.
Much of the manufacturing will be done in UK, and the deal is expected to create jobs in the Nigerian business and transportation environment.
Tiger Woods is to receive the US Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump on Monday, the White House announced on Thursday.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump will bestow the award, the nation’s highest civilian honour, on the golfing great in the White House Rose Garden.
Woods won the Masters last month, his first major title since the 2008 US Open.
Trump, an avid golfer and owner of several golf courses around the world, tweeted his congratulations to Woods following his victory at Augusta.
“Spoke to @TigerWoods to congratulate him on the great victory he had in yesterday’s @TheMasters, & to inform him that because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and more importantly, LIFE, I will be presenting him with the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM,” Trump said.
Established by John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor bestowed by a US president.
It is given to persons who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavours.”
It has been awarded to nearly three dozen sports figures since its inception, including golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, who was honored by President George W. Bush.
Barack Obama gave the award in 2014 to Charlie Sifford, the first African-American golfer to play on the PGA Tour.
Woods has golfed with Trump on several occasions, most recently in February at the president’s course in Jupiter, Florida.
A Nigerian, Ernest Ezeajughi, has made history by winning election as the first Black Mayor of the London Borough of Brent, United Kingdom.
Reports has it that Ezeajughi, a native of Anambra State, was elected Mayor on the April 16, 2019 by the College of Councillors on Brent, London, and sworn into office on Wednesday, May 1.
Prior to his election as Mayor, Ezeajughi, a strong member of the Labour Party, won election for a Councillor position representing Stonebridge ward at Brent Council in 2014.
He was re-elected again in 2018, retaining his seat all in the white-dominated political environment after a very keenly contested election. He was elected Deputy Mayor of Brent within a year.
Born in Awgbu Town, in Orumba North, Anambra State, Ezeajughi had his primary, secondary and tertiary education in Anambra. He attended Aguata High School, Aguata, and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, where he studied Applied Microbiology. Ezeajughi was actively involved in student union politics, representing the departmental students union body.
After graduation in 1998 and completion of his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), he worked briefly in the private family business – Koval Linkworld Agencies Ltd – before migrating to England to join his wife.
In England, Ezeajughi obtained a Master’s degree in Science (M.Sc) from the prestigious Kings College, London.
A Scientist by profession, he worked with Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
A father of four children, Ezeajughi was one of the founding fathers of a major Nigerian political party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) UK Chapter and was the Chairman in 2010-2012.
He thereafter joined UK politics and soon became a strong member of the Labour Party.
Ivorian Minister of Tourism Siandou Fofana has presented a strategy document aimed at making Côte d’Ivoire Africa’s fifth biggest tourism destination from 2025 to the African Development Bank , and sought its support to implement the plan.
The document entitled “Sublime Côte d’Ivoire”, was presented to the Bank’s Vice-President responsible for Private sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, Pierre Guislain, at the headquarters in Abidjan.
“We have come to share this new vision for Côte d’Ivoire with the Bank and to secure your help and financial support. We need your help to pool resources to carry this project out,” Minister Fofana said, adding that the strategy will rest on nine new flagship projects and would require a $5.8‑billion investment.
“One of these is the ‘Abidjan Business City’, which will be a central point for holding conventions in Côte d’Ivoire. We do not currently have a conference centre and we do not have a hall with the capacity to accommodate 5,000 people. There is, therefore, a need to move quickly in that regard,” he said.
“We will also have a ‘beautiful beach for all’, with a 550-km coastline that has yet to be exploited. In addition, we will build a 100-hectare leisure park to be a place of entertainment for the sub-region, and develop press trips and seven flagship tourist areas,” Fofana added.
Projects envisaged under the strategy include strengthening of the tourism code, establishing additional tourist attractions with a land reserve of 6,000 hectares, the creation of a bank of tourism-sector projects and redesigning of a tourism ‘one-stop shop’. The government also plans to strengthen security and health care, develop the aviation sector and increase airport passenger flow to three million, and train and certify 230,000 sector professionals.
“All this will drive employment and our intention is to create 375,000 new jobs. From 2025, we plan to welcome four to five million tourists, (there were 3.08 million in 2016 and 3.47 million in 2017), to make this sector the fourth economic pillar of the country and to make Côte d’Ivoire the fifth biggest tourism power on the continent and the joint leader in African business tourism,” said Fofana.
Bank Vice-President Guislain commended Côte d’Ivoire’s “progress” in the tourism sector, saying it was essential for investors.
He briefed the delegation on the Bank’s financing instruments for the public and private sectors, highlighting the existence of private investment funds and the Bank’s priority focus on supporting bankable projects for partners with sufficient financial capacity.
“We are glad to have been visited by you and to have learnt about your strategy. This is important. Business tourism needs to be consolidated and your ambitions are good. The African Development Bank has a strong partnership with Côte d’Ivoire, the host country of our headquarters. The Bank finances many infrastructure projects (energy and roads) that are essential to the development of tourism. We also financed the expansion of Air Côte d’Ivoire, whose development is essential for tourism to flourish in the country,” Guislain said.
Africa buried two of its journalists in 2018. One was killed in Somalia and the other in the Central African Republic.
According to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, 54 journalists were killed around the world in that same year. And in January Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela, a Ghanaian investigative reporter, became the first African journalist to lose his life in 2019. He was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. Divela was part of a team of journalists – including the well-known undercover reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas – who had made a powerful documentary on football corruption in West Africa.
Journalists across the continent face threats every day. Many are incarcerated or intimidated for covering sensitive stories. This is despite the fact that progressive laws have been passed in a number of countries. These are designed to protect the fundamental rights to free expression and access to information.
But traditional methods of undermining media freedom are being replaced with new ones. In an ever evolving political and technological landscape, we must also be alive to the new challenges that are threatening media freedom on the continent.
Governments are aware of the fact that old forms of media repression don’t necessarily work: they attract international attention, bad press, and can unsettle a regime. As a result, they are adopting subtler forms of media control to undermine press freedom. These can sometimes be even more insidious because they pass unnoticed.
Among the biggest threats to emerge over the past decade are the concentration of media ownership in the hands of a few, government use of advertising spend to starve independent media outlets of revenue, and significant attempts to legislate the online media environment.
Rolling back gains
The political changes in Africa in the 1990s saw many countries adopt multi-party politics. The changes allowed for the liberalisation of the media sector. Many countries relaxed their licensing regimes leading to a remarkable proliferation of media outlets. As a result there are thousands of radio and TV stations, as well as newspapers, across Africa.
But over the last decade, a number of governments have embarked on a process of recapturing the media landscape. Most are doing this by launching new media ventures using proxies, and through business people with ties to the political establishment. Licenses are generally awarded on the basis of proximity to or connection with the centre.
The result is that in countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania, numerous media outlets are mainly owned by politicians and business associates of those who hold the levers of power. The arrangement enables governments to indirectly control various media outlets.
For the private press that has evaded such capture, governments have resorted to controlling advertising revenue. Media organisations in most African countries cannot survive without state advertising. In Rwanda, for example, nearly 90% of ad revenue comes from the public sector.
Against this background of political and economic vulnerability, new media forms were broadly seen to hold a great deal of promise for the public.
But this brave new world has also led to unintended consequences.
The promise of new media
Over the past 15 years new media such as social media and other digital platforms has been viewed as having the power to subvert state control. It also promised to provide important spaces for journalists and consumers to exercise some level of expressive freedoms that had become difficult to achieve in the mainstream media.
But this egalitarian promise hasn’t materialised. The main reasons for this have been the role played by governments as well as by big tech companies.
For their part governments have invaded these emergent new media spaces by employing digitally savvy state operatives and PR firms to neuter what are considered opposition or disruptive voices online. They have the resources to buy advertising, employ bots and to ensure that their agenda populates these spaces. This has been the case in various countries, particularly during elections. Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda and Equitorial Guinea are just a few examples.
The state also has monopoly over legislation. Several governments have made various attempts to use new laws to control new media. These include Uganda, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Cameroon, Togo, Tanzania and Ethiopia. All have raised arguments relating to public security and order to defend draconian legislation that criminalises free speech online.
Meanwhile, tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter have made it possible for a new group of information brokers to emerge online. This, in turn, has undermined the democratic potential of social media platforms. This new corps of information brokers and social media influencers drives traffic, attract advertising and therefore enable tech companies to make money.
There is no incentive to unsettle what seems to be a highly profitable business model for them. Yet this development has significant consequences for media freedom and democracy.
It’s appropriate that governments face increased and continued pressure to end the killing, incarceration and intimidation of journalists. But it’s also time to start focusing on the emerging challenges undermining media freedom.