Fidelity Bank’s Approach To Supporting SMEs in Nigeria , West Africa

The Fidelity SME Forum is a weekly radio programme organized by Fidelity Bank Plc to educate, inform, advise and inspire budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria with knowledge and expertise that will enable them build sustainable and successful businesses. The interactive radio programme features subject matter experts and model entrepreneurs as guests on a weekly basis to share their insight and unique success stories. In this interview, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity Bank Plc., Nnamdi Okonkwo gives valuable insights into Fidelity Bank’s Unique Approach to Supporting SMEs in Nigeria. Excerpts.

Question 1: To set the context for this interview, through your distinguished banking career spanning decades, you are currently heading one of the leading banks in Nigeria. Where is Fidelity Bank today? What is your plan for SMEs in 2016?

Answer: Thank you very much, I would like to say happy New Year to our listeners and the numerous customers – three million of them that are listening this morning. First of all, I would like to say that Fidelity Bank is 27 years old. In all of those years, we had two CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) before me. So, I am the third CEO of Fidelity Bank. And just to go back to history, the bank started as a merchant bank. But, we have since transformed into a full scale commercial bank acquiring two other banks in the process to give birth to the enlarged Fidelity Bank. We have an asset base of N1.2 trillion, which approximates about $6 billion.
We currently have three million customers and 223 branches nationwide. Fidelity Bank is regarded as one of the most stable banks in terms of management and Capital Adequacy Ratio.

Interestingly, a lot of people are of the view that banking SMEs is a risky business. Of course, banks are in business to take risks, but we have taken a different approach to supporting SMEs. We set up the Managed SME Division to provide one-on-one advisory, access to market for our customers, and to guide aspiring entrepreneurs that are just clueless about how to run a business. Our goal is to build requisite capacity in order to create the Aliko Dangotes’ of tomorrow.
Quite a number of established entrepreneurs have been on this programme to share their unique experiences of doing business in Nigeria. Now, we are embarking on a number of activities to make sure that aspiring SMEs get a handhold from people who are highly experienced in this area. In 2016, we are going to keep on doing what we have always done. We are going to push the boundaries of innovation as we intensify support for small businesses in Nigeria. Recall, we have a national conference on SMEs. What do we do at this conference? First of all, apart from knowledge sharing, we bring individuals that started businesses from nothing, and rose to the pinnacle of success.

These unique individuals share their experience, inspire young people and upcoming SMEs for future purpose. If you listen to the life stories of some of these people, how many failures they had, before they came up, it actually helps people to begin to put the SME business in proper perspective. We extended this programme to the regions. We have had one in the South-west and South-east region respectively. On the 28 of January, we will be in Kano to hold another SME conference.
Interestingly, we are changing the slant of the national conference. We will focus on the creative industry. As a bank, we believe that narrowing down to specific industry verticals, will provide better perspectives in terms of creating a closer knit group of people who share common aspirations and challenges.
Question 2: In Naira and Kobo what is the size of the Bank’s SME Business Portfolio?
Answer: Okay when you see the advert that says: ‘Supporting 500,000 SMEs in a year – it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it’. That somebody is Fidelity. Between now and when we did the advert, SMEs customer numbers have grown to about 600,000. How do you measure this? It is by the number of accounts, by the size of deposits. We currently have about N120 billion in SME deposits since we started focusing on SMEs. And in terms of loans, we have extended loans of N60 billion to the SMEs segment.

Question 3: Fantastic. So you put your money where your mouth is and it is beyond just getting SMEs as customers. You are investing in giving them loans which is fabulous. A lot of listeners have heard about the CBN SME facilities, and clearly Fidelity is taking advantage of the fund to support SMEs. Can you tell the listeners how they can engage Fidelity to tap into this opportunity?

Answer: Quite a number of Nigerians are aware that CBN, Fidelity Bank, Bank of Industry (BoI) all support SMEs. But, not a lot of people actually bother to get detailed information. Only recently, an old school mate of mine sent me a message, telling me about his younger sister who is an SME somewhere in Port Harcourt. He said the sister in question would like to borrow. My Friend said he was well aware that Fidelity supports SMEs, but wanted to know how to go about it? I told him, ‘better ask her to call me so that I can channel her appropriately’.
She called and she said I am into fashion business, and I want to borrow. I asked, do you bank with us. She said yes I bank with you. So just give me the account name so that I can take a look at it. It turns out that it is savings account. It turned out that she just runs a savings account. So, there is really no separation between the personal account and the business account, typical of SMEs. She does not also realize that you need to have some kind of business records and get organized to prepare yourself for borrowing. Despite publicity and enlightenment campaigns by Central Bank and other financial institutions, a lot of people do not even seem to understand how the SMEs fund works.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) set up a N220 billion fund to support SMEs. And it is pretty simple, why did they do this? They wanted to provide an avenue for SMEs to borrow at 9 percent maximum rate, and it even has a stretched tenure up to 5 years. But, you would also realize that women by culture are excluded from financial access. In view of this, CBN set aside 60 percent of this fund for women entrepreneurs. Those who understand it have taken advantage of this provision. We are currently one of the top two leading Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) in the disbursement of the CBN MSME Development Fund.
We have accessed N1.3 billion of this fund. We have given out the CBN MSME loans to about 70 of our customers. When we had the first disbursement, we made a song and dance of it to say Fidelity disburses the first batch of CBN SMEs loans to three customers. You need to hear the inspiring stories of these customers.
Just before Christmas, one of them has cycled out the loan, repaid, and returned the money to the CBN. That is the success story that stakeholders in the financial services industry want to hear. This is not one of those schemes where people think it is a national cake. This is why they have to passed them through institutions that have the framework like the Central Bank and commercial banks like Fidelity Bank. So, I am just advising customers, these loans are available. But then, you have to prepare your business to be able to access it. You don’t just wake up and walk into a bank and say CBN is giving loans, I want my own. That is actually why CBN is not channeling this through some social welfare programme.
And the information is actually very simple, and for those who are not sure of how to get it, if you don’t want to go to CBN website, you go to Fidelity Bank website. And it doesn’t have to be Fidelity, just to be honest. Wherever you bank, just ask them. But not all banks are playing with the same intensity like Fidelity and one or two other banks are playing, but the information is out there and it is real.

Question 4: That is phenomenal and very encouraging because not only are you committed to working through these issues with your customers, you are continually holding their hands, and I like your emphasis on women, 60% of the funding is committed to women and I am beginning to wonder and I think the message you are giving out to SMEs is that they have to have a track record and that they have to be committed and they have to show that they can repay. The confidence that you have is that they can repay and that they can get the first loan, and hopefully a second and the third loans based on their success so thank you very much.
Just to push forward, the new-year poses several challenges for SMEs and the SMEs listening and all of them are worried about the currency issues, they are worried about inflation, they are worried about a lot of issues, how can they adapt to tackle these issues in 2016 and how can the banks help them and from a financial services perspective to be strong and to excel and to flourish in 2016?

Answer: Actually, it was a tough year last year, it is going to be even tougher. Let’s face it, if price of oil drops from $110 down to the $30s today with prospect that it is going to drop further, you just realize that what is happening today is a result of what we did to ourselves as a country in the past. The oil economy just made a lot of people lazy, and what you see is that they started importing every single thing even those things that we can produce here. Why for instance should we be importing frozen chicken, some smuggled through the borders, some through the ports? Some of these are preserved with dangerous chemicals-formaldehyde. How long does it take from the time you buy a day old chick to feeding them to mature to broilers for chicken or layers for eggs? But everybody would rather spend on importation because we just have the foreign exchange to play around with.

Today the reality for SMEs is going to be tough. If you are an SME or you are dependent on imports, conventional wisdom is that you begin to look inwards. Now, how do businesses succeed? I think the number one thing is that you have to first identify a need and then provide the service that fills the need. The huge population of Nigeria is a positive for us, there will always be consumption. If you cast your mind back to around 1984, when we had a serious economic downturn, in the days of essential commodities when people used to queue behind trucks to get milk, soap and other essentials, what happened? A lot of people started producing Soya milk, others started making soaps locally, yet others started small scale poultries and families could address their food and basic needs and still had some money for things like school fees. Somebody produces soya milk in Benue, transports it to Lagos and we began to have substitutes for imported milk. These are just few examples. Rather than depending on imported cornflakes at the time, even though we have companies like Nasco in Jos, we began to consume local ones. What I am trying to say is that this country is blessed abundantly especially agriculture wise and mineral resources. Look, if you take oil palm plantation, there are improved varieties today that could start producing in two and half years. I am not advertising for anybody, but engage with certain companies worked with a certain company like Presco. If you go to Benin, they produce everything about the oil Palm and nothing is a waste – from the palm frond, palm oil, the palm kernel to the shell. From biogas, this company produces 7.5 megawatts of electricity. They supply the entire village electricity free of charge, yet they flare gas that can produce another 2.5 megawatt. This is local production.

Imagine therefore, if you have out growers who also produce oil palm and supply to this big corporate, they will be making money better than what they will do from just buying and selling imported products. I just gave these examples to say people must go back to basics, there are opportunities here let us identify them and use them and not continue to depend on imports.

Question 5: Fantastic. So look outward, look inward and tap into opportunities that exist in every single sector. Now, we are getting quite a few tweets from your customers and potential customers of Fidelity Bank who want to know how they can take advantage of the opportunities you have for the SMEs. One tweet wants to know if you also give loans to new startups and at what rate?

Answer: Of course, we give loans to new startups if not nobody is going to start them. But, new startups have to package themselves rightly. We created a division called Managed SMEs to help them position themselves to access this facility. If you go to our offices, especially at Adeyemo Alakija in Victoria Island, they would go through what you have and help you put your business in readiness, give you tips on how you can prepare yourselves to borrow. So, it is not like a startup walks in and says I want ten million or one million naira and you give him. You have to hand-hold and teach him how to prepare his business. I gave an example earlier of a startup that wants to borrow.

We teach them what to do. Like the young lady I talked about, I said to her, you first of all have to start keeping proper records. Let me even see your business plan, where do you want to go with this business. We help them and when they are mature to the borrowing stage then we can make finance available.
Question 6: Okay, that’s very good. Another tweet says with the CBN capital controls and the issues of card usage overseas how is Fidelity Bank helping its customers especially those in the Diaspora access their funds overseas?
Answer: Well, we sympathize with all of us for what has happened. The CBN simply does not produce dollars. Nigeria earns dollars and has to have foreign reserve. If you deplete all the reserves, you don’t exist as a country. The capital controls are actually necessary, however, I don’t just want to talk about Fidelity. What the industry has done is to regulate behavior to say, let us channel the scarce foreign exchange we have to essentials, to real sector that will add value to the economy. Okay if your child is in school abroad you are not going to say come home. If you listen to what the President said, we can’t abandon our children who are out there, so the Central Bank is actually looking at ways of helping to make sure that those kids don’t get stranded, and for us at Fidelity, we also have to comply with what the regulation says, but in doing that, let us really think about it, if they say you cannot withdraw more than three hundred dollars cash overseas, what do you need so much cash for?

In those days when the dollar was in abundance, people could use their ATM cards to pay for as much as a hundred and fifty thousand dollars but you know we began to see abuses. Somebody goes abroad, uses his card to purchase cars, and ships them here, some of them don’t even pay duties and they try to beat that. So we have to begin to actually put these things into perspective. Why would somebody travel to China and use multiple ATM cards to game the system? So the controls are just to make sure that we conserve foreign exchange for the good of all of us. Now for Fidelity, what we have done is to continue to monitor, as times change. Recently, we announced a reduction on how much you can use.

Some institutions based on what they have also seen, have stopped allowing their cards to be used in certain parts of the world where they have seen abuses. I think the overriding principle is the national interest and welfare of Nigeria so we will continue to assist our customers but still within the regulatory limit.

Question 7: We have another question here that talks about financial principles for an SME. If you are an SME and you are trying to access a loan, what are some of the financial principles that you as a banker will look out for? And another question says that I have been operating for six months being on franchise and I want to expand, how can Fidelity help me? So I think a lot questions are coming on loans, expansion and tapping on the great resources that Fidelity has to offer.

Answer: First and foremost, for you to start a business you have to ask yourself questions. What is the attraction, why am I going into this business, am I keeping up with the Joneses? There are risks associated with businesses. So in terms of finance, you ask yourself how much do I have, there must be something called owners’ equity in a business. Do you even have something to start with? You must save up, you must prepare, then you start small, you must understand the risks in any venture you are going into on financial perspective if not you lose the little you have.
The other question is from someone who has been operating under another company and now wants to borrow because he wants to expand. Excellent. How to go about it is to show the records of what you have done in the last six months to one year or even a longer track record, to show what the objective of the business is, to show a clear understanding of the business, to provide enough information. The banker-Customer relationship is like Doctor-Patient relationship. If you show your banker that you have experience in the business or what you intend to achieve, the bank can then provide financial advisory, we can then guide you, we can then tell you for instance, do you even realize that in this line of business the risk is higher, there is regulatory risk. Let us say you are into pharmaceuticals, do you realize that there are standards? We tell them about NAFDAC requirements and something like that.
That is where a bank like Fidelity with a Managed SME unit comes in. Now, you cannot prescribe the same medication for every ailment. So, for this particular customer for instance we need to get a deeper insight into his business to give the right advice. If for instance I walk into a doctor’s office and I am running a high temperature, he cannot just start treating malaria, he has to conduct tests. This is the reason why we have created an avenue for interaction with customers. This customer can walk into Fidelity Bank and ask for ‘Managed SME’. They will guide him or her from the point of view of benefit of information that he has provided.

Question 8: As you think about the future, this question says that he likes what Fidelity, as a forward thinking bank is doing for SMEs, and asks how you intend to sustain it? I know you are planning an E-commerce platform, you are doing a lot around there, SME cluster programme. Just round up with your future plans.

Answer: Thank you very much, actually, if you remember, I said one of the key strong points of Fidelity is stability in management. I did not start the SME business in Fidelity. My predecessor did and he did a good job of laying the foundation. If I have become the CEO as the third CEO of the bank, if I had come in and I have a different mind-set, then I would probably have jettisoned SMEs, but that is not the case. By the time my tenure is up and I leave Fidelity, we would have built the kind of institution that whoever succeeds me will also continue with what we are doing and taking it to a higher level. And this is very important.
Up to the board level, we are passionate about SMEs. So if for instance Fidelity is interviewing to hire a new CEO and he or she doesn’t believe in SMEs, the chances are that he or she will not get that job. That is how serious Fidelity takes corporate strategic focus and Corporate Governance because our our mission says that we want to make financial service easy and accessible to our customers. So if somebody has a different agenda that has no congruence to the institutional dream, then we have issues. So based on that principle alone, I am sure we will continue. You talked about E-commerce site, there are E-commerce sites all over the place, but you see a bank with three million customers, what does E-commerce do, it gives access to the market, it provides opportunities to project your products as well as see those of others.
But if you have three million customers and six hundred thousand SMEs, and some of these SMEs wouldn’t have gone on any E-commerce website anyway. So providing market access exposes them to countless number of counterparties globally. That’s the power of e-commerce especially now that life styles have changed significantly and millions of people would rather shop online. So our customers will suddenly discover they are raking in more revenues at reduced cost of sales. All these will ensure business sustainability.

Fidelity Bank supports educational development, renovates Obalende Police Children School

Fidelity Bank supports educational development, renovates Obalende Police Children School

Fidelity Bank Plc, one of the country’s top 10 lenders in terms of Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) has handed over a renovated, fully furnished block of classrooms to the Management of Obalende Police Children School (PCS), Lagos State. The renovation project, the financial institution said, is a clear demonstration of its unwavering support towards the protection of child rights, particularly as it relates to access to qualitative education. According to the lender, the decision to embark on the project is borne out of a deep-seated realisation that the education remains critical to driving socio-economic development in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

The project was initiated and partly funded by security guards Bank-wide in fulfillment of the objectives of the Fidelity Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) philosophy which rests on a tripod: The Environment, Education and Health. Amidst the country’s harsh economic conditions occasioned by the free-fall in international oil prices, security guards at Fidelity Bank Plc., under the auspices of the Fidelity Helping Hands Program (FHHP) pulled resources – funds, talents and time – together to repair and fully equip the classrooms. To bring the project to fruition, the guards however received additional funding from the bank in consonance with its CSR strategy.

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony in Lagos at the weekend, Nnamdi Okonkwo, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank, promised to renovate the two buildings beside the renovated block in order to provide a conducive learning environment for children. Alluding to the need for greater private sector participation in the development of Nigeria’s future leaders, Okonkwo announced that the Bank would donate a generating set to power the school’s Computer Laboratory given the nation’s poor electricity supply. He further explained that the renovation project was indeed special as it coincided with Children’s Day celebration.

Through FHHP, the Fidelity boss pointed out that the Bank had commissioned quite a number of such impactful projects across all the geo-political zones. “We strive to reinforce strong, healthy Community Relations by identifying with host communities in activities that are most relevant to them and also strives to play a leading role by identifying with and seeking solutions to the problems of the society”, Okonkwo noted. The Bank Chief Executive stated: “This place was dilapidated. Through the FHHP, the classrooms were renovated. What we do under our CSR programme is to encourage our staff to participate in social responsibility wherever we do business.

“So, staff members in different locations in the country, identify laudable projects and voluntarily contribute money, and then the bank funds the balance”, he further added. In her response, Mrs. Moninuola Gbadegesin, Zonal Head, Police Children School, Lagos & Ogun States, thanked the Bank for the kind gesture, saying that discussion for the renovation commenced just before she assumed the position as the zonal head.

Commercial banks not friendly to agribusiness — NAGB

Commercial banks not friendly to agribusiness — NAGB

Deposit Money Banks do not lend to farmers at affordable rates because they are not in tune with agricultural demand across the country, the Nigerian Agribusiness Group has said.

According to the NAGB, commercial banks in Nigeria have a different approach when it comes to lending money for agriculture and should not be forced to lend to farmers at low-interest rates.

The National President of the NABG, Mr. Sani Dangote, said instead of forcing the DMBs to lend to farmers, the Federal Government should strengthen its Bank of Agriculture and recapitalise the institution in order to effectively serve the sector.

Dangote, who spoke at the 2nd Annual General Meeting of the group in Abuja, explained that based on the way the DMBs were structured, it would be difficult for them to lend effectively to farmers.

According to him, the banks should be left to fund the importation of heavy equipment and other similar inputs where they could get back their money within six months to one year.

“That is where their expertise is and I think we should leave them. Trying to bring them into agriculture will be a failure because their mindset is not in tune with farming and processing. So, there is no need forcing a marriage between the two. It won’t work,” Dangote said.

He said the NABG had emphasised the need for the government to recapitalise the BOA and make it a specialised bank for the sector to provide funding for agricultural produce on a long, medium and short-term basis.

He said the Bank of Industry should also be strengthened to work with the BOA in the aspect of processing agricultural produce.

Dangote said the group had also proposed that the government should segment funding of the sector to low, medium and high-risk areas.

He explained that high-risk areas would include the primary production of agricultural produce; medium would include agro processing, while low-risk would deal with the importation of fertiliser or agricultural equipment.

The NABG president also proffered measures through which the government could affectively tackle smuggling.

He said, “Government should look at areas where the country has local capacity and incentivise them. Once this is done, smuggling will become more difficult because there is local capacity. And within few months or a year, the locally produced products will have considerable edge over imported ones and then the issue of smuggling will fizzle out.”

Dangote observed that government did not lack ideas, rather it lacked the will to execute ideas, adding that the private sector was the execution arm.

“So, if the government can come with the right policies that are suitable to stakeholders and the private sector, it will be able to achieve its goals,” he said.

Government spends N753.6b capital votes without evidence of implementation

Government spends N753.6b capital votes without evidence of implementation

Seven months into the implementation of the 2016 fiscal plan, the Budget Office of the Federation, and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning are yet to furnish the nation with how the sum of N753.633 billion, released to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) was deployed, and for what projected.

The implementation of, particularly capital votes of the 2016 spending plan, which commenced in earnest in May this year when the Appropriation Bill was signed into law, is expected to continue till May 2017 as the Presidency had sought, and obtained the approval of the National Assembly to extend the implementation to achieve a full year cycle of implementation.
The Guardian at the weekend exclusively obtained the breakdown of the capital votes releases to MDAs as at the end of October this year, which was the last time funds were released to them.

However, there is no implementation report so far to indicate the projects and the level of their implementation, as it is always the case.

Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice [Censoj], a non-governmental agency with focus on equitable distribution of the nation’s commonwealth, Mr. Eze Onykpere, described the development as “absurd and a contravention of the Fiscal Responsibility Law 2007.’’
According to Eze, “This is unacceptable and goes a long way to show the lack of capacity and the level of dereliction that the team, which our affairs are consigned in their hands are made of. It’s a serious matter because they are violating the 2007 fiscal Responsibility Law, which demands that the financial activities of every quarter must be published and widely circulated in both print, electronic media as well as hoisted on their websites. It’s a serious infraction,” he insisted.

Eze added that the implication of the lack of transparency in spending so much sums funds in the absence of an implementation report is a veritable platform for corruption to fester, just as he called on the National Assembly to get serious with its oversight functions to check the drift.

A table of the 2016 budget disbursements from the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) indicates that of the amount released so far, the Ministry of Works, Housing and Power received the lion share, totaling N209.246 billion, out of the N422.964 billion votes approved in the budget.

The other MDAs that got funding include : Defence Ministry, N69.512b; Transport Ministry, N30.540b; Agriculture Ministry, N29.578b; Ministry of Water Resources, N25.201b; Ministry of Interior, N21.210b; Ministry of Health, N18.472b; Education Ministry, N16.743b; Ministry of Niger Delta, N8.161b, while the Ministry of Science and Technology got N6.681b. Ministries of Mines and Steel and that of Petroleum, got the sum of N3.360b and N2.413 billion respectively.

The rest MDAs shared a consolidated sum of N312.511b.

The Ministry of Budget and National Planning, was not forthcoming with reasons for the absence of an implementation report.

Spokesman of the minister, Mr. James Akpandem, told The Guardian that: “What you should do is take the figures released and matched them with ministries and projects indicated against them. That would give you a more convincing answer than relying on my response, which may be seen as “ throwing” figures around the releases..”

Active users in Nigeria’s telecoms industry increase to 153.5m

Active users in Nigeria’s telecoms industry increase to 153.5m

The active users of telecommunications services in the country stand at 153.51 million in October, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said.

The telecommunications industry regulator made this known in its Monthly Subscriber/Operator Data, obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos.

It said that the active telecommunications services customers increased by 214,572 in October, as against the figure in September which stood at 153,299,535.

According to the data, 153,086,710 of the 153,514,107 active numbers subscribed to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network services.
The GSM operators’ active customers increased by 249,713 from 152,836,997 subscribers recorded in September.

The reports stated that of the GSM operators, MTN had 60,982,487 users in October, which increased by 423,918, against 60,558,569 recorded in September.

Globacom figure increased in October by 150,280, giving a total of 37,117,992 customers as against 36,967,712 in September.

Airtel had 32,775,916 subscribers in the month under review, which were same users recorded in September.

Etisalat, however, recorded a reduction in customers by 324,485, giving a customer base of 22,210,315 as against 22,534,800 users in September.

The Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators had 244,477 active users in October, showing a decrease of 31,827 from 276,304 customers they had in September.

Between the two surviving CDMA service providers, Visafone’s customers reduced to 240,017, as it lost 31,827 users in September to record 271,844, while Multi-Links maintained 4,460 customers in September.

The monthly subscriber/operator data showed that the Fixed Wireless network’s (landline) consumers decreased to 26,942 in October, as they lost 3,774 customers from their record of 30,716 in September.

Also between the two Fixed Wireless operators, Visafone had 26,514 subscribers in October, losing 3,774 users from the September record of 30,288; while Multi-Links maintained its September record of 428 customers.

It also revealed that the Fixed Wired operators (landline) subscriber base reduced by 2,752, giving a total of 124,812 users in October, as against 127,564 recorded in September.

In the Fixed Wired arena, MTN Fixed took a decline move from 8,591 in September to 5,842 in October, thereby reducing by 2,749 users, Glo Fixed had 12,514 users in October, adding 11 customers to the September record of 12,503.

IpNX network moved from 2,587 subscriber base in September to 2,539, reducing its customers by 48 in October.

It said that 21st Century network had 103,917 customers in October, recording an increase of 34 users to its September record of 103,883.

The report also showed that Smile Communications, the only operator on the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) network had 31,166 active users in October, as it added 3,212 customers to its September subscriber base of 27,954.

The regulatory body said that Section 89 Subsection 3(c) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 mandated it to monitor and report the state of telecommunications industry.

“The commission is mandated to provide statistical analyses and identify industry trends with regard to services, tariffs, operators, technology, subscribers, issues of competition and dominance.

“This is with a view to identifying areas where regulatory intervention will be needed.

“The commission regularly conducts studies, surveys and produces reports on the telecommunications industry.

“Therefore, telecommunications operators are obligated, under the terms of the licenses, to provide NCC with such data on a regular basis for analytical review and publishing,’’ NAN quotes the report as saying.

Prosper Otemuyiwa, Nigerian Software Developer

Fire and Community

Prosper Otemuyiwa is a young Nigerian software developer who believes in giving back to the community. The community nicknamed him “Fire” for his exuberant “fire emoji” laden social media posts, which he uses to share some valuable insights on different software development related topics. While Prosper has worked with some software startups from Anakle and Andela to his recent US employer (for whom he works remotely), he has no interest in founding a startup of his own at this time. Prosper seems to be an anomaly in a community where “starting something” has seemed to become a fad.
At 24, if there is a hierarchy of young talented software developers in Nigeria or indeed Africa, Prosper will be at the very top of it. He is a “Google Developer Expert” one of the very few talented technology people Google decides to bestow this honour and he was recently a mentor at the first Google Developer Launchpad Start event in Africa held in Nairobi. He is practically a “legend” on Github, the online global developer code sharing repository and connection platform where he regularly contributes and has achieved global rankings.

Why does he not want to “start something” when there now seems to be a lot of money flowing around as incentive? It is because he believes that he does not have to. He is one of those rare professionals primarily focused on improving their skills, the craft, and community. They are not interested in doing things because of fads; they act based on deep personal convictions. He asks “if everyone is a founder, who will build the software?”. That is a very real question in a community where every person or the other seems to be a technology entrepreneur looking for developers to help them build their ideas.

This year, Mark Zuckerberg paid a surprise visit to Yaba. YCombinator partners came and ate “Jollof Rice” with members of the local investor and entrepreneur community at ccHub’s rooftop. 500 Startups also came to Lagos. It is very easy to conclude that these people all came because of our “brilliant entrepreneurs”, but I believe they came because of our “Brilliant Developers” who are now commanding Global attention for being “World Class”. It is people like Prosper and others like him that have brought this attention.

Prosper is not the only one who has “Fire” inside of him. There are several others. The local developer community started organising itself with small local community events like the “ForLoop” sessions where they networked and shared experience, and it was followed quickly by other activities powered by technology giants like Google. These events have energised the community to share experiences with each other more, and they revealed some incredible talent who would have gone unnoticed. For the first time, the developers have started to become the celebrities and not just the startup founders, as it should be. Collaboration seems to come more naturally to the developer community as they realise that they are fighting for a common purpose — “Global recognition and accreditation”. This collaboration happening in the background is the reason why the local technology community seems to be thriving.

Creating World-Class Developers
When it comes to creating “market ready” developers, our educational institutions are grossly under-equipped. My sister graduated with a second class upper in computer science but still had to learn more to be able to get a job in the market. When Iyinoluwa Aboyeji first came to me with his idea of enabling student learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) I realised that he was on to something. His startup, Fora, had a big vision of transforming Nigerian higher education learning with online content. He went on to co-found Andela as an evolution of Fora.

A couple of years later, I was at the annual Google I/O event in San Francisco, and one of our own, Moyinoluwa Adeyemi of Swifta got featured in the keynote of Udacity founder, Sebastian Thrun. Udacity was founded by Sebastian who was a Stanford University Professor, and it has now become possibly the largest global online learning portal for developers. Sebastian highlighted Moyinoluwa as one of the African developers who had taken advantage of Udacity to become a “WorldClass Android Developer”. Moyinoluwa was still a student at that time, but she had seen the future.

Google supports Udacity and provides many NanoDegree Scholarships to Africans interested in learning how to build applications on its Android platform. Udacity, Udemy, EdX, etc. are platforms that have enabled our local developers to learn and catch up very quickly with the rest of the world. In most cases, the students need no prior knowledge of programming, and the courses have been well designed to achieve learning outcomes.
Udacity has enabled several success stories, and it made me realise that access to the Internet has become the same thing as access to world-class education, at least for software developers. It, however, takes a lot of discipline to complete these courses as the same Internet is full of distractions. Those who complete these online courses have the motivation and discipline to achieve learning outcomes. It is that tenacity that makes them become “World-Class.”

Back to 2016
There is no argument that 2016 has been groundbreaking for Nigerian or even African technology because of the software developers and their community. Passion is winning. Massive investments have been made, innovative ventures launched, and these have been made possible by the fact that our developers have chosen not to be left behind by limitations in infrastructure and education. Twenty something-year-olds are making the difference once again in Nigeria, and this time, they are helping not just to build multi-million Dollar ventures, they are building our future.

Senate laments poor power supply, plans public hearing

Senate laments poor power supply, plans public hearing

Senate President, Bukola Saraki has directed the Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy to conduct a public hearing into the declining electricity generation in the country, which currently stands at 3000 megawatts capacity.

Also, the public hearing is expected to verify the claims and counter claims of non-remittance of revenues between Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Company (NBET), Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) and Generation Companies (GENCOs) as well as uncover how the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disbursed the N213b intervention funds to the power sector.

Saraki, in a statement issued by his Media Office spoke at the weekend during a special stakeholders meeting held to proffer solutions to the worsening electricity generation in the country. He said the public hearing should look at the role of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), which serves as board members in the DISCOs and GENCOs, thereby making it difficult for the BPE to effectively supervise and audit the electricity generation and distribution companies.

He lamented the poor state of electricity supply and the consequences of the negative development in the efforts to move Nigeria out of the present economic recession.
Saraki told the stakeholders in the power sector led by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Louis Edozien that the essence of the meeting was to proffer solution to an imminent collapse of the electricity system in the country.

Briefing the meeting, Edozien, lamented that power generation has gone down to 3000MW/H from a 7000MW/H generating capacity, with a 12000MW/H-connected load.

Zoto mobile recharge APP, Nigeria’s fastest mobile recharge app

Zoto mobile recharge APP, Nigeria’s fastest mobile recharge app

Zoto, a product of Hedonmark Management Services Limited and Nigeria’s fastest mobile recharge app, has announced that it has become the number one app in Google play store in Nigeria for the shopping category.

With this new development, Zoto has registered a strong presence in the airtime recharge segment in Africa, which was dependent upon physical scratch recharge cards and USSD short codes until now.


Zoto mobile recharge APP


Vipul Sharma, Founder & CEO, Zoto said “We thank Nigeria for making us the number one mobile recharge app in such a short period of time. We are committed to bringing more innovations to provide reliable and convenient mobile payments solution to our customers.”

The traditional scratch cards and USSD based mobile recharge is a challenge for most Nigerians who value time and convenience.
Zoto App offers customers a convenient way to stay connected and recharge from any network. It allows the customer to save card details in the app and thus helps to eliminate the hassle of entering card details time and again.

“Mobile payments have a massive potential in Nigeria because of the growing smartphone penetration & mobile internet penetration. With 84 million unique subscribers in Nigeria, Zoto offers a disruptive and highly scalable value proposition,” further added Vipul.

Zoto is a mobile money and mobile commerce service licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Zoto is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and SSL 128-bit encryption designed to ensure that all companies that process, store or transmit credit/debit card information maintain a secure environment.