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We are ready to offer Nigerians affordable education – Netherlands - VANGUARD

FEBRUARY 07, 2018

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Nigeria on Wednesday announced the readiness of Dutch universities and other higher educational institutions to offer qualitative and affordable education to Nigerians.

The embassy’s Advisor for Trade and Economic Affairs, Mrs Sonia Odije, disclosed this to newsmen in Lagos ahead of the Second “Study in Holland Fair’’ in Lagos. Odije said that following the First Study in Holland on June 10, last year, a delegation of Dutch universities and other institutions would soon be visiting Lagos for recruitment of Nigerians.

“The Netherlands on June 10, last year, held her maiden Education Fair in Lagos, which attracted about 500 Nigerians. “That first fair was meant to create awareness among Nigerians of the internationally-recognised over 2000 English Language taught courses in her higher educational institutions.

“This forthcoming second fair, scheduled to hold on March 3, at the Federal Hotel, Victoria Island, from 9: 00 a.m. to 5: 00 p.m., is now meant for the recruitment of Nigerian students into Netherlands universities for qualitative and affordable education. “We really want more Nigerians to the Netherlands because it is a top notch country for international education,’’ she said. Odije, who enjoined parents and wards to bring their children to the fair, added that the exhibition would give their children the opportunity to interact directly with representatives from the various institutions.

She said that their participation at the fair would also give them the platform to ask the right questions before making their choices among the visiting Netherlands universities and colleges. “There is the need for parents and guardians to take advantage of this second fair for their children and wards for them to study in these internationally-recognised institutions.

“There will be opportunities of study/work for would be Nigerian students. What this means is that after their studies, they can immediately be working in the Netherlands,’’ Odije added. NAN

Read more at: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/02/ready-offer-nigerians-affordable-education-netherlands/

US firms invest $8.1bn in Nigeria – Envoy - PUNCH

FEBRUARY 07, 2018

Anna Okon

The United States Consul-General in Lagos, Mr. John Bray, has said that the private investments of US companies in Nigeria are more than $8.1bn.

He stated this in Lagos on Tuesday during the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Security Meets Business Dialogue.

According to him, in spite of the security challenges in the country, some American companies have thrived, while some that cannot cope have left the country.

He said that to address the issue, the US Department of Commerce, Ministry of Trade and Industry and its Nigerian counterpart would hold dialogue sessions to identify impediments in the business environment.

The consul-general stated that the dialogue sessions would forge collaboration between the public and private sectors to improve on security in the country.

In his opening remarks, the President, LCCI, Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, noted that there was no better time to consider the business dimension of security challenges than now, adding that food security was at risk as agricultural production was being threatened by security concerns.

He said, “No meaningful business can be done in an environment that is insecure. Security of life and property is a very critical factor in the investment environment and a major consideration in investment decisions.

“The impact of these security challenges on business and investors’ confidence is phenomenal. Not much investment activities are taking place in the north-eastern part of the country. Attacks by herdsmen on farming communities across the country are not abating, resulting in increasing loss of lives.”

He added, “Many rural farmers are holding back from the current planting season because of the fear of attacks by herdsmen.

NEXIM Bank urges SMEs to access N500bn export facility - PUNCH

FEBRUARY 07, 2018

BY Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja

The Nigeria Export-Import Bank on Tuesday called on export-oriented Small and Medium Entrepreneurs in the South-East and Niger Delta region to access the N500bn Export Stimulation Facility and the N50bn Export Development Fund being managed by the lender.

The funds are expected to boost the SMEs, create more jobs, and contribute to the foreign exchange revenue earnings of the country.

 

The call was made by the Managing Director of NEXIM Bank, Mr. Abba Bello, during a one-day seminar on export potential.

The facilities were made available to NEXIM Bank last December by the Central Bank of Nigeria and it is expected to lend at a maximum of nine per cent interest rate.

Bello said the funds would address the declining export credit to the SMEs and reposition the non-oil sector to increase its contribution to the country’s revenue generation and economic development.

The improved export financing for non-oil exporters, according to him, will enable them to upscale and expand their businesses and improve their competitiveness.

Bello, who was represented at the event by the Head of NEXIM’s Enugu Regional Office, Mr. Chinedu Moghalu, stated, “NEXIM Bank is determined to ensure that these funds achieve the desired impact of triggering non-oil export development, growth and economic progress in line with its mandate as the trade policy bank of the Federal Government and the applicable CBN guidelines for the implementation of the facilities.”

He said under the ESF facility, the transaction that could be funded were export of goods wholly or partly processed or manufactured in Nigeria; export of commodities and services permissible and excluded under existing export prohibition lists; and import of plants and machinery, spare parts and packaging materials, required for export oriented production that could not be produced locally.

Other businesses eligible under the ESF are export value chain support services such as transportation, warehousing and quality assurance infrastructure; and resuscitation, expansion, modernisation and technology upgrade of non-oil exports industries. Stocking facility and working capital can also qualify for funding under the ESF.

“The overall aim of the ESF and EDF is to lower the costs of Nigerian exporters so that their products can be priced at a level where they can compete with other products around the world,” Bello added.

 

The Special Assistant the Enugu State Governor on SME Development, who represented his principal, Anayo Agu, stated that the fund would help to unlock the export potential of SMEs in the state.

He stated, “The invitation to the SMEs to access affordable non-oil export facilities had been the missing link in the efforts of various governments in the region to derive maximum benefits from their investments in the SME value chain, especially in the agriculture and other non-oil sectors.

“It provides us the platform to reach heights we could only dream about before now.”

Macron to Visit Nigeria, Address National Assembly - THISDAY

FEBRUARY 07, 2018

President Emmanuel Macron of France is billed to visit Nigeria in early July this year and is expected to address the joint session of the National Assembly, Ambassador of France to Nigeria, Denys Gauer, has said.

Speaking when he paid a visit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, at the National Assembly, Gauer said President Macron has interest in the future and development of Nigeria.

According to a statement issued by the Speaker’s spokesperson, Turaki Hassan, Gauer revealed that Macron had worked in the French embassy in Abuja early in his career for six months, ”some years ago.”

He also said whereas relations between the two countries in the last few years have centred on security, Macron hoped to use the visit to further deepen relations with Nigeria especially in areas such as youths, culture and creativity.

Responding, Dogara said members of House of Representatives and indeed the National Assembly would want to listen to the French president whom he described as “a man of our generation.
“He has brought a lot of youthful zest, dynamism, charisma and appeal to French politics and we will want to yield the floor to him,” Dogara said.

The Speaker also commended the French Government for assisting Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists and pledged to give expeditious passage to all bilateral agreements that will be signed between Nigeria and France during Macron’s visit.

Bankers’ C’ttee Abolishes Commission on Retail Forex Transactions - THISDAY

FEBRUARY 07, 2018
  • External reserves hit six-year high of $42bn

BY  Obinna Chima

The Bankers’ Committee rose from its meeting Tuesday with a consensus that commercial banks in the country should henceforth desist from charging customers commissions on retail foreign exchange (forex) transactions.

Retail forex transactions include the purchase of dollars for personal travel allowance (PTA), business travel allowance (BTA), school fees and medicals.
The chief executive of the FSDH Merchant Bank Limited, Mrs. Hamda Ambah, disclosed this while briefing the media at the end of the meeting in Lagos.

Desirous of alleviating the pains of retail forex consumers, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in May last year had directed all banks to sell the greenback for BTA, PTA, tuition and medical fees to customers at not more than N360 to dollar, down from N380 to the dollar at which forex was sold previously for retail transactions.

The CBN sells to banks at N357 to the dollar. However, it was learnt that some commercial banks have been charging commissions on such transactions.
To this end, Ambah explained: “One of the things we discussed was a measure that would provide some sort of palliative for all individuals in the country to at least enjoy the benefit.
“It was agreed that the forex that banks sell to their clients for PTA, BTA, school fees and medical bills, that henceforth all banks should charge N360/$ and there would be no commission whatsoever charged by the banks for such sales.

“We want to make sure that this is uniform across all banks. Customers should report any bank that goes outside of this. It has actually been N360 for a while, but some banks in addition to the fee, are charging commissions.”

Earlier, the director, Banking Supervision, CBN, Alhaji Ahmed Abdullahi, who was also at the briefing, put the present value of the country’s external reserves at $42 billion, higher than $40.4 billion last month.
The last time the country’s reserves derived mainly from proceeds of crude oil exports hit $42 billion was in December 2013.

Recent Eurobond issuances have also helped in boosting Nigeria’s reserves position.
Abdullahi also expressed satisfaction with the positive growth of all economic indicators.
Responding to a question on why the modalities on the Agric-SME fund agreed by the committee were yet to be implemented, the CBN director said: “We had detailed discussions on the issues agreed at the last retreat and the modalities for disbursements have been agreed.
“By February, we would see traction in that regard. The modalities are now out and it is left for the customers to come forward.”

Also, the chief executive of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr. Demola Shogunle, disclosed that during the meeting, there was a presentation on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) by one of the special advisers to the president.
According to Shogunle, a major aspect of the presentation was that the federal government had agreed to focus on key selected areas in the ERGP to accelerate investments and job creation.

“The focus areas include power and gas, agriculture and transportation, and manufacturing and processing. The Bankers’ Committee overwhelmingly agreed to be embedded in the programme.
“The banking community will participate actively to the extent that it will lead to job creation and additional investments in the economy,” he said.
In his briefing, the chief executive, Citibank Nigeria, Mr. Akin Dawodu, reiterated plans by the CBN to sanction exporters that fail to repatriate export proceeds.

“Oil export proceeds have to be repatriated within 90 days and non-oil proceeds within 180 days. In the spirit of supporting the reserves position and economic growth, stricter measures were agreed regarding the repatriation of export proceeds, particularly oil export proceeds.

“A 90-day moratorium has been agreed for customers and corporate clients who have not repatriated their export proceeds within the stipulated timeframe for any delays to be cleared.
“After that, the CBN has the right to sanction any customer that defaults. The sanction may include banning people from the forex window or more stringent measures.
“We think this is very important as a body to ensure that the rules are adhered to,” he said.

Iconic Nigerian painting missing for decades is discovered in a north London flat - THE TELEGRAPGH UK

FEBRUARY 07, 2018

An iconic Nigerian painting missing for decades has been discovered in a north London flat.

The discovery of Ben Enwonwu’s 1974 masterpiece of the Ife princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, known as Tutu, has been touted as the “most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years”, Nigerian novelist Ben Okri told the Guardian.

The image of the painting became a symbol of national reconciliation in the country, where people hang posters of it on the walls of their homes.

It is not known how the piece came to be in north London, and the family who have it in their possession requested anonymity.

However, it will be sold at Bonhams in London later this month and is expected to go for over £200,000.

Giles Peppiatt, director of modern African art at the auction house, made the discovery when he went round to the house.

Ben Enwonwu’s 1974 masterpiece of the Ife princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, known as Tutu

Ben Enwonwu’s 1974 masterpiece of the Ife princess Adetutu Ademiluyi, known as Tutu CREDIT:BONHAMS

He said: “Sometimes you go somewhere on a wing and a prayer, you don’t know what you are going to see ... this was an enormous surprise. It is a picture, image-wise, that has been known to me for a long time, so it was a real lightbulb moment; I thought: ‘Oh my god, this is extraordinary.’

Enwonwu was a student at Oxford in the 1940s, but became widely known when he was commissioned to create a bronze sculpture of the Queen during her visit to Nigeria in 1956. He died in 1994.

Nigerian cryptocurrency craze unfazed by bitcoin plunge - PHYS

FEBRUARY 07, 2018

by Stephanie Findlay

While bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have suffered precipitous falls in recent weeks, the units remain popular in Nigeria where they make it easier to do business.

On the surface, digital coins may not seem like a good idea in a country where corruption is rampant and stacks of hard cash are often smuggled overseas.

Yet West Africa's biggest economy has the world's third-largest bitcoin holdings as a percentage of gross domestic (GDP), behind Russia and New Zealand, according to Citigroup.

That may be because blockchain technology—public, online ledgers that underpin cryptocurrencies—is liberating Nigerians sidelined by the global financial system as it dramatically improves the ease of doing business.

Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi, a slight 27-year-old entrepreneur, looks the part of an aspiring corporate disrupter, dressed in skinny jeans with dishevelled hair.

He first considered using cryptocurrency when credit card firms and other established payment providers refused to partner with his global remittance company, deeming the venture too risky.

"They said the markets were too high risk and that people could finance terrorism," he told AFP, laughing. "It's ridiculous."

He realised that the only way he could solve the problem was to use cryptocurrency.

"It's so hard to send money from Nigeria to Zimbabwe, or from the United States to Sudan," he explained. Banks were "very tedious" and payment companies "generally exploitative", he said.

"There's heavy discrimination, definitely. We have to go all around them to succeed."

'Financial inclusion'

Samuel-Biyi's company, SureRemit, developed its own virtual token—a kind of custom cryptocurrency like bitcoin or one of the many alternatives such as ether.

The tokens are used to buy vouchers, which may be used to purchase goods and pay bills at participating merchants anywhere in the world, cutting out cumbersome middlemen and eliminating fees.

In January, SureRemit held its "initial coin offering" (ICO), a form of online crowdfunding where people purchase the tokens to be put in circulation for use in eight countries, mostly in Africa and the Middle East.

The 500 million tokens, each worth two US cents, sold out in just two days and were snapped up by major cryptocurrency players, including South Korea's Hashed, raising $7 million for the company.

Cryptocurrencies are a way for Africans to make payments online and abroad when banks or transfer companies won't, or only for high fees

"We were expecting scam allegations," said Samuel-Biyi, referring to Nigeria's unenviable reputation for online financial fraud. "But the world really accepted it."

 

If the token system works, SureRemit stands to take a chunk of the world's remittance market, which was worth $429 billion in 2016, according to the World Bank.

It's hardly surprising that SureRemit was conceived in Nigeria: remittance flows that year were worth $19 billion—more than four percent of GDP.

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest remittance costs in the world, with the most expensive fees seen within the continent.

To send money from France to Mali incurs a five percent fee, a quarter of how much it costs to send from Nigeria to Mali.

Such high fees have for years forced Nigerians to find alternative, sometimes risky, ways to transfer money.

"I remember back in 2004, e-gold (a defunct digital currency) was the only option anyone in Nigeria had to make online payments," said Tim Akinbo, the founder of Tanjalo, a Nigerian exchange where people can buy bitcoin with the local naira currency.

"There are still African countries cut off from international commerce online. Bitcoin is technology that allows financial inclusion."

Naira volatility

The depreciation of the naira, which has sunk to 305 against the US dollar from 169 in 2015, has made cryptocurrencies even more attractive—and the authorities are paying attention.

Nigeria's central bank governor Godwin Emefiele warned recently that "cryptocurrency or bitcoin is like a gamble", though the Senate has launched an investigation into "the viability of bitcoin as a form of investment".

Stern warnings haven't made an impact on trading, said Owenizi Odia, Nigeria spokesman for Luno, another cryptocurrency exchange operating in the country.

"I think there's an acknowledgement that this technology is the future, going beyond bricks and mortar to improve cost efficiency," added Muyiwa Oni, an analyst at Stanbic IBTC Holdings in Lagos.

"For now we're still trying to distinguish who the main players will be."

Samuel-Biyi hopes to be one of them.

"Whether or not the authorities call it gambling, Nigerians are just looking for any opportunity to get ahead of the curve," he said. "It's part of the hustle."



Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-02-nigerian-cryptocurrency-craze-unfazed-bitcoin.html#jCp

Central banker takes stab at bitcoin ‘bubble’ - THE GUARDIAN

FEBRUARY 07, 2018

The head of the Bank of International Settlements, the central bank for central banks, on Tuesday lambasted bitcoin as a speculative bubble and said authorities need to be ready to protect public trust in the financial system.

While acknowledging the intention of bitcoin’s developers to create an alternative payment system with no government involvement, “it has become a combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster”, said BIS’s general manager, Agustin Carstens.

Delivering a lecture co-hosted by Germany’s central bank, Carstens said that authorities need to be vigilant as cryptocurrencies could undermine the public trust in the financial system.

While cryptocurrencies, led by bitcoin, soared in value last year, authorities in most countries stood on the sidelines, while in some countries they embraced the technology that promises to cut the costs of financial transactions.

But as the value of bitcoin — the best-known virtual currency — has tumbled from its December high of nearly $20,000 to less than half that value with wild daily swings, regulators have taken a more critical outlook.

China recently vowed to fully stamp out cryptocurrency trading after cracking down on it late last year. South Korea has also cracked down on cryptocurrency exchanges to reduce the risk of money laundering.

Carstens said the volatility of cryptocurrencies undermined their utility for transactions and a store in value, thus apparently leaving their main use as a means for criminals to move money.

“If the only ‘business case’ is use for illicit or illegal transactions, central banks cannot allow such tokens to rely on much of the same institutional infrastructure that serves the overall financial system and freeload on the trust that it provides.”

He called for particular vigilance in allowing cryptocurrencies to “piggyback” on the financial system with links to regular bank accounts.

A number of leading US and British banks have recently announced bans on purchasing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies with credit cards.

Bitcoin trading exchanges, which function like brokerages and hold their client balances, have proved targets for hackers, with a Japanese exchange Coincheck hit by a $530 million heist last month.

Carstens, formerly the head of Mexico’s central bank, said that cryptocurrencies may not yet pose a systemic risk.

“But if authorities do not act pre-emptively, cryptocurrencies could become more interconnected with the main financial system and become a threat to financial stability,” he said.

Cryptocurrencies have also come under criticism for using vast amounts of electricity.

DNA shows first modern Briton had dark skin, blue eyes - THE GUARDIAN

FEBRUARY 07, 2018

A full face reconstruction model made from the skull of a 10,000 year old man, known as ‘Cheddar Man’, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton is pictured during a press preview at the National History Museum in London on February 6, 2018. AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS

The first modern Briton had dark skin and blue eyes, London scientists said on Wednesday, following groundbreaking DNA analysis of the remains of a man who lived 10,000 years ago.

Known as “Cheddar Man” after the area in southwest England where his skeleton was discovered in a cave in 1903, the ancient man has been brought to life through the first ever full DNA analysis of his remains.

In a joint project between Britain’s Natural History Museum and University College London, scientists drilled a 2mm hole into the skull and extracted bone powder for analysis.

 

Their findings transformed the way they had previously seen Cheddar Man, who had been portrayed as having brown eyes and light skin in an earlier model.

“It is very surprising that a Brit 10,000 years ago could have that combination of very blue eyes but really dark skin,” said the museum’s Chris Stringer, who for the past decade has analysed the bones of people found in the cave.

 

 

The findings suggest that lighter pigmentation being a feature of populations of northern Europe is more recent than previously thought.

Cheddar Man’s tribe migrated to Britain at the end of the last Ice Age and his DNA has been linked to individuals discovered in modern-day Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg.

Selina Brace, a researcher of ancient DNA at the museum, said the cave environment Cheddar Man was found in helped preserve his remains.

“In the cave you have a really nice, cool, dry, constant environment, and that basically prevents the DNA from breaking down,” she said.

A bust of Cheddar Man, complete with shoulder-length dark hair and short facial hair, was created using 3D printing.

It took close to three months to build the model, with its makers using a high-tech scanner which had been designed for the International Space Station.

Alfons Kennis, who made the bust with his brother Adrie, said the DNA findings were “revolutionary”.

“It’s a story all about migrations throughout history,” he told Channel 4 in a documentary to be aired on February 18.

“It maybe gets rid of the idea that you have to look a certain way to be from somewhere. We are all immigrants,” he added.

Why the stock market plunged Monday - CNBC

FEBRUARY 06, 2018
  • The Dow industrials tumbled more than 1,500 points at one juncture Monday, the worst intraday fall in market history.
  • The drop by the Dow was bad enough during most of the trading day, but the dive that happened around 2:40 p.m. ET started to resemble the 2010 flash crash at one point.

BY  @JeffCoxCNBCcom

 

Largest intraday point drop for Dow in history

Largest intraday point drop for Dow in history  13 Hours Ago | 03:01

The first thing to know about the stock market's eye-watering slide Monday is that it wasn't caused by anything fundamental.

There was no particular piece of news that drove the major averages to capsize, in a move that sent the Dow industrials off more than 1,500 points — a new intraday record — briefly in the final hour of trading.

Instead, the market took on a mind of its own, where sentiment and likely some computer-programmed trading sent Wall Street into a bizarre tizzy. Fear brewed over a number of issues, with the biggest being trepidation about rising interest rates even though government bond yields actually were lower on the day.

"Panic is already starting to set in, which is kind of incredible when you actually think about it," said Michael Yoshikami, CEO of Destination Wealth Management. "The S&P is trading where it was in sometime in December. So it's not like we're retracing an entire 12 months of returns here. I think investors are just understandably nervous. It probably is programmed trading kicking in at this point."

Others blamed the Fed for the market breakdown, or least the mentality that led to the selling climate.

The central bank, following its meeting last week, noted that inflation looked to be on the uptick. That put the market on notice, a point that was echoed when the government Friday said average hourly earnings rose 2.9 percent in January, the fastest move of the recovery.

S&P 500 loses $1 trillion in market cap in February

S&P 500 loses $1 trillion in market cap in February  14 Hours Ago | 00:24

Investors' minds quickly turned to a more aggressive central bank and the prospect of a faster pace of interest rate hikes.

"I'm not worried about this move. This is all a Fed move," said Joe LaVorgna, chief economist for the Americas as Natixis. "If you don't think there's inflation and you don't think the Fed's going to be as aggressive as the hawks would have you think, this equity sell-off should be bought."

Still, investors could be forgiven for having flashbacks about some of the market's most vicious drops. The Dow fell throughout the morning, but the dive that happened around 2:40 p.m. ET actually resembled the violent 2010 flash crash. However, no trading desks contacted by CNBC reported trading issues in Monday's big sell-off.

Sure enough, markets recovered somewhat just as they did that on that May 6 event nearly eight years ago.

But the damage could be substantial to the collective investor psyche.

"This is scary. A lot of people made a ton of dough over the last nine years," said Stephen Weiss, founder and managing partner at Short Hills Capital Partners. "I think we've got some more to go. There's not a catalyst to step in."

The frightening contraction happened to a market that looked bulletproof.

The Dow had soared more than 40 percent since President Donald Trump's election, a period that included an impressive nearly 20 percent rise in the S&P 500 for 2017 and the fastest start ever to a year in 2018.

"The market simply did not take into account that you can't go up like this that long," Yoshikami said.

"The key thing that I think people keep in mind here is that the market moves a lot very quickly, it doesn't mean fundamentals are changing that quickly," added Richard Bernstein, CEO of Richard Bernstein Advisors. "What you are seeing is the recalibration among investors that we actually are in a late-cycle environment."

—With reporting by CNBC's John Melloy, Bob Pisani, and Michelle Fox.

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