Dec 07, 2019

Donors of the African Development Fund (ADF) on Thursday agreed to commit $7.6 billion to speed up growth in Africa’s poorest nations and help lift millions out of poverty.

This fifteenth replenishment of the ADF (ADF-15), up 32% from the previous cycle, sends a strong signal of trust in the Fund, which is the concessional window of the African Development Bank Group.

The Fund comprises 32 contributing states and benefits 37 countries – including those experiencing higher growth rates, headed towards new emerging markets, and fragile states needing special support for basic service delivery. The Fund’s resources are replenished every three years.

ADF-15 will support Africa’s most vulnerable countries by tackling the root causes of fragility, strengthening resilience, and mainstreaming cross-cutting issues. These include gender, climate change, governance, private sector development, and decent job creation.

“What a great pledge we’ve achieved with your support… Together we’ve exceeded the target set for this replenishment. What a great and successful replenishment story that is,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

Over the past 45 years, the ADF has played an important role in the development journey of African low-income countries.

In just nine years, the ADF has made a difference and positively impacted the lives of millions by:

*Improving access to electricity for 10.9 million people;
*Providing agriculture infrastructure and inputs for 90 million people—including 43 million women;
*Improving access to markets and connections between countries to 66.6 million people;
*Contributing to the continent’s regional integration agenda by rehabilitating more than 2,300 km of cross-border roads;
*Improving access to water and sanitation for 35.8 million people.
*ADF-15 covers the period 2020-2022 and will build on successes of the fourteenth replenishment by being more selective and focused.

ADF-15 will focus on two Strategic Pillars: quality and sustainable infrastructure aimed at strengthening regional integration; and human governance and institutional capacity development for increased decent job creation and inclusive growth.

In pursuing these strategic priorities, ADF-15 will pay special attention to gender equality, climate change, the private sector, and good governance promotion.

In his closing remarks, Patrick Dlamini CEO of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, DBSA, who spoke on behalf of South Africa’s Finance minister Tito Mboweni, said “the deliberations and outcome demonstrated the confidence member countries place in the African Development Bank Group as “the cornerstone institution underpinning African development.”

“There is no better vehicle than the ADF,” he said. “Going forward, an ambitious programme of development lies ahead.”

ADF-15 will address the root causes of vulnerability by systematically applying a fragility lens in all its operations. This will be specifically targeted at regions such as the Sahel, which will see a 23% increase in resources from the ADF over the next period.

ADF-15 comes at a time of tremendous opportunities and challenges for ADF countries and the world.

During the next three years, the Fund will scale up its interventions with bold and profoundly transformative projects such as Desert to Power stretching across the Sahel region.

This flagship programme aims at transforming the Sahel into the world’s largest solar production zone with up to 10,000MW of solar generation capacity and 250 million people connected to electricity.

As part of the initiative, the Yeleen Rural Electrification Project in Burkina Faso is set to provide access to electricity to 150,000 households, while the Djermaya Project in Chad will generate 10% of Chad’s power capacity.

“You will see a new spring in our step…we will be bold and decisive. We will stretch ourselves, and we will do more with your support,” Adesina said.

Dec 07, 2019

Lorry drivers have blocked numerous motorways in France with their vehicles in protest at a tax increase on fuel.

Toll booths on the A8 in southern France and the A36 in the east of the country were blocked on Saturday morning, the broadcaster Franceinfo reported.

The action had been called by the trade union OTRE among others.

“Everything is going according to plan,” Jean-Marc Rivera, spokesman for the union, told the station BFMTV.

The reason for the strike is a planned fuel tax increase for 2020 when a tax break for fuel expires.

Should this tax increase be in fact introduced, that would be a severe blow to the 40,000 freight transport companies, the union said.

“Under the pretext of increasing the budget for road infrastructure … the government is imposing this obligation solely on French companies by protecting foreign lorries,” it said.

Already in recent weeks, construction and agricultural vehicles had blocked oil refineries in the country in protest at the government’s plans, raising concerns that petrol could become scarce.

Meanwhile, strikes by workers in local and long-distance public transport against the government’s planned pension reform continued on Saturday.

The French state railway SNCF had announced that only 10 to 15 per cent of the trains would operate.

The Paris Metro was also on strike again, with many lines still not served.

Dec 07, 2019
 
 

Iranian stem cell scientist Professor Massoud Soleimani detained in the US since October 2018: now freed by US

The United States and Iran each freed a prisoner on Saturday in a rare swap, an act of cooperation between two longtime foes whose ties have worsened since President Donald Trump took office.

Trump said Xiyue Wang, a U.S. citizen held in Iran for three years on spying charges, was returning to the United States. An Iranian official said that Iranian Massoud Soleimani had been freed from detention in the United States.

Soleimani, a stem cell expert, was arrested at Chicago airport in October 2018 for allegedly attempting to export biological materials to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Wang, a Princeton University graduate student, was convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2017. His family and the university have always said he was in Iran for research into a history degree and denied spying.

Switzerland facilitated the swap and Iranian state news agency IRNA said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed Soleimani in Zurich, where it said the swap took place. It said Soleimani was expected to return to Iran in the coming hours.

In a statement issued by the White House, Trump made no mention of the freeing of Soleimani but thanked the Swiss government for its help in negotiating Wang’s release.

“Freeing Americans held captive is of vital importance to my Administration, and we will continue to work hard to bring home all our citizens wrongfully held captive overseas,” he said.

Zarif said earlier the prisoner swap was imminent. Later he posted pictures on Twitter of himself with Soleimani talking on board an Iranian plane.

“Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly. Many thanks to all engaged, particularly the Swiss government,” Zarif tweeted.

IRNA reported that Wang was released based on “Islamic clemency”.

Switzerland represents U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran, since Washington and Tehran cut diplomatic ties shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

According to Princeton, Wang was born in Beijing in 1980, emigrated to the United States in 2001 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009. His wife and child are Chinese citizens. China, which normally requires its citizens to give up their nationality when they become citizens of another country, has not commented publicly on the case.

A senior U.S. official said Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, accompanied Soleimani to Switzerland to make the exchange and Hook and Wang were now “en route to Landstuhl in Germany where Wang will be examined by doctors”.

The official said Wang was expected to stay in Germany for several days. Landstuhl is home to an American military medical centre.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet that he was “pleased that the Iranian government has been constructive in this matter”. He added “we will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home”.

Hua Qu, Wang’s wife, welcomed her husband’s release.

“Our family is complete once again. Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue,” she said in a statement.

“We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.”

Soleimani, a stem cell expert, was arrested at Chicago airport in October 2018 for allegedly attempting to export biological materials to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Washington has demanded that Iran release the Americans it is holding, including father and son Siamak and Baquer Namazi; Michael R. White, a Navy veteran imprisoned last year, and Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent missing since 2007.

Dec 06, 2019

The Lagos State Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) in its enforcement activities, has shut nine companies and hospitality firms over alleged failure to remit N21.59 million consumption taxes to the state government.

The Director, Legal Services of the LIRS, Mr. Seyi Alade, made this known while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) during a state-wide tax law enforcement exercise by the Service in Lagos on Thursday.

Alade said that the tax liabilities of the companies were between 2013 to 2019, saying the firms were audited for the periods but had not made the payment. He explained that the tax liability of three of the firms were for the period between 2013 to 2014, while four firms were between April to July 2019 and the other two were for the period between May to August 2019.

He also said the affected companies failed to pay the established liabilities despite `the long rope’ the agency gave them to regularise their tax status. He listed some of the sealed firms to include Krizions Intercontinental Cuisine, Mikacomic Nigeria Ltd., Resolution Finance Ltd., Vlelable Lounge and Oleander Water view Bistrodeva Ltd.

Others were, Printing Connections Ltd., Seven Season Lounge Ltd., Vic James Apartment and Carat 24 Business Hotel & Suites.

Alade said that LIRS sent several notices to the affected companies to remind them of their tax liabilities and the need to make payments before the agency embarked on an enforcement exercise. He explained that the Demand Notice and the Letter of Intention were sent to the affected companies between Nov. 15, 2018, and Sept. 16, 2019, respectively.

“Before LIRS embarks on Distrain exercise, it must have sent at least two letters of notices to the management of the affected firms reminding them of the tax liabilities. The Demand Notice expiration is 30 days while the Letter of Intention expires seven days after issuance. So, before now both the Demand Notice letter and the Letter of Intention to distrain have been sent to the management of the firms which they failed to act on,” he said.

Alade, however, said that some of the affected firms had visited the LIRS office to make payments of their liability after the distrain/enforcement exercise and had equally paid an additional N100,000 as the cost of LIRS levy of the distress.

“There are no hiding places for recalcitrant taxpayers because the LIRS’ enforcement engine is now well oiled to continually carry out enforcement activities against recalcitrant companies and individuals,’’ he said.

He advised that Lagosians should partner with the government by carrying out their civic and constitutional responsibilities of filing their tax returns and promptly pay their assessed taxes in order for the good plans of the government for the state to materialise.

Dec 06, 2019

The Nigerian bourse recorded a negative market breadth for the fourth straight day this week as profit-taking activities held sway throughout Thursday trade. The All Share Index (ASI) went down lower by 0.09% to close at 26,913.70. Market capitalisation stood at N12.990 trillion at the close of business today. Year to day, the index is down by 14.13%.

TOP 5 GAINERS

Dangote Sugar led the gainers’ table with 8.03% appreciation to close at N14.8. UACN added up 6.62% to close today’s trade at N8.05. Nigerian Breweries climbed up by 0.29% to N51.2. Cutix inched up by 4.05%, closing at N1.54. UCAP completed the top 5, rising to N2.3 by a margin of 1.77%.

TOP 5 LOSERS

Arbico slumped to N4.32 by 9.81%, its first time of depreciating in 52 weeks. Fidson fell by 9.33% to close today’s trade at N3.4. Marginally declining by 2.69%, Access Bank ended Thursday’s trade at N9.05. Medview plunged by 10% to N1.62 while FBN Holdings lost 2.21% to close at N6.65.

TOP 5 TRADES

In all, 207.260 million shares worth N2.845 billion were traded in 3,842 deals. UACN was the most preferred trade today as 40.230 million of its shares priced at N315.899 million exchanged hands in 159 transactions. Access Bank followed with 28.288 million shares worth N260.132 million were traded in 256 transactions. GTB had 27.732 million units of its shares worth N837.666 million traded in 174 deals. 25.909 million shares of Zenith bank estimated at N484.604 million were exchanged in 406 deals. FBN Holdings traded 23.766 million shares valued at N159.207 million in 195 deals.

NEW DEVELOPMENT

Okomu Oil Palm Company Plc notified the Exchange and the investing public of the appointment of Arnaud Arhainx as its new Finance Direcor. Mr Arhainx would replace Mr Alain Mary, who had handed in his resignation with effect from 26th October 2019.

Dec 06, 2019
The parent company of Youtube, Gmail and over 200 digital firms, Google, has announced its next move to enter Nigeria via shopping ads in a couple of weeks.

Adim Isiakpona, the Google West Africa Industry Manager, disclosed this on Wednesday, December 4th, in a statement, expressing the company’s excitement on the new development.

According to Adim, the new offering from Google would improve transaction process for buyers, and make it easier for internet users to make purchases of goods.

“We are excited to be launching Shopping ads in Nigeria over the next few weeks,” the statement read.

On the design of the shopping ads, Adim explained that these ads would feature photos and prices to speed up the process of how advertisers reach their target audience.

“Shopping ads include photos and prices to help consumers find the products they are looking for and enable advertisers to reach consumers who are looking to buy,” Adim explained.

The deployment of this will see Google competing with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on ads bids. And this might go on to affect the revenue of existing players should Google’s offering become advertisers’ preferred choice.

Dec 06, 2019

The world’s largest commodities trader, Glencore Plc is being investigated for bribery by the UK Serious Fraud Office.

The new probe comes as the company is already under investigation by the US Department of Justice regarding potential money laundering in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Venezuela.

Glencore confirmed the latest probe in a statement Thursday.

The company said in a statement that it intends to cooperate with the investigation, but a spokesperson declined to provide any additional comments.

Shares of Glencore fell as much as 7% on the news. The UK’s fraud investigator also confirmed the probe in a separate statement.

“The Serious Fraud Office is investigating suspicions of bribery in the conduct of business by the Glencore group of companies, its officials, employees, agents and associated persons,” the department confirmed on Thursday. It said it was not ready to give additional information.

“As this is a live investigation we cannot comment further”, the SFO said on its website.

Shares of Glencore are down almost 24% year-to-date

Dec 05, 2019

Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, has emerged as the financial institution that attracted the highest amount of capital investment in the third quarter of 2019.

This was contained in the Nigerian Capital Importation report of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. According to the report, Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC attracted $1,630.91 million in Q3 2019, which equates to 30.38% of the total capital inflow during the same period.

The Nigerian Capital Importation Q2 report earlier released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics in September, 2019, also revealed that Stanbic IBTC PLC attracted 30.34% of the total capital inflow into the country.

Dr. Demola Sogunle, Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, stated that the report identifying the bank as facilitating the highest amount of capital inflows reflects the immense contribution of the financial institution to the Nigerian economy. He added that the bank would continue to take the lead in the facilitation of business transactions that would inject foreign capital into the country.

The report reflected that the total value of capital imported into the country as at Q3 2019 was $5,367.56 million. A breakdown showed that the largest amount of capital importation by type was through portfolio investments which amounted to $2,999.5 million (55.88%); while Other Investment accounted for $2,167.98 million of total capital. Foreign Direct Investment made up $200.08 million of total capital imported in Q3 2019.

The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Capital Importation Q3 2019 Report outlines Nigeria’s economic outlook, showing the total value of capital inflow into Nigeria. While Lagos State emerged as the top destination of capital investment in Nigeria in Q3 2019 with $4,976.40 million, the United Kingdom was the biggest source of capital investment into Nigeria during the third quarter. The value of capital inflow into Nigeria was $2,011.14, representing 37.47% of the total capital inflow.

Dec 05, 2019

Pirates have kidnapped 19 sailors after waylaying a Hong Kong flagged supertanker, Nave Constellation, loaded with oil. The ship owned by Navios Maritime Acquisition Corporation, was attacked during the evening hours of Dec. 3 while the ship was travelling through Nigerian waters.

The attack occurred roughly 60-70 nautical miles south (reports vary) of Nigeria’s Bonny Island Offshore Terminal, where the ship was stocked with cargo.

Seven crew members were left aboard the ship by the pirates.

According to reports, 18 of the kidnapped were Indian nationals. One was Turk.

Security firm Dryad Global believes the attack is part of a growing trend. Six incidents and four kidnappings have been recorded in the area in recent times.

The string of attacks suggests a well-armed and resourceful pirate action group, most likely operating from one or more “mothership”-type vessels, with other smaller, nimbler crafts at their disposal.

A representative for the tanker’s owner said the top concern was for the kidnapped crew, according to the New Indian Express.

Navios as Owners and Anglo-Eastern as Technical and Crew Managers’ prime concern is the safety and early return of the 19 persons taken by the pirate gang. All the appropriate authorities, including the Flag State, have been alerted and are responding and all the necessary action is being taken to secure their wellbeing and early release.”

After piracy died down in Somalia waters, West Africa has taken over as the Africa’s biggest piracy hotspot.

Oil piracy is also big in the Gulf of Mexico, where the number of incidents is also on the rise

Dec 05, 2019

The United States and Sudan have agreed to upgrade their diplomatic ties by exchanging ambassadors for the first time in more than two decades, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.

The announcement of a return to ambassadorial-level representation after 23 years came as Sudan’s new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, wrapped up his first visit to Washington.

He met senior administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Mark Green, head of the US Agency for International Development.

“This decision is a meaningful step forward in strengthening the US-Sudan bilateral relationship, particularly as the civilian-led transitional government works to implement the vast reforms under the political agreement and constitutional declaration” from August, Pompeo said in a statement.

Hamdok was in Washington seeking support for Sudan’s transition toward democracy since the ouster of strongman Omar al-Bashir amid widespread protests against his rule.

Pompeo praised Hamdok for installing a civilian cabinet, making key personnel changes and committing to democratic elections after a transition period.

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