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IMF urges Nigeria to expand tax base, streamline currency policy

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Nigeria should widen its tax revenue base to finance growth-enhancing upgrades to the nation’s infrastructure and social programs, said a senior International Monetary Fund official.

While the administration of Muhammadu Buhari has made progress in addressing issues such as corruption, the West African country needs to pick up its reform efforts if it wants to boost economic growth, said Abebe Aemro Selassie, director of the Africa department at the Washington-based fund.

“To address the education, health, road, electricity and other infrastructure needs they have, they have to have a much higher revenue base than they do now,” said Selassie. “There is tremendous scope to broaden tax bases,” he said, citing property tax as an example.

Nigeria should also move to a single unified foreign-exchange rate, Selassie said in an interview in Washington. In addition to the official exchange rate for the naira, Nigeria offers several different foreign-exchange windows, including one for investors and exporters.

‘Right Direction’
“They have reduced the gap between the parallel market and the official market significantly, so that’s a movement in the right direction, but there are still several foreign-exchange rates,” he said. “Even though the gap is narrower, the country would strongly benefit from having a unified and liquid single foreign-exchange market.”

Nigeria was one of several African oil exporters hit hard when crude prices crashed in 2014.

Now with oil prices rebounding, Nigeria’s recovery is helping drive a “modest” upswing in sub-Saharan Africa, the fund said Tuesday in its latest economic outlook for the region. But turning the recovery into a prolonged period of strong expansion requires bolder steps to support private investment and lift potential growth, the IMF said.

The fund projects Nigeria’s economy will grow 2.1 percent this year and 1.9 percent in 2019. The government has been battling an Islamic insurgency in the country’s northeast since 2009 that’s diverted resources to security from public programs.

Sub-Saharan Growth
The IMF predicts sub-Saharan African gross domestic product will expand 3.4 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2019. While regional growth has picked up, it remains well below the pace of expansion before the global financial crisis.

About 40 percent of low-income countries in the region are “in debt distress or high risk of debt distress,” said the IMF. Delays by oil exporters in adjusting to the crude shock have left some with high debt levels, said the fund, which lends to nations with balance-of-payments shortfalls.

Selassie noted the region’s debt levels have recently risen from a relatively “low base.” But it’s still a cause for concern, because countries in the region don’t have ample capacity to service their debts, he said.

Fiscal and monetary policy in South Africa, another major economy in the region, is well calibrated, Selassie said. However, the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa should step up efforts to open markets such as telecommunications services and implement labor-market reforms to make it easier for young people to work, he said.

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John Abayomi denies ownership of Instablog9ja, threatens to sue Linda Ikeji

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John Abayomi, Online Editor for Punch newspapers, has threatened a lawsuit against the publisher of Linda Ikeji blog, Linda Ikeji, for publishing false and malicious story about him.Abayomi through his lawyer, Falana and Falana’s Chambers claimed that the publication with the headline, ‘LIB Exclusive: Meet the owner of Instablog9ja-John Abayomi’ has put his life and that of his family in danger.

In the letter delivered to the blogger on Friday, Ikeji was asked to tender an unreserved apology within forty-eight hours or risk legal action.

Linda in the said publication had claimed that ‘the owner of instablog9ja is John Abayomi, a former online editor of Vanguard news and current online editor of Punch’.

However, Falana said the statement is untrue and unfounded, but only calculated to lower Abayomi’s esteem and damage his reputation and professional career.

“Your publication has put him in the harm’s way, thereby endangering his life and the lives of his family members. It has also attracted a lot of negative reactions from members of the public including celebrities who has been eager to know the face behind the blunt and sarcastic blog because of the method of reportage”.

“Your mendacious publication was clearly actuated by malice in that it was deliberately done to portray our client as an imposter, a fraudster and a blackmailer”

“In the light of the foregoing, we have our client’s firm instructions to demand an unqualified apology together with a retraction of the libelous publication in the edition of your blog (Linda Ikeji blog) in addition to having the retraction published on Instagram.

“However, if you fail or refuse to accede to our client’s demands within 48 hours of the receipt of this letter, we shall have no option than to initiate civil proceedings against you at the Lagos State High Court without further recourse to you,” reads the letter which was signed by Chukwuma Onwuemene (ESQ.).

A reliable source has also rubbished reports that Abayomi was summoned to a meeting by his employers, Punch Newspapers, over Linda Ikeji’s publication.

“It is totally untrue. There was no such meeting. John is a top-notch professional and everybody close to him, including his employers, are aware that Linda Ikeji’s publication was completely untrue,” the source said.

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Diamond Bank wins Women’s Market Champions Awards

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Nigeria’s leading retail bank, Diamond Bank Plc has been awarded the prestigious Women’s Market Champion honours by the Global Banking Alliance for Women. This year’s Women’s Market Champions reflect the global nature of the Global Banking Alliance for Women’s work hailing from diverse markets and regions.

According to Vanessa Van Landingha, Manager, Branding and Communications Strategy, Global Banking Alliance for Women (GBA), Diamond Bank was selected as one of the 2018 awardees for its outstanding impact on Women development and providing them with holistic solutions that meet their needs.

“The awarded institutions are true champions of women, working to unleash the economic potential of the female economy,” GBA Chief Executive Inez Murray said. “Their engagement with the GBA network is essential to the work we are doing to economically empower women worldwide and contributes to the Women’s Market success of the entire membership.” Landingha said.

Commenting on the award, Karimot Tukur, Head Consumer Banking said; “This award lends credence to the work that Diamond Bank has been doing over the years to advance the cause of women especially in the SME and Financial Inclusion space. Our Diamond Woman proposition is designed specifically for women, by women and dedicated to the economic empowerment of women.”

Diamond Bank Plc is one of Nigeria’s leading commercial bank providing enhanced customer experience through innovation and technology. Regarded as a supporter of Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises through SME lending, capacity building, business seminars and workshops.

Recently, the Bank recorded a landmark funds disbursement of over N1 billion to small business owners under the cash flow-based SME lending scheme in partnership with the Women’s World Banking (WWB), and this has earned the leading financial institution ranked among the top five SME-focused banks in Nigeria in the 2018 KPMG Customer Service Survey.

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FCMB partners WSBI to boost financial inclusion, savings in Nigeria

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First City Monument Bank (FCMB) is set to substantially increase its support to agribusiness, its value chain and growth of the Nigerian economy after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Savings and Retail Banking Institute (WSBI). The memorandum outlines a framework to deepen agency banking, financial inclusion and savings culture in the informal and agribusiness sectors. As part of the terms of the partnership, in addition to the stated areas of support, WSBI will provide technical oversight supervision on a regular basis to ensure the achievement of mutually agreed goals set by both institutions.

According to the memorandum, the project involves FCMB rolling out an integrated savings account – named ‘Kampe Account’ – to offer financial services under phase one of its plan to 150,000 unbanked and under-banked farmers across five states through agricultural agents operating under the bank’s agency banking proposition. The first set of states to benefit in this first phase are Kaduna, Kano, Nasarawa, Ogun and Oyo. The plan is to reach 2 million farmers across the entire nation by year 2023.

In addition to the financial support to farmers, FCMB plans to deploy its state-of-the art technology and mobile banking solutions to drive the project mainly in the rural and sub-urban farm settlements where most farmers are based. The bank will also organize capacity-building programmes for farmers aimed at facilitating their understanding of the sector and promote innovative ideas that would make the sector attractive, ultimately facilitating job creation that would in turn, impact on productivity and income.

Commenting on the grant from WSBI and the initiative, FCMB’s Managing Director and Chief Executive, Mr. Adam Nuru noted the development will revolutionize agribusiness – one of the various empowerment strategies adopted by the bank that is appreciated by stakeholders within and outside Nigeria.

Adam Nuru said: “Partnering with WSBI and harnessing the business model we have developed to drive it, under our Kampe Account, is built on a sustainable approach which ensures farmers can gain better access to finance and other resources needed to help them build successful businesses.”

Nigerian smallholder farmers have been at a disadvantage due to several factors including land fragmentation, inadequate farming equipment, broken value chains, poor access to finance and inadequate cash flow. Over the years, they have suffered from lack of essential services such as access to good markets to create low economies of scale, challenges in the promotion of agricultural productivity, hurdles in their bid to achieve increase in food security to improve rural livelihoods for engendering systematic growth out of poverty. FCMB and WSBI are optimistic that these challenges will be addressed.

Mr. Nuru added: “Farmers who benefit from this effort can and should make the best use of the opportunity. FCMB will continue to partner with WSBI to create opportunities that would ensure the realization of the personal and business needs of customers.”

WSBI Managing Director Chris De Noose concluded: “The Kampe Savings Project is yet another example of the innovative ways rural communities can flourish through mobile savings and beyond. Expanding banking access and agricultural services through the provision of mobile services to the farming community, which increasingly includes more women, can help knock out any doubt about the payoff that farming can bring.”

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MTN To Offer Nigerians Mobile Banking Services In 2019

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MTN Group will apply for a mobile banking license in Nigeria and launch a service there next year, its CEO said on Tuesday, further embedding the South African telecoms company in its biggest but increasingly problematic market.

“We will be applying for a payment service banking license in Nigeria in the next month or so, and if all goes according to plan, we will also be launching Mobile Money in Nigeria probably around Q2 of 2019,” Rob Shuter told a telecoms conference in Cape Town.

MTN, Africa’s biggest telecoms company, has faced challenges in Nigeria where it has been ordered by the central bank to return $8.1 billion which the bank said was illegally sent abroad, and in a separate case has been slapped with a $2 billion tax bill in Nigeria. It is in talks with the central bank about the $8 billion fund transfer.

The success of mobile money over in East Africa, pioneered by Kenya’s Safaricom, has convinced investors and the industry that financial services is the next growth area for telecoms to offset falling prices for basic services.

Shuter, who has led MTN since last year, also said the company would relaunch mobile money services in South Africa, two years after canning the service. The company has also bought a music streaming business Simfy, which Shuter said was “Africa’s leading music streaming business.”

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