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Google Earmarks $6m for Female Startups, Entrepreneurs in Africa

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Google on Monday said it has renewed its commitment to support startups in Africa with a combined six million dollars funding to startups founders and female entrepreneurs in Africa.

Nitin Gajra, Managing Director of Google Sub-Saharan Africa, said on Monday in statement that It was part of the ongoing plans to double down on supporting Black startup founders.

Gajra said that the programme, in collaboration with the Tony Elumelu foundation, would provide seed capital to 500 women entrepreneurs in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and selected Francophone countries.

He said it would prepare them to navigate their businesses through the start-up and early growth phase.

According to Gajra, as part of Google’s global commitment to support underserved communities, three million dollars was earmarked for Startups Black Founders Fund Africa.

‘’This fund, which is part of the company’s radical equity commitments announced in June 2020, will provide cash awards and hands-on support to 50 Black-led startups in Africa.

‘’Unlike most startup investments, it does not require founders to give up any equity in exchange for funding.

‘’Google will be working with the Co-Creation Hub, a Google for Startups partner and leading tech community hub with presence in Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda, to distribute the funding to the selected companies across Africa.

“We are to help black founders grow their businesses, not just through access to capital but also through access to the best of Google’s resources.

“We are dedicated to building a world where all women can thrive.

“A data collected by the World Bank in 10 African countries revealed that male-owned enterprises have six times more capital than female owned enterprises.

‘’This huge capital gap is not stopping the rise of female entrepreneurs, but it slows them down and makes their journeys that much more challenging.

‘’We hope that the support to the Tony Elumelu Foundation will help accelerate the growth of women techmakers and entrepreneurs in Africa,” Gajria said.

Bosun Tijani, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Co-Creation Hub, said it was encouraging to see Google’s continued dedication to strengthening and elevating the startup ecosystem in Africa.

Tijani said that Google was one of the early believers in tech entrepreneurs on the continent and its support over the last 10 years reflects a thoughtful commitment.

He said that the programme was extremely timely and would not only empower founders across the continent but also deepen the pipeline and unlock follow-on funding from both local and foreign investors.

According to him, Google understands that the growth and success of one player in the startup space lays the path for others.

Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, CEO at Tony Elumelu Foundation, said that as Africa’s leading philanthropy empowering young African entrepreneurs, the grant support would provide financial and technical support for additional women-owned businesses and marginalised groups in the informal sector.

She said that there was no better time to invest in women’s economic participation on the continent than now.

According to her, through this support, women will drive growth for local economies and enable better living conditions for their communities.

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Economy

Lawmakers, Bank Row over Alleged $30billion Forex Leakage

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The Nigerian House of Representatives Committee on Finance is probing financial institutions in the country over alleged N30bn leakages in foreign exchange.

On Monday, the James Faleke-led committee grilled officials of Citibank over the alleged non-remittance of collections from Value Added Tax and withholding tax.

Among the allegations against Citibank by the committee were outstanding VAT collectibles on known Form A bank transfers by customers ($463, 778, 150), foreign exchange leakage on form A transactions filed with the Central Bank of Nigeria as taxation services but not traced to the Federal Inland Revenue Service collection platforms ($171, 256, 297).

The Executive Director, Operations and Technology, Citibank, Ngozi Omoke-Enyi, however, absolved her outfit of any blame on the basis that it acted within the confines of the foreign exchange monitoring and miscellaneous provision regulations.

Insisting that a lot of transactions that were documented or mentioned do not attract withholding tax or VAT, se said, “It is in the light of this that we have reviewed all the allegations and the transactions mentioned in the report sent to us, and we want to affirm again that we were not in any way contravening of any of the guidelines in the Act or in the foreign exchange manual.”

The committee also pointed at dividend transfers in excess of capital importation on equity without payment of withholding tax ($3,027,298,192), transfers for dividend repatriations with no evidence of capital importation, either foreign equity and payment of withholding tax ($305,725,840) and foreign transfers for principal loan repayment and interest payment in excess of capital importation loan without payment of withholding tax on interest in ($110,635,050).

It also referred to foreign exchange on Form A transfer payment filed with the committee but not traced to CBN returns without payment of taxes ($510,816,573), foreign transfer payment by customers to other bank accounts without Form A documentation ($30,720,856, 807) and foreign exchange purchased from oil export process yet to be accounted for in the foreign sales voucher ($132,878,000).

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Economy

IoD Holds 37th AGM, Sees Nigeria on Path to Become Stronger Through Diversification from Oil

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The Institute of Directors (IoD) has expressed confidence that the current administration’s efforts in Nigeria at diversification of the economy from oil exports gives hope of the country becoming a stronger nation.

Chief Chris Okunowo, IoD President, made the assertion at the Institute’s 37th Annual General Meeting (AGM) which held physically and virtually on Thursday in Lagos

Okunowo said that government’s implementation of the Economic Sustainability Plan and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (2021-2025) emphasised the need to diversify Nigeria’s economy and ensure growth in non-oil exports.

He said the move implied that Nigeria was showing what recovery could mean for countries that had been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant economic and security crises.

“We expect that as the government focuses on building an enduring business environment through renewable capacity, women and youth empowerment, climate-smart agriculture and overall economic diversification, we can be hopeful for a Nigeria that is on the path to becoming a strong nation,” he said.

Okunowo stated that the pandemic presented an opportunity to reset Nigeria’s economy by consolidating on the ongoing reforms related to the removal of fuel and electricity subsidies and a massive programme on harmonisation of citizen’s data.

“Others include implementation of security reforms and sanitising the business environment, which are crucial to attracting investment into critical sectors of the economy.

“State governments must be encouraged to explore and exploit the opportunities and resources in their respective states.

“Stronger development cooperation, supporting efforts to contain the pandemic and extending economic and financial assistance to countries hardest hit by the crisis, will remain critical for accelerating recovery and putting the world back on the trajectory of sustainable development.

“The urgency of these reforms must be prioritised going into the next decade,” he said.

On corporate governance and ethics, the IoD President noted that the emergence of the pandemic presented the need for new regulatory frameworks to deal with the hitherto unconventional issues of modern-day business environment.

Some of which, he said, include health emergency situations that have inherent commercial risks and impact on businesses and corporate governance obligations.

Okunowo noted that given the growing concern for global environmental issues and the need to preserve the ecosystems, governance via sustainability reporting had become more important to developed and developing economies.

“At both continental and global levels, the fight against unethical practices and poor governance has continued to receive attention.

“And Nigeria has not been left out of these efforts to entrench best practices in the directorship and management of companies, organisations and institutions.

“With the renewed zeal of private sector organisations like IoD Nigeria, government has had no choice but to hearken to the voice of reason and put in place stricter policies to maintain corporate Nigeria’s integrity.

“It is worthy of note that because of this, the 2018 Nigerian Code of Corporate Governance, came into practice in January 2019.

“While corporate financial reporting, based on the provisions and related guidelines of the code, took effect from Jan. 1, 2020.

“Government and other key agencies like the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRCN), Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the Nigerian Stock Exchange, (NSE) have had to release several guidelines in the course of 2020 and part of 2021.

 “As an Institute, during the year under review, we pushed for advocacy for sound corporate governance practice in key sectors of the economy.

“This was done through our position papers, advocacy programmes; particularly on the CAMA Bill and, later, the CAMA 2020 Act, and we paid advocacy visits to relevant organisations,” he said.

Okunowo described the achievements  of his tenure which would end soon as the product of collective efforts.

He listed some of the achievements under his leadership to include launch of the Young Directors Forum, creation of the Directors’ handbook, IoD House development and system automation of the secretariat, among others.

 “I am also pleased to note that loD Nigeria has continued to be increasingly relevant, as it plays more prominent and leading roles in the Nigerian business community.

 “We owe our past leaders a debt of gratitude, and I think their legacies and achievements will be best preserved, if we all continue to join hands to maintain an enduring institution that conforms to best global standards.

“Recognising that institutions are the long shadows of those who run them.

“loD Nigeria, in acknowledgment of the importance of upscaling, expanding and deepening the skills and knowledge of those that manage Nigeria’s top organisations, unfolded a five-year strategic programme in 2017 themed “Agenda of Reform and Progress.”

“I enjoin us all to be more optimistic about our reinvigorated role in upscaling the standards of our current level of performance and as the bastion and voice of ethics and corporate governance in the public and private sectors,” he said.

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Economy

Trade Expert Calls for Increased Investments in AfCFTA to Boost African Economy

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There have been calls for more investments in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to boost the African economy.

At a recent virtual conference organised by the African Public Relations Association (APRA), an expert on trade and finance, Mr. Jesuseun Fatoyinbo, Head of Trade, Transactional Products and Services at Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, highlighted the benefits of increasing investments in the AfCFTA agreement during one of the sessions held as part of the three-day virtual conference.

Jesuseun stated that the AfCFTA agreement will allow African-owned enterprises to enter new markets, expand their customer base and create new commodities and services in the continent. The agreement was created in 2018, and a total of 54 African countries have signed up. Of these, 30 countries have ratified the agreement and 28 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification.

AfCFTA holds great promise for the African economy as it seeks to eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade, making it easier for businesses to trade within Africa and benefit from its emerging markets.

Speaking on the impact of trade on economic development, Jesuseun said: “The status of intra-regional trade within the European, North American and Asian economic corridors is currently estimated at 64 per cent, 50 per cent and 60 per cent respectively.

However, the status of intra-African trade currently stands at 17 per cent, which is significantly lower than other continental regions. This limits business investments within the African continent while increasing trade dependence on foreign markets.” He emphasised the need for improvement in order to expand the African economy.

According to him, increased investments between African countries will trigger trade growth in Africa which will, in turn, promote industrialisation, economic development and subsequently lead to increased employment opportunities across the continent.

Jesuseun advised stakeholders on the need to observe other continental trade trends, as continental trade usually yields positive results. He said, “All sectors need to be involved in AfCFTA to promote industrial development and sustainable socio-economic growth in order to deepen the economic integration of Africa.”

The Stanbic IBTC Head of Trade cited some nations in East Africa which were insulated from economic recession as a result of intra-trade activities. He noted that “despite the severe issues caused by the COVID -19 pandemic in 2020, Tanzania and Ethiopia avoided economic recession, due to their ever-improving trade policies.”

Jesuseun advocated the replication of their strategies across other African nations, to boost Africa’s income and lift millions of Africans out of poverty.

Speaking on Stanbic IBTC’s capabilities to boost trade, he said, “Stanbic IBTC is leveraging world-class digital technologies to make commercial imports and exports easier. The organisation is committed to making trade processes seamless and easier with technology.”

The trade expert stated that the pandemic unearthed the possibility of remote verification as against the prevalent practice of physical documentation. He cited examples of African trade’s past experiences, where many trade processes had experienced inefficacies and bottlenecks because of physical documentation.

Jesuseun concluded that trade processes need to be digitised, to enable seamless multilateral trade between African countries. He urged other stakeholders to create awareness about the usefulness of the AfCFTA agreement.

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