The Country Manager for OPay in Nigeria, Iniabasi Akpan, has finally reacted to the role ORide played in the temporary shutdown of Gokada‘s (its ride-hailing rival) operation in August 2019. Although the shutdown lasted for two weeks, ORide was identified as one of the reasons it happened.
ORide and Gokada have been involved in the gradual transformation of Nigeria’s public transportation through ride-hailing services. Though ORide is the most recent entrant into the ride-hailing market, the competition they provide has not only affected traditional operators of motorcycle business (Okada riders) but also the bike-hailing rivals who have not been spared by its onslaught.
In pursuit of better opportunities
Nairametrics had reported how Gokada lost some of its top staff members to ORide. Four staff, including co-founder and COO of Gokada, left the company for ORide. While Gokada said the poaching was nothing significant, Akpan told Nairametrics the company wouldn’t stop any staff of rivals seeking better opportunities in ORide.
“If you are in a market, people always seek better opportunities, so we can’t say people are engaging us and we turn them back, obviously not.
“If there are opportunities or openings and people who work for the competitors want to work for us, I mean that’s not erm (bad). You expect that kind of thing in a competitive market.”
He added that, “In the banking industry, it happens quite often. People move from banks to banks to move up the ladder, it’s been there. It’s a global practice. When people want to advance their career, they look for opportunities in new places, in places where they think the vision is right and know where they are going.”
Akpan talks of new strategy
Akpan said Gokada’s intention was to remain operational in Lagos rather than expand its market base to other States in Nigeria. His statement came after Gokada informed Nairametrics it was not in a rush to conquer new grounds like its competitors but would rather offer better bike-hailing service.
According to Akpan, ORide is expanding aggressively with no time to be distracted by competitors. He said if ORide had paid attention to its rivals, it would not have expanded beyond Lagos.
“We focus on our business as much as possible, you don’t want to be distracted. When you look around too much, you get distracted.
“So, we focus on the goal which is to grow our business, expand our business, and we are doing that aggressively. So within May and now, we have eight cities. So if we are looking at our competitors, we would still be in Lagos. While the competition is still in Lagos, we’ve gone beyond Lagos.
“If we are driving financial inclusion, then we can’t be looking at (just) Lagos because more and more, the people who need the service are the guys (people) who are excluded. They need to have access to smartphones, (e)-wallet, to things that will give them access to financial services and enabling environment to improve the quality of their lives.
“So that’s why for us, beyond Lagos is very important. So while the competitors are still there trying to do stuff in Lagos, we’ve gone beyond Lagos.”
ORide is currently operating in Kano, Aba, Abeokuta, Akure, Ilorin, Asaba and Uyo four months after establishment. The company also plans to expand into Kaduna as it sees the Nasir El-rufai-led State as revenue potential but other bike-hailing companies, Max.ng and Gokada operate only in Lagos State.
Challenges since establishment in June
While ORide has enjoyed acceptance and recorded growth in its number of trips which Akpan projected at six figures, the company has not been immune to challenges since starting operation in June 2019.
“Lot and lot of challenges. You know there are vested interest in some of these things.
“Almost every sector has vested interest, Unions are there, regulators are there. And I think that generally also if you look at the infrastructure that we also have, I mean sometimes the services just don’t work; you make calls, the call doesn’t go through.
“These are all basic challenges that we face, but we are responding to almost every one of them. Making sure that the technology is efficient and has the right customer support, engage the regulators…. We just have the right structure to tackle every one of them. We have a great team. We have different people engaging different stakeholders to make sure we overcome or surmount these challenges.”
ORide is not profitable yet
Despite its growth within the short space of four months, ORide isn’t profitable. However, the profit issue is not particular to ORide as the ride-hailing market is generally not profitable to the players – be it car-hailing or bike-hailing companies.
While responding to the revenue generation of ORide, Akpan told Nairametrics that the company was not focused on its profitability yet, saying its main target was to increase locations and trips.
“Are we measuring revenue? Maybe not necessarily at this point. Revenue is secondary not a priority. Basically, what we look at is expanding the number of locations and also increase the number of trips.
“Those are top priorities for us. If we are looking at revenue or looking at income, it’s not a profitable business for now, so profitability is not a major driver at this point. And it’s not as if we are a charity organisation, somewhere down the line, obviously, we would have to make returns to our shareholders, we have that in mind.
“The very first thing is making sure people have access to quality service, the experience is different, get them to adopt the new technology that is available, and obviously, once they see the benefits, they begin to use it more and more. And down the line, longterm it pays off. That’s traditionally how most Fintechs work at this stage, but it’s a long road.”
Rack Centre to create West Africa’s largest data centre in $100m expansion
Rack Centre’s expansion programme will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres.
Leading carrier neutral data centre operator in West Africa, Rack Centre, has announced an expansion programme that will increase capacity to a total net lettable white space of 6000 square metres, which will pave way for 13MW of IT power capacity in its Lagos campus.
This was disclosed in a press release by the company, which was seen by Nairametrics.
The expansion is expected to bring carrier neutral scale to West Africa, and this is in response to increasing demand for data centre space from cloud uptake, telecommunication investment and outsourcing of IT facilities by enterprises in the region.
The funding for this expansion will come from a $250m pan-African data centre platform, established by Actis and Convergence Partners, a leading ICT infrastructure investor in Africa.
In addition to the expansion in Rack Centre, the platform is also actively developing additional buy and build opportunities across Africa, to establish a network of carrier neutral data centres aimed at catering to carrier, cloud and hyperscale customers.
Back story: It is noteworthy that on March 2020, in a bid to pave way for the expansion programme, Actis, a London private equity firm, announced an investment in Rack Centre, taking a controlling stake in the business alongside Jagal.
Why this matters
Nigeria is a key entry point for global telecommunications, content, and cloud players seeking access to the region. Despite the potentials of the country; with 138 million internet subscribers, more than any country in Africa or Europe, and the largest population and GDP in Africa, a lack of cost-effective, energy-efficient IT infrastructure, has been a constraint to doing business in the region.
However, in a bid to create unrestricted connectivity between customers, telecommunication carriers, and internet exchange points within its data centres in the region, as a unique scale carrier neutral player, Rack Centre brings global best practice to Nigeria, as the first carrier neutral data centre in the region, to achieve Uptime Institute Tier III Certification of Constructed Facility (TCCF).
The global leaders that the platform has engaged include:
- Tim Parsonson, Co-founder, Teraco Data Environments – the largest carrier neutral operator in Africa, who joins the Board as Chairperson on the board.
- Frank Hassett, a veteran of the global data centre industry and previous Vice President of Infrastructure, at Equinix, brings over 1300MW of build and operate experience, to assist with hyperscale expansion.
While speaking on the expansion of capacity, Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Convergence Partners, said; “Africa is at the start of a critical time in its development, as the 4th industrial revolution offers the chance to leapfrog many of Africa’s challenges, and harness the immense potential of its people. Convergence Partners is delighted to partner with Actis in accelerating the growth of high quality data centre infrastructure, an indispensable part of the foundation of this revolution in the region.”
Dr Ayotunde Coker, Managing Director of Rack Centre, emphasized that the group is proud of the quality and scale bar which they have set in the region.
“We are proud of the quality and scale bar we have set in the region and are scaling to be the de-facto digital data hub for West Africa
“Mass adoption of digital working models and content distribution is driving growing investment in the region and Rack Centre offers a world class location to house these IT and telecoms facilities,” Coker said.
Supporting this ambition, engineering consultancy Arup, have been appointed for the project. The leadership status of Arup is uncontested, having designed over 2,000MW of IT capacity for industry-leading tech giants, and co-location providers across the globe.
CBN gives up on its policy of attracting dollars
CBN has given up its policy of attracting ‘hot money’ as it selects an alternative way to fight inflation.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issued a monetary policy communique explaining why it cut its monetary policy rate from 12.5% to 11.5%, the first drop since May 2020 when it slashed MPR from 13.5% t0 12.5%. The cut in rates means it is no longer targeting foreign investor inflow as a basis for keeping the exchange rate stable.
The CBN has held MPR high for years due to high inflationary pressures believing that higher MPRs could lead to a lower inflation rate. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the increased price of fuel and electricity suggest this is a battle already lost via hawkish monetary policy.
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What they are saying: According to the bank, it believes the higher inflation Nigeria is facing is not due to monetary policy but due to “causal factors” which are outside of its immediate control.
“In the view of the MPC, so far, evidence has not supported the rising inflation to monetary factors but rather, evidence suggests nonmonetary factors (structural factors) as the overwhelming reasons accounting for the inflationary pressure,” the CBN stated.
The structural factors the CBN is referring to are rising in prices of fuel and electricity as well as cost increases emanating from the devaluation of the naira.
“Accordingly, the implication is that traditional monetary policy instruments are not helpful in addressing the type of inflationary pressure we are currently confronted with,” the CBN added.
These issues mean the CBN faces a quagmire in how to combat inflation as the traditional measures it has typically deployed might not work effectively.
Forgo hot money: The apex bank toyed with increased MPR to combat the high inflation rate but opined that doing so could lead to an even deeper recession despite the benefits of attracting foreign capital.
“The Committee noted that the likely action aimed to addressing the rise in domestic prices would have been to tighten the stance of policy, as this will not only moderate the upward pressure on prices but will also attract fresh capital into the economy and improve the level of the external reserves. It however, noted that this decision may stifle the recovery of output growth and thus, drive the economy further into contraction.”
In 2017, the CBN adopted a hawkish monetary policy stand of increasing MPR and offering interest rates as high as 18% via its open market operations bills.
- The policy helped attracted billions of dollars in capital rising to as high as $13.4 billion in 2019. It dropped to as low as $332 million in the second quarter of 2020.
- Foreign investors have basically stopped inflowing forex into the control as yields have crashed and repatriating it is now a major challenge.
The other option: Deciding against increasing MPR means the CBN had to consider a dovish policy, which requires that they cut monetary policy rates and intervene in sectors of the economy that can address the supply side factors it cited. Supply-side factors are price-related increases emanating from high production, storage, and distribution cost of finished goods and services meaning that price will remain high despite stable or lower demand.
“On easing the stance of policy, the MPC was of the view that this action would provide cheaper credit to improve aggregate demand, stimulate production, reduce unemployment, and support the recovery of output growth. Members were of the opinion that the option to lose will complement the Bank’s commitment to sustain the trajectory of the economic recovery and reduce the negative impact of COVID-19. In addition, the liquidity injections are expected to stimulate credit expansion to the critically impacted sectors of the economy and offer an impetus for output growth and economic recovery,” the CBN stated.
What this means: By dumping inflation targeting from the demand side, the CBN is betting that spending money on stimulus programs will pay off down the road as cheaper long term credit will reduce cost of goods and services and will eventually reflect in the lower inflation rate.
- The CBN did not state where it sees the inflation rate and when it will drop to its new target by relying on supply-side management as strategy.
- The downside of this strategy is that there is very little impetus for foreign investors to purchase CBN securities at very low-interest rates.
- This shuts the door to the reliance of foreign portfolio inflows to shore up dollar reserves leaving us with investors who may want to return to the stock market.
- If oil prices fail to pick up and foreign investor inflow is not forthcoming, then there will likely be heavy pressure on the CBN effectively worsening things.
De facto Government: CBN explains why it will keep funding the economy
The Central Bank of Nigeria provided reasons why it will keep spending on development activies such as its intervemtion funds in the agricultural and energy sectors.
The Central Bank of Nigeria provided reasons why it will keep spending on development activities such as its intervention funds in the agricultural and energy sectors. The central bank has carried on as a form of de facto government in recent years particularly in the Covid-19 months, funding several developmental activities and sectors in the economy.
The explanation was provided in its monetary policy communique read out by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele following the end of the monetary policy committee meeting held on Tuesday.
According to Mr. Emefiele, it will keep spending because the Federal Government is currently incapable of funding development programs because it is facing revenue shortfalls. The CBN reckoned that the economy is faced with likely stagflation (a combination of an economic recession and high inflationary environment) even as Nigerians still have to deal with an increase in fuel and energy prices. It opined that it had to work harder to combat the pressure the price increases will have on Nigerians.
“The Committee was therefore of the view that to abate the pressure, it had no choice but to pursue an expansionary monetary policy using development finance policy tools, targeted at raising output and aggregate supply to moderate the rate of inflation.
“At present, fiscal policy is constrained and so cannot, on its own lift the economy out of contraction or recession given the paucity of funds arising from weak revenue base, current low crude oil prices, lack of fiscal buffers and high burden of debt services.
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“Therefore, monetary policy must continue to provide massive support through its development finance activities to achieve growth in the Nigerian economy. This is the reason MPC will continue to play a dominant role in the achievement of the goals of the Economic Sustainability Program (ESP) through its interventionist role to navigate the country towards a direction that will boost output growth and moderate the level of inflation.”
As part of its plans to inject stimulus into the economy, the central bank committed to a stimulus package of about N1.1 trillion through the government’s Economic Sustainability Plans revealed in June.
CBN to the rescue: Over the last few months the CBN has been at the forefront of leading developmental activities in the country despite overseeing monetary policy and not fiscal policy.
- The role it is currently playing should be that of the Ministry of Finance, but with government revenue on decline, it believes it has no choice but to come in as a spender of last resort.
- The CBN through its development finance responsibilities has the powers to fund activities in the economy that it believes will create jobs and reduce the inflation rate.
But more recently, it has been criticized for expanding its balance sheets and playing too big a role in backstopping nearly all major developmental programs of the Buhari administration.
- The CBN is currently spending trillions funding the agricultural sector
- It has also set aside hundreds of billions of naira in funding SME’s through NISRAL and partner microfinance banks
- There is also several targeted private sector spending in the areas of power, healthcare, real estate, entertainment etc.