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Telcos seek engagement from NCC, CBN on USSD dispute

ALTON has called on the NCC and CBN to summon financial and telecoms industry stakeholders for a meeting as regards to the USSD dispute.

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USSD Gbenga Adebayo, Multiple taxes scare investors, stifle economic growth, ALTON warns , Why telecoms poor services persist 

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has called on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to summon the stakeholders of financial and telecoms industries for a meeting concerning the USSD dispute.

The meeting, the association said, would be beneficial to the consumers and stakeholders at large as it would help to address and clarify the controversial issues that occurred in the past few days regarding the USSD charges.

The ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo explained that the USSD channel had changed over time from a channel used only for telco-related services such as balance inquiry and recharges, to one that can be used for services relating to financial, insurance, agricultural and government services, among others.

[READ ALSO: NCC orders immediate suspension of USSD charges by telcos]

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According to Adebayo, the USSD channel is now delivered using the Standalone Dedicated Control Channel (SDCCH) which is also used for call set-up, SMS set-up, and delivery. The high usage of the USSD channel has made the telcos to bear additional costs which emanate from additional SDCCH channels.

“In order to accelerate the adoption of financial services on USSD, the banks partnered with our members to zero-rate the USSD access to end-users, while the banks bore the cost for the provision of service. 

“Based on this arrangement, the banks took on the responsibility of billing customers and paid our members for use of the USSD infrastructure from the service fees deducted from the customer’s bank account. These service fees charged by the banks were however far in excess of the costs remitted to our members by the Banks for providing the USSD platform and have since remained so.

“The banks, however, provided no assurances to our members that such service fees charged to customers’ bank accounts for access to bank services through the USSD channel will be discontinued post-implementation of end-user billing by our members.

“The removal of these service fees by the banks would have meant that if bank customers were charged only the USSD costs communicated by our members per USSD session, bank customers will be paying far less than what they are currently being charged by the banks which in some instances are as high as N50,” Adebayo said.

[READ ALSO: Bank CEOs applaud NCC’s decision to suspend USSD charges by telecommunication companies for accessing bank services]

Prior to this call, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had suspended the end-user billing for financial transactions by telcos through USSD channel.

Chidinma holds a degree in Mass communication from Caleb University Lagos and a Masters in view in Public Relations. She strongly believes in self development which has made her volunteer with an NGO on girl child development. She loves writing, reading and travelling. You may contact her via - [email protected]

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Coronavirus

Covid-19: FG reports 36% drop in confirmed cases, disburses N32 billion to 32 states

Nigeria has witnessed a decline in the number of coronavirus cases in the month of August from that recorded in July.

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NCDC, CORONAVIRUS, COVID-19: Nigeria, other African countries to collaborate with tech giants over misinformation, NCDC and NNPC-IPPG reinforce #TakeResponsibility theme with multi-lingual campaign

The Federal Government has announced a 36% decline in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the month of August, as against what was recorded in July across the country.

This disclosure was made by the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, during a press briefing on Monday by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja.

He, however, said that it is not time to celebrate as the decline could be attributed to low COVID-19 tests in the states.

“The number of reported cases daily has declined nationally in the last few weeks. We have seen a 36 per cent decline in August compared to July on national figures. Unfortunately, we cannot celebrate this until we test sufficient figures in every state,” the NCDC boss maintained.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 has disclosed the disbursement of N1 billion each to 32 states in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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This was part of the statement made by the PTF Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, during a press briefing of the task force on Monday in Abuja.

Aliyu said, “We have released money to the state governments recently, to 32 state governments. Each state government was given a billion naira. This is for the purpose of driving their COVID-19 responses and we are asking them to prioritize testing in addition to surveillance activities linked to COVID-19.’

The Chairman of PTF on Covid-19, who also doubles as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, called for greater vigilance from both the government and citizen.

While explaining the importance of the call, Mustapha noted that the country’s economy has been devastated by the global pandemic.

The SGF stressed that President Muhammad Buhari’s administration, as a serious government, is pushing through with reforms that will help the nation’s economy recover from the effect of the virus.

Mustapha said, “The call for greater vigilance is underscored by the fact that our economy has been seriously affected by the pandemic and we are pushing through with home-grown economic recovery strategies to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic.”

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Coronavirus

WHO insists on its COVID-19 transmission guidance despite US new draft change

WHO has once again dismissed warnings by the United States’ CDC that the Coronavirus could be transmitted through airborne particles.

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Dr Tedros Adhanom, Head of the World health organization (WHO), COVID-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) disclosed on Monday that it has not changed its policy on the aerosol transmission of the coronavirus disease, after United States health officials mistakenly drafted new guidance, warning that it could be transmitted through airborne particles.

While making the disclosure in a press briefing, the Executive Director of WHO’s Emergency Programme, Mike Ryan, said that he would follow up with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the next 24 hours, after it said COVID-19 could spread through airborne particles that could remain suspended in the air and travel beyond six feet.

In a briefing, Mike Ryan said, “Certainly we haven’t seen any new evidence and our position on this remains the same.”

Nairametrics had earlier reported that the WHO while providing an update on the mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that caused the Covid-19) from infected people, revealed that based on new scientific evidence, the coronavirus can be transmitted indoors by droplets in the air.

The UN health agency, in a scientific brief, said that people who spend time in crowded places with poor ventilation are at risk of being infected by the coronavirus as the droplets circulate throughout the air in indoor gatherings.

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The CDC said that a draft version of changes to its recommendations were posted in error on its website, while it was in the process of updating its guidance.

It, however, said that the guidance would be reposted as soon as it had completed the review.

The CDC previously disclosed that the virus mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when a sick person coughed, sneezed or talked.

The WHO’s Ryan said the agency still believes the disease is primarily spread through droplets, but that in crowded closed spaces with inadequate ventilation, aerosol transmission can occur.

He said, “We still, based on the evidence, believe that there is a wide range of transmission modes.”

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Business

Agriculture vs Unemployment: Buhari’s farming policy has a major flaw

How workable is Buhari’s plan to send able-bodied young people to the farms as a way of solving unemployment in the country?

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Does sending "able-bodied youths" to the farms increase productivity?, Agricultural financing, Top AgriTech deals currently on sale in Nigeria – June 2020

Two weeks ago, President Muhammadu directed that food and fertilizer importers should not be given access to foreign exchange by the CBN.

The President added that Nigeria has lots of young people (median age of 17.9), hence, agriculture is a means to solve unemployment among youths. 

“We have a lot of able-bodied young people willing to work, and agriculture is the answer,” the President said.

However, Nigeria’s problem in Agriculture is not a lack of personnel, but a problem with productivity. 

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Is productivity related to manpower in other countries? 

The Netherlands is Europe’s largest agriculture exporter, boasting of Europe’s most advanced agriculture sector. In 2019, the Netherlands exported €94.5 billion worth of agricultural goods. That is a 4.6% increase in the €90.4 billion export figure for 2018. Around two-thirds of this growth is due to an increase in export prices, while a third is due to higher export volume.  

In 2019, the Netherlands had a labour force of 9 million, and just 2% of that figure is employed through agriculture. Meaningless than 300k people produce €94.5 billion worth of agricultural exports in 2019. 

What about other emerging economies? 

Comparing Nigeria to the Netherlands does not paint a proper picture as the latter is a typical first world nation with most of the labour force out of agriculture.

However, other emerging economies also have large agriculture sectors, which could be comparable to Nigeria’s. 

The top 4 rice exporting nations of 2019 were India ($7.1 billion), Thailand ( $4.2 billion), USA ($1.9 billion), and Vietnam ($1.4 billion). 

The United States is the only top 4 exporting rice nation that is not regarded as an “emerging economy.”  

(READ MORE: Lessons Nigeria can learn from Microsoft’s Global Skills Initiative)

Does agriculture play a major role in their economic workforce/ productivity? 

India: The Asian giant has a labour force of 494 million, of which 44% are employed in agriculture, the Industry employs 23% of Indians while the Service economy employs 31% of Indians. 

However, despite being the world’s largest exporter of rice, agriculture produce did not even make India’s top ten exportsas industrial goods were responsible for India’s top ten exports. Mineral Fuels made up India’s top export in 2019 at $44.1 billion, followed by Gems and Precious Metals at $36.7 billion, and Computer Machinery at $21.2 billion. 

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India’s I.T sector is also a major producer of Indian productivity with domestic revenue expected to hit $44 billion in 2020, while exports revenue was estimated at US$ 147 billion. 

ThailandThe world’s second-largest exporter of rice had total exports of $245 billion in 2019, with a labour force of 39 million which is even less reliant on agriculture than India. 

Agriculture contributes 8.4% to Thailand’s GDP, with Industry at 39.2% and Services being the highest contributor at 52.4%. 

Food is not a major top 5 export from Thailand, as Computer Machinery was its major export in 2019 at $40.2 billion, followed by Electrical equipment at $33.9 billion and Vehicles at $28.9 billion. 

(READ MORE: EFG Hermes highlights sectors that will boom Post-COVID)

VietnamSoutheast Asia’s star economy was the 3rd largest emerging economic rice exporter in 2019, with a labour force of 57 million. Vietnam recorded a trade surplus of $11.12 billion in 2019, from exports of $264.189 billion. 

Agriculture contributes 15.3% to Vietnam’s GDP, followed by industry at 33.3% and Services at 51%. 

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Vietnam exported $126 billion in electrical equipment in 2019 alone, with smartphones and spare parts making up $51.38 billion of that amount. Footwear exports came at $24 billion in 2019 while clothing was $16 billion. 

From the data above, agriculture which employs a component of emerging market economies does not contribute the most to their productivity, as manufactured goods are a major source of export income and rising. 

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Does sending more people to the farms increase productivity? 

Affiong Williams, the founder of food processing company ReelFruits, says that she does not think sending more Nigerians to the farms will increase productivity because “There is very little material productivity to achieve by increasing physical labour on the farms. Productivity increases in Agriculture, which moves the needle on production output, are more impacted by things like fertilizers, mechanization, and increased technical expertise. Manual labour is no match for any of those things.

What does Nigeria need to do to improve yields? 

The over-reliance on smallholder farming, in my opinion, is the biggest hindrance by the government to improve agro yields,” she added.

She added that even though the current model may be seen as a “development activity,” it barely achieves its true aim. 

To improve the output of any crop, one needs to do a lot of testing and control for so many factors to be able to arrive at the right conditions which increase productivity. Smallholder farmers do not have the resources to do this type of ‘A/B testing’ as it were and so it is very difficult to get true information and disseminate the right techniques that all of these farmers can apply.

“I think the government needs to enable more commercial farming by the private sector who are able to acquire the resources to increase productivity and disseminate such learnings at a faster pace, she said.

(READ MORE: IMF expects Nigeria’s GDP to shrink by 5.4% in 2020)

 Bottom Line: The Nigerian government is not focusing on the aspects that increase productivity in agriculture which experts say are fertilizers, mechanization, and increased technical expertise, components that cannot be replaced with more human capital in the farms. 

Secondly, growth in Nigerian agriculture yields can only be done through large scale commercial farming with the ability to conduct tests to find the right techniques for farmers.  

Finally, compared to contemporary emerging economies, Nigeria is seriously lagging behind in both agriculture exports and manufactured exports,  as Nigeria’s top ten agriculture exports hit just N289 billion between April 2019 – March 2020. 

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