Over the years, economy stakeholders have been lamenting the challenges they face in the course of exploiting opportunities in nation’s economy.
Unarguably, one of the many challenges business owners face in the country, including those in the agricultural sector is access to credit. To secure a loan has been a difficult hurdle to cross, which has been impeding the free flow of business and contributing to business failures.
In order to address the menace in the Nigerian agricultural sector, Pan -African technology company, Cellulant Corporations has made a giant strive to secure a credit facility of N2 billion from Wema Bank.
This was disclosed at the gala night ceremony held at Oriental Hotel Lagos, where both parties alongside the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) inked the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The MoU was signed by Co-CEO Cellulant, Bolaji Akinboro, Managing Director, Wema Bank, Adedamola Adebise, Executive director NIRSAL Rep, Kennedy Nwurah and Ken Njuroge, Co-CEO Cellulant.
Cellulant, with the help of Wema Bank, will be providing funding for Nigerian farmers through their initiative, dubbed ‘Agrikore’. The initiative is a blockchain-based contracting payment and marketplace system that ensures that everyone in the agricultural business can do business in a trusted environment.
Nairametrics understands that the MoU will boost the agricultural value chain for farmers.
While speaking at Cellulant’s inaugural partners’ summit themed ‘Technology for Transformation: Connecting Everyone to Nigeria’s $50bn Agribusiness Opportunity & Creating Jobs for Africa’s Youth’, Bolaji Akinboro stated that the country’s Agric sector is a very big sector that needs to be paid attention to.
According to Akinboro, the consumption of food, which is the end product of most agricultural activities in the country is worth about $100 million daily and between $36 billion to $50 billion annually, hence the need to improve the value chain.
How Cellulant will effect the funding: This funding is meant to serve a purpose, which is to improve the Agric value chain. Cellulant tends to improve the value chain with its payment platform, Tingg, and Agrikore, an innovative platform built on blockchain technology.
In his words, Akinboro said: “We are not just a fintech company; we have the technology and operations via Agrikore. When you combine technology and operations, you can change the world. We are providing technology that makes life better for everyone; Nigerians and Africans. We are the ones that can bring in the change.
“At Cellulant, we remain committed to providing innovative-led solutions to grow the agricultural sector and empower Nigerian farmers. We pioneered Agritech innovation that powers the livelihoods of more than 17 million farmers and allows all players to connect to solutions that transform how they do business.”
Adebise noted that “holistic interventions across the value chain are required to achieve the desired impact and outcomes in the sector.” He identified a low level of budgetary allocation, negligible financial literacy, a large percentage of unbanked population and the limited understanding of the value chain as part of the challenges facing the agric sector.
He added that Wema Bank has committed N2 billion in funds, which is available for immediate drawdown to commodity aggregators on the Cellulant network to facilitate trade across the value chain. The partnership will also see NIRSAL provide credit risk guarantees for all borrowers in the scheme.
“We are collaborating to provide sustainable finance and market access for the small and medium scale agribusinesses in underbanked rural areas in Nigeria, without the need for traditional brick and mortar bank branches,” Adebise said.
More so, Cellulant also launched Tingg, a digital financial service, that specializes in mobile and other forms of electronic payments. Tingg is the digital version of physical wallet, debit and credit cards. It allows one to buy, pay bills, send and receive money and to manage all one’s financial transactions from wallet securely and most importantly privately.
Amongst the unique selling proposition of Tingg, is the provision of control, speed, privacy and mobility customers need with their money any time any day.
Meanwhile, the company in the course of the event recognized key industry players.
Amongst the awardees for the night is Wema Bank, Zenith Bank, Coscharis Motors, Rainoil Limited, and Abubakar Usman.
Just in: Lagos allows cinemas, gyms, others to reopen
In a new development, Lagos government has approved the reopening of gyms, cinemas, others.
The Lagos State Government has announced the reopening of cinemas, gyms and other recreational centres in the state.
According to a monitored media report, the disclosure was made by the Lagos State Government, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, during a press briefing at the Statehouse, Marina on Saturday, September 19, 2020.
The governor said, they are however expected to operate at just 33% of their capacity, which is a third of their capacity and must comply with all safety measures.
He, however, said that other sectors of the economy such as bars, night clubs, spas, public parks, event centres and such others are to remain closed until October when the state government will make pronouncement concerning their reopening.
The Governor said, “Henceforth, cinemas and gyms are permitted to reopen as soon as possible, with a maximum of 33% occupancy, which means that there must be a minimum of two empty seats between occupied seats; and in the case of gyms, there must be constant disinfection of machines and equipment throughout the course of the day.’’
Sanwo-Olu said that it has become inevitable for Nigerians to apply caution as some other parts of the world have witnessed a resurgence of the coronavirus disease with a possibility of further lockdowns.
He warned, ‘’Let me make it clear that if we do not continue to maintain our guard, and sustain the adherence to all required protocols and guidelines, we will find ourselves in a situation where fresh lockdowns are inevitable.’’
‘’The only way to avoid this is to continue to act responsibly: maintain the required levels of hygiene, through regular handwashing and use of sanitizers, wear masks in all public places, avoid non-essential public gatherings, and maintain the prescribed levels of physical distancing at all times”
Just in: Lagos approves resumption of full services for churches, mosques
Resumption of full services in churches and mosques has been approved by the Lagos State Government.
The Lagos State Government has announced the approval of churches and mosques to resume full services in the state. This disclosure was made by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, during a press briefing on Saturday, September 19, 2020, in Lagos.
According to a monitored media report, the government said mosques can hold their prayers 5 times daily, while churches can also resume weekly services. This is against the initial announcement, where worship centres were restricted to just one gathering weekly, after they were allowed to reopen on August 7, 2020, following the lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Sanwo-Olu, however, warned that all safety protocols that had been announced by the government must be strictly adhered to.
COVID-19: Transcorp Hotel loses about N1 billion every month – CEO
Transcorp Hotels has seen its revenues ravaged by COVID-19 induced lockdowns and implementing measures to save itself from further losses.
Transcorp Hotels, owners of one of Nigeria’s largest hotel Transcorp Hilton reports it loses about N1 billion every month due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was disclosed by the Managing Director/CEO of Transcorp Hotel Plc, Dupe Olusola, during an interactive session on Thursday. According to her, the management of the hotel met and decided to ensure that it kept costs down by restructuring its business strategy, diversifying into asset-light business models, and reducing the workforce, among others.
Olusola further disclosed that the company had suspended further commitment to buy fixed assets and operating equipment, as well as reduced its energy consumption and maintenance costs. She also confirmed Transcorp will be cutting back on all capital investments this year and in the foreseeable future until the outlook for the economy improves.
The hospitality sector has been one of the hardest-hit since the Covid-19 broke in late February. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics also reveal the sector contracted by as much as 40% in the second quarter of 2020, officially falling into recession.
Nairametrics participated in the stakeholder’s session and noted a few critical remarks from the interview.
Below is the excerpt of the interview session:
How much has COVID-19 eaten into the fabric of Transcorp Hotels?
We had a drastic decline of over N9 billion. In March alone, we witnessed a N456 million loss. We have to remember that in March, there was a partial lockdown when everyone was trying to figure out what was happening. We were at N1.03 billion loss in April alone and this has continued to be the story every month. In June, we dropped by about N840 million.
How will this development (loss) affect your staff strength?
We struggled to ensure that we would not ask people to go initially, that was our priority. We paid staff that did not work during lockdown 50% of their salaries and the ones that worked then were paid full salary. To keep the business running, we definitely have to let go of at least 40% now.
We engaged the staff Unions, both the Junior and Senior staff, before the implementation of that. We will ensure that employees are properly taken care of. The occupancies we have now are below 30% and with that, it’s impossible to have everyone around.
What is important to us is that we must ensure we are able to keep the hotel running as a national asset, because it has been in existence for over 30 years.
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We have ensured that we keep as many jobs as we can within this time frame, so this is an opportunity for us to engage the media and carry you along before such exercise. We have engaged actively with our employees and other key stakeholders. At the occupancy level that we are seeing, it is impossible for us to sustain the employees that we have to keep our doors open.
Precisely, how many will you lay off?
It is definitely a great burden to even consider a lay-off but we don’t have a choice but to keep the business afloat. We have over 1,000 staff and it appears we will not need more than 400 staff to ensure we keep the hotel running. What is happening is beyond everybody and it is just a situation we have found ourselves in.
What is your outlook for 2020, any hope of returning to the pre-COVID era?
We expect to get to the pre-COVID era by 2024 globally, because it requires the gathering of the people in preparing for events, etc. The new normal is real. We expect things to go back to what they used to be in Nigeria by 2024 also. We are not expected to do more than 30% of our occupancy this year and that is significantly low, and by this time next year, we don’t expect to see anything more than that. So, this is our trying time.
Strategy to sustain Balance Sheet before the end of 2020
We are a hotel business, the food, room and the events we hold are our sustainers. We are definitely going to end at a loss in 2020. As I said, COVID will still be around in 2024. We will try as a business to be innovative, to look at different ways. We are reporting losses of almost N1 billion on a monthly basis and this is significant to us. We hope they can come up with some vaccination to help reduce the impact of the pandemic so that businesses can begin to pick up.
Any palliatives from the government to hotels?
Governments across the world have given palliatives to hotels, but here there is no such package for big hotels in Nigeria. We have engaged at all levels of government on payroll support, tax rebate, support for employees, actively and widely as possible. Yet, these have not yielded any support, unfortunately. This is really why we have gotten to the point of disengaging our own staff. We have not seen any support from the government to actually help us.
How do you aim to restructure your loans and are there plans to raise funds?
This year is really just about losses. We have met with our stakeholders and lenders to work out how we can restructure our loans, considering some palliatives CBN brought on board like interest rate of 5%. We met the Bank of Industry (BOI) to get interest rates on our loan reduction. Some of these got a couple of positive responses. We are also considering raising funds through the right issues. We are raising N10 billion in order to pay off some of our existing obligations.
How will virtual tools affect your business model and future plans?
We are working round the clock to bring in solutions in line with the new normal to our guests and customers. How do we provide what they are looking for? How do we provide physical and virtual conferencing? We have also come up with Drive-in Movie Cinema, among others. We are going to ensure we run asset-light strategies to bring in new initiatives that can continue to help us remain standing in the business.
On our future plans, we have suspended our expansion plans. For instance, we initially planned to set up hotels in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, which has been suspended for now. Also, we suspended further commitment to buy fixed assets and operating equipment as well as reduced our energy consumption and maintenance costs.
Bottom Line: The hotel faces a tipping point and as things stand survival is what is its priority.
- To do so the hotel will have to make tough decisions some of which as job cuts, reduction in overheads, and suspension of capex related activities.
- This will be a very painful restructuring process for the hotel group but it appears this is the only way it can survive.