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States’ External Debt Surges $1.37bn in Five Years

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Dollar Scarcity

The 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory grew their external debts by $1.37bn (N270bn at the current interbank exchange rate of N197 to a dollar) in five years, investigation has shown.

Statistics obtained from the Debt Management Office on Sunday showed that the external indebtedness of the subnational governments as of December 31, 2010 stood at $2bn.

However, by December 31, 2015, the indebtedness of the states and the FCT to external creditors had grown to $3.37bn. This shows that the subnational governments’ external debts rose by 68.44 per cent in the five-year period.

The Punch had exclusively reported last week that the debt profile of the entire nation rose by N1.2tn in one year.

Some states, over the period, maintained their positions on top of the borrowers’ club, while others jumped on the list.

Lagos State maintained the top position within the period. In 2010, it owed external creditors $400.59m. However, by December 2015, the debt had climbed to $1.207bn.

This means that within the period, the Lagos State Government grew its external debt by $807.31m. This reflects a growth rate of 201.53 per cent. The state holds 35.84 per cent of the country’s subnational external debts.

The external debt of Kaduna State stood at $157.36m by December 31, 2010; making it to occupy the second position on the list of the most externally indebted states of the federation.

By the end of December 2015, the state still maintained the second position with a total of $226.37m. This means that within the period, the state’s external debt rose by $69.01m, reflecting 43.86 per cent increase.

With an external debt of $41.19m in 2010, Edo State was not among the most indebted in the country. However, by the end of December 2015, the state’s external debt profile had leapt to $168.19m, showing a difference of $127m. This means that the state’s external debt rose by 308.34 per cent within the five-year period.

Cross River State owed external creditors $110.91m as of December 31, 2010. By the end of 2015, the figure had risen to $136.4m. This shows an increase of $25.5m, or 22.99 per cent.

Ogun State had an external debt of $81.64m as of December 31, 2010. By the end of last year, it had risen to $103.33m. This reflects an increase of $21.68m or 26.56 per cent.

Katsina and Oyo states were among the most externally indebted states in the country in 2010, but by the end of December 2015, they had reduced their exposure to foreign debts although they remained among the most exposed states.

While Katsina State’s external debt went down from $81.14m to $72.15m; Oyo State’s was reduced from $87.43m to $66.75m.

Among the states least exposed to foreign debts by the end of December 2015 are Taraba, $22.93m; Borno, $23.19m; Plateau, $30.46m; Kogi, $33.63m; and Jigawa, $34.08m.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Banking Sector

Vietnamese Prime Minister Moves on CBDC Amid Questions on Regional Nature of e-Yuan

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Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh

This month, it was reported that Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh asked, in Prime Minister’s Decision No 942/QD-TTg, the State Bank of Vietnam to study and execute a pilot implementation of a central bank digital currency before the end of 2023. Currently, cryptocurrencies are not legally recognized as an asset in the country, nor do any crypto exchanges hold licenses from the central bank. Last year, the country set up a group to study digital assets, with a purview that extended to potentially proposing regulatory mechanisms.

“Vietnam is a country that has had its eye on blockchain, even though they haven’t made many steps towards mainstreaming cryptocurrencies. It is a country that is interested in technology and riding a potential economic wave brought upon by new innovation, from blockchain to AI and VR. But, what’s notable here is that this decision was pushed forward very near the time that many pundits began to ask whether the Chinese e-Yuan would become a digital currency which transcended China and became something of a regional powerhouse as an asset,” said Richard Gardner, CEO of Modulus, a US-based developer of ultra-high-performance trading and surveillance technology that powers global equities, derivatives, and digital asset exchanges.

“I think that’s important. Many countries are looking at what’s happening in China, then taking a look at their own place in the CBDC rat race, and they’re making decisions, I think, which moves up their timetable. This isn’t an innovation where you want to be last to the party. Doing so, in fact, could have ripple effects across a country’s monetary policy,” noted Gardner.

“Digital money is an inevitable trend,” said Huynh Phuoc Nghia, Deputy Director of the Institute of Innovation under the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City. Some believe that moving quickly to develop a CBDC could give countries like Vietnam greater influence in the global financial system.

“I think it’s too soon to say what kind of ripple effects this development will have. It’s worth noting that Vietnam is in the very early stages. This isn’t a case where they’re ready to begin a pilot test in the short-term. Vietnam isn’t Ghana. But, forging ahead now can only be a positive. It’s better to move forward than continue to wait. Those countries that continue to take a wait-and-see approach are going to find themselves in last place. This is a race you don’t want to finish last. It very well could be the 21st century equivalent to the Race to Space,” opined Gardner.

Modulus is known throughout the financial technology segment as a leader in the development of ultra-high frequency trading systems and blockchain technologies. Over the past twenty years, the company has built technology for the world’s most notable exchanges, with a client list which includes NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.

“Vietnam is so close in proximity to China, and China is so far ahead in the development of their own CBDC, it was likely the push that they needed to move on this. Earlier this year, some pundits wondered if the e-Yuan would replace the dollar. That’s a premature discussion to have. But, if successfully rolled out, could it have a real regional impact? Absolutely,” Gardner offered.

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Banking Sector

Fidelity Bank Promotes 745 Staff Members

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Nneka Onyeali Ikpe, Fidelity Bank CEO - Investors King

Seeking to increase staff morale while empowering them to work more efficiently, Fidelity Bank has announced the promotion of 745 employees following the performance review of two financial years – 2019 and 2020.

A total of 461 staff members benefited from the FY 2019 promotion exercise, while 284 staff members benefited from the FY 2020 exercise. The beneficiaries cut across the senior, middle, and junior management cadre of the bank, and the promotion was based on merit, using a transparent and robust performance management system in line with global best practices.

Speaking about this, Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe, MD/CEO, Fidelity Bank Plc said “I am very delighted to announce the promotions for 2019 and 2020 financial years. Releasing the list for 2 financial years’ promotion at the same time is something we are very proud of. We strongly believe that the continuous growth of our bank over the years has been largely attributed to the commendable efforts and unrelenting sacrifices of our employees. Promotion is one of the many ways we express our gratitude. We are thankful to be home to many amazing talents that continue to drive our value and most importantly, serve our stakeholders to the highest standards.”

Speaking further, she said. “Since I was appointed the MD/CEO of our great bank in January 2021, I have been committed to a 7-point agenda to move our bank further, out of which workforce transformation is a key category. Staff performance and reward are critical to us, and as an organisation, we will continue to make available adequate resources to deepen the skills and entrench a culture of high performance amongst employees. I wish to appreciate all members of the Fidelity Bank family for their commitment and drive and unrelenting sacrifices towards delivering our objectives. As we move forward in our quest to becoming a leading tier-one bank, I encourage all elevated staff to see their promotion as a call to rededicate themselves to excellence.”

Fidelity Bank has continued to empower its employees with invaluable resources capable of putting them at the forefront of innovative transformation. In March 2021, the bank announced two capacity-building projects – One Culture Project and Project Alpha – that were targeted at transforming the workplace for its staff. In particular, Project Alpha was created to help Fidelity Bank develop a robust and holistic learning and development framework for all staff while One Culture Project was formed to reinforce the behaviour and value systems that will help the bank, as well as staff, achieve set goals.

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Finance

Nigeria’s Central Bank To Launch Digital Currency On Oct 1

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said that it will launch its much-awaited digital currency on October 1, to mark Nigeria’s independent anniversary.

CBN Director of IT Department, Rakiya Mohammed, revealed this at a private webinar, explaining that the banking sector regulator had been conducting research towards the launch of digital currencies since 2017.

She added that the central bank may conduct a proof of concept before the end of the year. The move to adopt the digital currency was first mulled by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, during the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in May.

He had said a digital currency will soon become a reality in the country, adding that the central bank had already set up its committee which was working on the concept.

The CBN governor had further restated the determination of the apex bank to drive the e-Naira project during the recent 306th Banker’s Committee meeting, pointing out that the process was ongoing.

Mohammed was quoted by Nairametrics to have highlighted the benefits of the digital currency, saying it would enhance macroeconomic management, boost economic growth, facilitate cross-border trade, boost financial inclusion and monetary policy effectiveness.

Mohammed said the digital payment instrument would further improve payment efficiency, revenue tax collection, remittance improvement, and targeted social intervention.

She added that the innovation would also benefit the fintech ecosystem by enhancing operational efficiency, opportunities for fintech start-ups in building services and products as well as financial inclusion that will contribute to economic growth, and the creation of a new system complimenting the traditional payment system.

Mohammed had last month said the proposed digital would be launched before December. According to her, every Nigerian would have access to digital currency.

She had while briefing journalists at the end of a Bankers’ Committee meeting said: “Let me state categorically that cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin and the rest of them are not under the control of the central bank; they are purely private decisions that individuals make and are not part of this arrangement.

“We have spent over two years studying this concept of central bank’s digital currency and we have identified the risks. And it is one of the reasons why I said we are setting up a central governance structure that would involve all industry stakeholders to access all the risks as we continue on this journey.

“Very soon we would make an announcement on the date for the launch and by the end of the year, we should have the digital currency.”

According to her, about 80 percent of central banks across the world are presently exploring the possibility of issuing the central bank’s digital currency, saying that Nigeria cannot be left behind.

Mohammed had added: “You are aware that we have two forms of fiat money: The notes and the coins. So, the central bank’s digital currency is the third form of fiat money. So, this digital money is going to complement the cash and note that we have.

“The central bank digital currency will just be as good as you having cash in your pocket. So, if you are having the currency in your pocket, you are as good as having cash on your phone.

“Now, why did we need to go into this? There are different cases that the central bank is looking at.

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