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2017: The year of Start-ups and Small Business

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  • 2017: The year of Start-ups and Small Business

In a few weeks, the familiar greeting of ‘Happy New Year’ will fill the air as we all begin the journey into yet another year. Most Nigerian’s (including myself) are created with the most optimistic DNA enmeshed in us, as such, we will expect the new year to bring with it tidings of peace, love, warmth and a better economic performance for both our nation and our respective businesses.

I have themed the 2017 financial year, ‘The Year of Start-ups and the Small Business’ and while it may sound like wishful thinking to many, I do believe that for those entrepreneurs who have been working on great business ideas, and have done all that is required to go to the market, 2017 is a great time to venture out. You may be wondering why I am so optimistic given that as a nation, we are enduring our worst recession in decades, inflation rate is over 18 per cent, borrowing rates are above 30 per cent per annum in most Banks, many businesses are failing, most of our friends and loved ones have lost and may soon lose their jobs, the foreign exchange market is in topsy-turvy mode, and the list of negatives goes on and on. I am however of the opinion that we may have seen the worst of the recession and while I cannot categorically state that things will get better, I also do not expect things to get any worse.

Let us examine our macro-economic environment. I like to define the macro-economic environment as “those extraneous factors, which are beyond our control but have a major influence on the outcomes of our businesses”. Let us focus on two elements of the macro-economic environment that you and I are familiar with to support my optimism.

Political Environment

By the end of 2016, the current Government will have spent 19 months or 40 per cent of its tenure. Without doubt, the political landscape with 2019 in view is already beginning to take shape and as such, I envisage that subtle campaigns across all tiers of Government will start taking place at some point in 2017. These campaigns will attempt to reach out to the people and giving the current economic circumstance, any campaign that doesn’t have an economic appeal may fall flat to the ground.

I therefore believe, that we will see a replica of some Government programmes such as the Lagos Employment Trust Fund and the recently launched N-Power scheme across most states of the Federation. Where properly implemented these schemes have the potential to energize existing businesses and birth new businesses thereby combating unemployment and other social maladies. So we have a choice, we can start positioning ourselves to be beneficiaries of these schemes or join the majority and say these schemes don’t work. I will rather position myself to participate than hear of people who benefited from these schemes when the opportunity is gone.

Economic Environment

Nigeria is officially in a recession and signs of an immediate turnaround were dealt a further blow when the Q3 report from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed a negative growth of 2.24 per cent. Some analysts suggest there won’t be a rebound until the last quarter of 2017 where an estimated growth of about 0.6 per cent is envisaged.

Economic indicators from GDP growth rate to Inflation rate; from the balance on our foreign reserves account to our balance of payment position; from the barrels of crude oil sold to our foreign exchange market all reflect a weaker economy than in recent years. While I am not wishing away the challenges, I can’t but ask myself this question, in the 15 years of my professional experience, was there ever a time when I thought our economy was great? You may want to ask yourself that question. And if your answer like mine is an emphatic “No”, then it is yet another reason for me to be optimistic….okay “cautiously optimistic”.

I also believe that the Managers of our economy haven tried different things to steady the economy, would have learnt a thing or two. At least what not to do to an ailing economy. So I won’t be surprised if in 2017 we see some positive policy reversals, more stability and less tinkering with policies around the fundamentals of the economy. There is a direct relationship between the political environment and the Economic environment and our economic situation will form the theme for the 2019 elections campaign which like I said earlier will start at some point in 2017. This is another reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Here in Nigeria, many successful enterprises where birthed during seasons of economic malaise same way many closed shop. In my last two articles, “5 reasons why small businesses fail” and “What small businesses can do to survive their early years”, I had attempted to point start-ups and small businesses to a path of both survival and sustainable growth. In 2017, I believe that individuals or start-ups who choose to be optimistic in addition to doing the right things (I have mentioned some in my last posts) stand a chance of weathering the storms.

There is a hymn we sang in my primary school with the wordings “he that is down needs fear no fall, he that is low has no pride…” we are already beaten by the economic challenges we are faced with and are therefore down.

Thankfully, when we fall down or are beaten to the ground, we have only two options. To stay down or to rise up. I believe we have nothing to lose in being cautiously optimistic, making a choice to stand up and not remain down on our backs.

The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Association of Nigeria (SMEDAN) suggests that there are at least 17 million enterprises in Nigeria and these enterprises contribute about 50 per cent of our GDP and 75 per cent of national employment.

Those figures include you and me, it suggests that despite the harsh operating environment we find ourselves in, we have without all the required support from the Government, braved the odds and contributed immensely to our Country’s growth and development. I believe with the required Government support and an enabling environment, we can achieve more. Nevertheless, we can still achieve progress in the face of daunting challenges, an environment filled with pessimism and stories of a failing economy if we are armed with the right mindset and the right business model.

I believe 2017 will be a better year for the economy however marginal; new businesses will be born and entrepreneurship will thrive. I also believe 2017 will be “The Year of Start-Ups and The Small Business”. What do you believe?

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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Econet Group and Mastercard To Collaborate on Fintech Solutions For Covid-19 Response in Africa

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The Econet Group through its subsidiary Cassava Fintech International (Cassava Fintech) and Mastercard have entered into a strategic partnership to advance digital inclusion across Africa and collaborate on a range of initiatives including expansion of the Africa CDC TravelPass.

TravelPass is a digital health pass developed by Cassava Fintech and offered in conjunction with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). It is accessible to users of Cassava Fintech’s Sasai SuperApp and is recognised as one of the leading initiatives in the fight against the cross-border spread of Covid-19 in Africa. Mastercard is partnering with Cassava Fintech to enhance the security of TravelPass through Mastercard’s Community Pass platform. Mastercard Community Pass is an interoperable digital platform facilitating service delivery for marginalised individuals and communities, including access to critical health services like patient care plan tracking for Covid-19.

The joint initiative between Mastercard and Cassava Fintech seeks to offer a unified solution with greater convenience and enhanced security, that is expected to promote safe cross border travel in Africa in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The partnership will also allow the two organizations to explore collaboration such as the further integration of the Community Pass with Cassava Fintech’s mobile and financial services, acquiring and processing of card payments across the continent, along with the introduction of a virtual or physical card on the Sasai SuperApp.

Cassava Fintech’s CEO, Darlington Mandivenga said the partnership with Mastercard would pave the way for both companies to jointly tackle the challenges facing African economies as they re-open post the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are excited to work with Mastercard to explore solutions that will, among other things, mitigate the risk of falsified presentation of a third party’s Travel Pass at access and transit points,” Mandivenga said, adding that the same technology could also be used in payment solutions.

Cassava Fintech uses an integrated model to provide financial and digital services to ensure a “financially inclusive future that leaves no African behind”.

“We look forward to joining hands with Cassava Fintech in exploring new solutions that will make a difference and benefit the continent. In addition to digital innovation for future travel, Cassava will also leverage our secure payments network to advance access to financial services,” said Mark Elliott, Divisional President, Southern Africa, Mastercard.

Mastercard is a leading global technology company focused on building an inclusive, sustainable digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere, by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible.

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Nestlé Health Science to Acquire Nuun

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Nestlé Health Science and Nuun, a leader in functional hydration, have entered into an agreement in which Nestlé Health Science will acquire Nuun.

The acquisition complements Nestlé Health Science’s existing broad portfolio of active lifestyle nutrition brands with Nuun’s range of clean, low-sugar, effervescent tablets and powders.

“Every day, health-conscious consumers are becoming more aware of how functional hydration products can add to their overall well-being as well as support them during exercise by replacing the minerals that the body loses. That growing awareness is reflected in the steady growth of the category,” said Greg Behar, CEO of Nestlé Health Science. “Nuun is a leader in the fast-growing functional hydration category with its high-quality, clean, plant-based products. We look forward to combining our companies’ expertise to bring Nuun to more people around the world.”

Nuun was founded in Seattle, Washington in 2004, pioneering the separation of electrolyte replacement from carbohydrates. Its low-sugar electrolyte tablet revolutionized the sports beverage market. It now has a broad range of effervescent tablets and powders containing additional minerals and vitamins for energy, relaxation and overall well-being.

“Nestlé Health Science and Nuun share the same philosophy: nothing is more important than health and well-being,” said Kevin Rutherford, CEO of Nuun. “In joining Nestlé Health Science, Nuun will further its mission of ‘hydration that empowers the world to move more.’ The Nuun team has built an incredible business and now with the reach, expertise and capabilities of Nestlé, I’m confident that together we will grow, even more, making people and the planet healthier.”

The transaction is expected to close in Q3 2021. Financial details are not being disclosed.

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itel Partners Amatem and Drug-Aid Distributes Relief Materials In Fight Against Malaria

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To commemorate this year’s World Malaria Day, itel recently partnered with Amatem Softgel, an anti-malaria drug in Nigeria, and Drug-Aid Africa, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that provides medical drug supplies and support to low-income patients in Nigeria and across Africa.

A statement by itel explained that in tandem with the theme of this year’s World Malaria Day, ‘Zero Malaria Starts with Me’, the three brands joined the global fight against malaria by donating treated mosquito nets, free medical tests, mosquito repellent cream and free anti-malaria drugs to over 1,500 households in Isale-Akoka Community, Bariga, Lagos state.

It explained that malaria is a prevalent disease in sub-Saharan Africa, and was responsible for thousands of deaths yearly, adding that as socially responsible organisations, itel, Amatem Softgel, and Drug-Aid Africa, “believe that they have a quota to contribute in ensuring a relatively healthier society.”

The Marketing Manager for West Africa and Nigeria, itel, Oke Umurhohwo, expressed commitment in bridging the gap in low-income communities through its ‘Love Always On CSR initiative.’

He added that the brand was partnering with Amatem Softgel and Drug Aid Africa to provide these communities, “with an even greater fighting chance against malaria is a part of our commitment to them.”

The General Manager, Elbe Pharma, Shivakumar, said: “Malaria is a life-threatening disease, but it is preventable and curable. We at Elbe continue to find a better way to combat this disease, support the vulnerable ones especially the young children. Hence, the introduction of this innovative anti-malaria brand AMATEM SOFTGEL and this CSR partnership.”

The Programme Officer, Drug-Aid Africa, Oluseyi Sanyaolu, said malaria has been ravaging the vulnerable in the society for years, saying, “it is the reasons why Drug-Aid Africa is dedicated to supporting those in indigent communities with medicines and medical supplies. Together, we can end this menace.”

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