- IBM Invests $70m, Targets 25million Jobs in Nigeria, Others
IBM is investing $70 million in building much-needed digital, cloud, and cognitive Information and Technology (IT) skills to help support a 21st century workforce in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and other parts of Africa.
The initiative, “IBM Digital – Nation Africa”, provides a cloud-based learning platform designed to provide free skills development programmes for up to 25 million African youths over five years, enabling digital competence and nurturing innovation in Africa.
The Digital – Nation Africa is designed to boost overall digital literacy, increase the number of skilled developers able to tap into cognitive engines, and enable entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs grow businesses around the new solutions.
The initiative will be supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has a special focus on fostering market-driven ICT skills in Africa and the Middle East.
The plan is expected to take many African youths out of the labour market and secure them with the right information that would enable them contribute positively to economic growth.
This is part of IBM’s global push to build the next generation of skills needed for “New Collar” careers.
“New Collar” is a term used by IBM to describe new kinds of careers that do not always require a four-year college degree but rather sought-after skills in cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence, cloud, and much more.
For African youths to be able to benefit from a cognitive future, IBM said there needs to be a much higher level of digital literacy. At the top of the skills pyramid are developers, who need to know how to create solutions that can leverage the power of cognitive, and entrepreneurs who are aware of the potential.
Africa has approximately 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. By 2040, the continent is expected to be home to the world’s largest labour force, with an estimated working age population of one billion (State of Education in Africa Report 2015). Yet many African companies cite local skills gap as one of the major bottlenecks to growth.
Through a free, cloud-based online learning environment delivered on IBM Bluemix, the premier cloud platform for business, the initiative will provide a range of programmes from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced skills including social engagement, digital privacy, and cyber protection.
Advanced users will be able to explore career-oriented IT topics including programming, cybersecurity, data science and agile methodologies, as well as important business skills like critical thinking, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
The initiative aims to empower African citizens, entrepreneurs, and communities with the knowledge and tools to design, develop, and launch their own digital solutions.
Based on Watson, the cognitive online system will adapt and learn. It will review the multiple interactions the education initiative will have with students, to help direct them to the right courses and help IBM refine the courses to better adapt the material for the needs of the users.
Watson will also create a depth of knowledge using anonymous information gathered from interactions with the students. This will help entrepreneurs and developers understand which current Bluemix solutions best meet their needs and refine their idea to help them design a solution that has greatest market potential.
The programme will be launched from IBM’s regional offices in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt, to spread the initiative across the continent.
Country General Manager, IBM South Africa, Hamilton Ratshefola, said IBM sees effective, high quality IT education as a key driver of economic vitality in Afric, adding that through access to open standards, best practices, IBM tools, and course materials, the broad scope of this initiative will enable vital skills development.
“In order to find solutions to Africa’s challenges, industries across the spectrum need to enable the existing and future workforce to perform at the forefront of technologies such as cognitive and cloud computing. This will be the key to spurring economic growth,” he stated.
IBM will collaborate with UNDP on opportunities for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills delivery, certification, and accreditation.
UNDP will work with their network of existing government partnerships to extend the programme throughout Africa.
UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Report highlighted that technology is affecting the nature of work by introducing new ways of communicating, new products and new demands for skills. New technologies are also reinforcing and deepening previous trends in economic globalisation, bringing workers and businesses into a global network through outsourcing and global value chains.
“These processes are reshaping work and testing national and international policies. In an attempt to address this global challenge here in South Africa, as well as in other priority countries in Africa.
UNDP is pleased to leverage its global presence, development knowledge, and long standing partnerships to provide context, traction and scale to this collaboration with IBM,” said UNDP Country Director in South Africa, Walid Badawi.
SEC Warns Against Proliferation of Unregistered Investment Platforms
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned the investing public to be wary of the proliferation of unregistered online investment and trading platforms facilitating access to trading in securities listed in foreign markets.
SEC’s warning was conveyed via a circular issued in Abuja, Thursday to capital market operators.
It advised the investing public to seek clarification as may be required via its established channels of communication on investment products.
The circular read: “The attention of the SEC has been drawn to the existence of several providers of online investment and trading platforms which purportedly facilitate direct access of the investing public in the Federal Republic of Nigeria to securities of foreign companies listed on securities exchanges registered in other jurisdictions.
“These platforms also claim to be operating in partnership with capital market operators (CMOs) registered with the Commission.”
The Commission categorically stated that by the provisions of Sections 67-70 of the Investments and Securities Act (ISA), 2007 and Rules 414 & 415 of the SEC Rules and Regulations, only foreign securities listed on any exchange registered in Nigeria may be issued, sold or offered for sale or subscription to the Nigerian public.
Accordingly, the SEC notified CMOs who work in concert with the referenced online platforms of the Commission’s position and advised them to desist henceforth.
Public to seek clarification as may be required via its established channels of communication on investment products advertised through conventional or online mediums.
SoftBank Reaps $33 Billion Coupang Windfall
SoftBank Group Corp on Thursday racked up a roughly $33 billion gain on paper through the public market debut of South Korea’s largest e-commerce company, Coupang Inc, the latest sign of a dramatic turnaround for its $100 billion Vision Fund.
Shares of Coupang opened 81% above their offer price on Thursday, after the company raised $4.6 billion in the U.S. stock market’s biggest initial public offering this year.
SoftBank paid around $3 billion for a 37% stake in the company, according to sources familiar with earlier fund-raising, giving it a roughly $33 billion headline profit if prices hold.
Coupang’s hugely successful stock market launch is welcome news for SoftBank, which is grappling with the collapse of billions of dollars worth of funds linked to Britain’s Greensill Capital, a supply chain finance start-up.
Vision Fund is Greensill’s biggest backer.
The Japanese conglomerate last month reported third-quarter net profit ballooned more than 20 times thanks to a recovery at the Vision Fund, a huge venture capital operation famous for investing early in Uber and other tech industry startup successes.
Only a year ago, SoftBank had been smarting from the flopped IPO and collapse in value of office sharing firm WeWork, raising questions over whether Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son had lost his midas touch and threatening plans to establish a successor to Vision.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced Son to sell assets but a second deal reported by Reuters on Thursday bodes well for VF II, a second, smaller fund.
The $225 million late-stage funding round for healthcare startup Forward Health was its first major investment this year, following a pickup in activity and the group’s fortunes in the second half of 2020.
The Vision Fund also made $11 billion on a blockbuster market launch of DoorDash Inc in December, which valued the food delivery company at more than $70 billion.
It also made gains on home seller Opendoor Technologies Inc’s initial offering in December.
The fund still holds large stakes in China’s biggest ride-hailing firm Didi, as well as Uber’s Southeast Asian rival Grab.
SoftBank is also trying to ride the mania for special purpose acquisition companies, launching a handful of blank-check firms this year, although none of them have found investment targets yet.
Agence Francaise De Developpement (AFD) To €2 billion in Nigeria
The French Development Agency (AFD) is a development finance institution 100 percent held by the French government.
In Nigeria, it is mainly into financing infrastructure projects (water, energy, transport and agriculture).
It also involves financing related to the banking sector, governance and the cultural and creative industries.
Speaking to the media, the AFD Country Director Nigeria, Pascal Grangereau, said €2 billion was set aside to be sent on mainly road financing, water sector, improvement in electricity and agriculture.
He said €300 million was being spent on the Abuja Electricity Backup, a project in collaboration with Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to improve electricity at the nation’s capital.
Grangereau said a total of €200 million is equally expended on the North West Electricity Backup.
On agriculture, he said vocational training is currently held across the nation to improve the skills of Nigerians.
He added: “We intend to finance agricultural projects in five states, Benue, Imo and three other states to the tune of €50 million.”
He lamented that while it was endowed with reserves of crude oil and natural gas, Nigeria is characterised by power generation considered by the Nigerians themselves as not adequate.
He said concentrating more than half of the installed electricity capacity in West Africa, only half of which was harnessed by the country, implying a very low per capita consumption, limited access to electricity and frequent load shedding.
He added: “The sector is of strategic importance for successive governments, with the launching in the 2000s of a vast reform, supported by a massive investment plan; which reform although supported by the donors is yet to achieve the expected results. The project aims to strengthen the electricity transmission network, natural monopoly under the responsibility of the public company TCN, thus laying the foundations for a long-term partnership with TCN.”
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