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Govt to Blame for Suspension of Nigeria’s Beans by EU — Aiyegbusi

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  • Govt to Blame for Suspension of Nigeria’s Beans by EU

The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Olu Olu Group of Companies, a company operating in four continents, Mr. Olumuyiwa Aiyegbusi, in this interview with SUCCESS NWOGU, speaks on how to achieve national food security

How do you react to the extension of ban on Nigerian beans in the EU market?

It is very unfortunate. I remember that when the one year initial suspension was about to expire, the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of NEPC, Mr. Segun Awolowo, called to ask for my view and input having been a corn grower and established in the UK for over 30 years, putting my products on the shelf in the UK, the United States and Ireland. I told him that I would phone around and get back to him. It was when I called that I learnt that they had extended the ban for another three years. The reason they gave was not out of place. They said we had not done the needful in that one year to show them that we are serious that we are tackling the problem and therefore, they had to extend the suspension.

It was a sad development because I know how much beans I sell. You cannot blame the people. The government over there cares about its people because healthcare delivery in the UK is free. They call it social service. The position of their government is that if it can prevent people from being sick, that is cheaper than curing for sick people. So, their health and quarantine officers at the ports are very stringent in scrutinising containers and analysing them. Some beans from Nigerian contain very high milligrams of preservatives.  They will not accept that because it will kill their citizens. Therefore, I will not blame them. We can play with our healthcare here but the EU will not. Some people may say, ‘it does not matter; we have been eating it all the time and we have not died.’ Do you know so many people are dying and you do not know what is causing their deaths? There are many young people now having high blood pressure or diabetes.

What is the way out?

Let us do the needful; let us call a stakeholders’ meeting. Let all concerned know about all these things. If some experts in Nigeria come in, let them teach farmers. There are ways we can preserve beans without using too much pesticide. It is being practised in Kenya and South Africa. It seems we do not borrow knowledge into our system.

What is the quality of Nigerian food in the international market?

I can only talk about the quality of the products that I operate. We have durability and reliability. So, quality is just the starting point. If you want to enter the international market, you cannot joke with quality. You cannot joke with traceability, where you can trace the product back to the source.

You operate in four continents; what is it doing business in Nigeria?

It is not easy doing business in Nigeria. Should we start from the fact that a young person cannot get a start-up capital from banks if he does not have a history or collateral? Finance anywhere is always difficult for a starter, even if you are well-established. There are some infrastructural facilities that are not in place. Electricity is taken for granted in Europe, China, South America and the United States. So, a competitor there doing the same thing you are doing here has an edge over you.

Here you look for generator. So, you are spending a big amount of money for diesel or petrol, between N5m and N15m; and they may say you need your own transformer. I have never heard anybody in my industrial estate in London talk about a transformer. Here, people will say you need a transformer, which may cost about N1.5m. Then, you need to drill your own borehole; provide your security; God help you if you are bringing your raw materials from Lagos to Kwara or Benue, with the number of police checkpoints on the road. This is where costs increase. It is not easy to be a manufacturer in Nigeria. In fact, we should give kudos to the manufacturers because it is easier to be a seller in Nigeria.

How is the economic recession affecting business in Nigeria?

It is three or four times more difficult doing business in Nigeria than in other (developed) countries. First, the banks do not have enough liquidity anymore to give out loans as they used to give. In other words, they are stringent in the evaluation of loan application.

I know that the Bank of Industry is trying to encourage entrepreneurs to take up loans but I am sure there are other grants in place (like for women and others) that could be made easily accessible to the applicants. They could be channelled through the banks. If a bank wants to give you a loan, you may have to have some big persons to influence it. Secondly, the purchasing power of an average Nigerian is twice poorer compared to two years ago. So, if you produce something that is too expensive, you will just be looking at it on your shelf. People are looking for things that they can manage to buy and eat; you have to be smarter in what you are producing. So, it is three or four times more difficult surviving in business in Nigeria than in other places.

You find some airlines folding up and some reducing their flight schedules or even some foreign airlines not coming to Nigeria. But smart people will know that there are still some opportunities now. When things look bad, some people make more money. It may not be immediate. Some take advantage of this time to start something; and in few years when the economy becomes good, they are already established and they go ahead of their competitors.

Also, the fluctuation in the foreign exchange rate is affecting business. It has made things to become more expensive and the workers have little purchasing power from their income. The recession is biting hard but with ingenuity, manoeuvring and adjustment, people should position themselves and sooner or later, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

So, what are the opportunities?

The opportunities are in the agriculture sector. People should now take advantage of this time to invest in agriculture-value chain. We are number two in fresh fruit production in the world but most of the produce is wasted. For instance, when Nigerians want to go to harvest vegetable, it is in the afternoon. This is the wrong time to harvest because when you are harvesting in the afternoon, in the heat of the sun, the sun is already taking water from the vegetable and you carry it on your head. They do not do that in Kenya or Uganda. They go to the farm around 4pm, harvest around 6pm and by 8pm, the produce is at the processing centre where they will process it, wash and package it. And by 11pm, it is at the airport and you see it landing in London at about 5.30am. So at 6am, it is in the market and still fresh. But here, we insist on doing it the old way. We can never grow like that. We are cheating ourselves.

Is it true that Nigeria’s post-harvest losses have negatively impacted on its quest for food security and increased exports?

It is very true. This area of agricultural value has been of great concern for me for the last 10 years. I am passionate about the need to minimise these losses. The food import of Nigeria annually is estimated to be close to N9tn. These food items include those things we grow such as rice and palm oil, which we were the major producers in the 1960s. Malaysia bought palm seedlings from Nigeria and grew them. Now, they are exporting palm oil to us. Can you imagine that places like Shoprite and other spa would not buy Nigerian-grown pawpaw, mango or even banana? They prefer to buy banana from Cameroun or import pawpaw from Uganda or South Africa; but we grow all these things.

Nigeria is number one in terms of ranking in cassava production in the world; Nigeria is number one producer of yam in the world. Nigeria is number four in production of fresh vegetables. In fruits, we are number two. So, why do we have to import banana, mango to Nigeria? The reason is: even though we produce so much and expect that there should be sufficiency and excess to process for export, our post-harvest practices are old fashioned. There is no way a nation can grow like that. It pains me so much. You hear every government department or agency talks on the need to produce more food but we are wasting the ones that we are producing. It is high time we addressed the losses. I have nothing against production but if we are wasting so much of the things we are producing now, then if we produce more, chances are that we will waste more.

My estimate of our post-harvest losses of the six items that I have mentioned, which we are major global leader, will be over N1tn annually. This does not even include other items. I can say that the post-harvest losses in Nigeria are over N2tn.

What is the way out?

We need to address the fact that the farmer’s primary assignment is to grow. It is not their duty to preserve. There should be off-takers. The farmer that produces yam in Zaki-Biam, for instance, should not be the one that brings it from Zaki-Biam to Lagos or from Paiko in Niger to Lagos. There should be off-takers.

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.

Energy

Equatorial Guinea to Launch Vision on Post-COVID Energy Transition Plans with Report and Film

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The Africa Energy Series (AES): Equatorial Guinea 2021 campaign – comprising a report and a documentary – will serve as a critical tool to navigate the energy investment landscape in one of Africa’s more mature petroleum producing markets; Equatorial Guinea has largely been able to sustain its pace of engagement with global investors in the face of COVID-19, forecasting $1.1 billion in FDI in oil and gas activities in 2021; The third edition of the AES: Equatorial Guinea 2021 report will be released at Africa Oil & Power’s U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 networking event in Washington, D.C. this July.

Africa Oil & Power is proud to announce the upcoming launch of its Africa Energy Series (AES): Equatorial Guinea 2021 investment report and documentary, as part of a multimedia campaign set to champion the domestic energy sector and shape the West and Central African energy narrative.

The dual-language publication will target key developments driving a post-COVID-19 recovery in Equatorial Guinea – namely, the growth of petroleum and power industries; regional gas monetization initiatives; a clean energy transition; the impact of environmental, social and governance criteria; and expansion of the national diversification agenda.

A 30-minute documentary will provide a visual complement to the publication, featuring first-hand interviews with government officials, private sector players, industry regulators and energy experts discussing Equatorial Guinea’s unparalleled ambition and future plans.

“From spearheading regional gas monetization initiatives to drilling new exploration wells as early as Q2 2021, Equatorial Guinea continues to cement its reputation as a progressive, dynamic force on the African energy stage,” said H.E. Gabriel Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons. “The Africa Energy Series publication in conjunction with a detailed documentary format, gives us the voice to showcase the depth of our full-stream investment opportunities to a global audience.”

Since the onset of COVID-19, Equatorial Guinea has been proactive in safeguarding opportunities for foreign investors and continuing to drive capital into its hydrocarbon resources. In February, Chevron achieved first gas flow from the successful execution of its Alen Gas Monetization project, a $475-million investment representing the first phase of Equatorial Guinea’s Gas Mega Hub masterplan.

The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons is currently promoting several capital-intensive projects – including the construction of modular oil refineries, a gold refinery, liquefied petroleum gas strategic tanks, a urea plant and the expansion of a compressed natural gas project – which are open for investment. Last December, the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons announced a forecast of $1.1 billion in foreign direct investment in oil and gas activities in 2021.

Active in Equatorial Guinea since 2015, AOP released its first AES documentary on the country in 2016, followed by investment reports in 2018 and 2019.

The AES: Equatorial Guinea 2021 investment report will be launched at the U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 online seminar and in-person networking event in Washington, DC. (July 12). The documentary will be launched at the U.S. Africa Energy Forum conference in Houston (October 4-5) and broadcast globally on news networks.

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U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 Launches: Promotes U.S. Role as Primary Investor in African Energy

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The U.S. Africa Energy Forum 2021 – organized by Africa Oil & Power, in partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee – will foster alignment between U.S. and African governments’ energy policies and highlight African oil, gas, power and renewable projects across the energy value chain for U.S. investors; the multi-day forum unites U.S. and African policymakers, energy executives and industry leaders to create new linkages and foster discussions that drive long-term policy formation and project execution; the in-person, two-day summit and gala dinner will be hosted in Houston, Texas (October 4-5, 2021) and an online seminar and in-person networking event will be held in Washington D.C. (July 12).

Africa Oil & Power (AOP) and the African Energy Chamber are excited to announce the launch of the first-ever U.S. Africa Energy Forum (USAEF). This event aims to create deeper cooperation between the U.S. and Africa on energy policy, to reach alignment on long term sustainability goals, to stimulate greater American investment in the African oil, gas and power sectors, and to engage and reposition the U.S. as the primary partner of choice for African energy developments.

Under the theme “New Horizons for U.S. Africa Energy Investment” the forum will explore diverse foreign investment and export opportunities across the continent, including natural gas as a vital fuel for the energy transition; energy storage and battery minerals; Africa’s place in global energy supply chains; the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area; evolving energy technologies and how they relate to the future role of petroleum resources; and on-and off-grid power developments.

An online seminar and in-person networking event will be held in Washington D.C. on July 12, 2021, building up to the in-person U.S. Africa Energy Forum summit and gala dinner, to be hosted in Houston, Texas, on October 4-5, 2021. Africa Oil & Power and the African Energy Chamber invite all U.S.-based companies with an interest in engaging with African industry leaders and project developers to participate in the USAEF Houston summit.

This initiative comes at an important juncture in U.S.-Africa relations. The Biden Administration’s announcements of its intentions to proactively build a stronger U.S.-Africa partnership coincides with the fact that African projects are seeing rising interest from U.S. companies and lending institutions alike. The USAEF event is thus dedicated to enabling dialogue between its participants that advances these developments.

“Our mission has always been to showcase the resource potential that Africa has to offer while at the same time showing its growing preference for sustainable energy policies and technologies. Toward that end, we hope it becomes evident that Africa does not just want investment capital: it wants smart capital and an accompanying partnership with the investors,” says James Chester, Senior Director of Africa Oil & Power. “The U.S. Africa Energy Forum represents the first-of-its-kind opportunity to catalyze U.S. participation in Africa’s energy transformation – via technology, policy support, capital injection and skills development – and turns a new page in the chapter on global energy investment.”

In partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee, AOP will introduce American companies to African opportunities and advance an agenda of sustainable, long-term investment in African energy and other sectors by U.S. organizations.

“The rise in support from the U.S. to the continent is a credit to Africa itself, which is increasingly viewed as a favored destination for global investors, multilaterals and export credit agencies,” says Jude Kearney, President of Kearney Africa and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Service Industries and Finance at the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Clinton Administration. “Africa continues to command a healthy share of global FDI in oil and gas industries. It has for decades shown that investment in those sectors is favorable compared to other jurisdictions and can be successful by many measures. Even as Africa and the rest of the world wrestles with a global pandemic, Africa’s energy sector shows vitality and resiliency – not only in hydrocarbons but in regard to new opportunities in mining, liquefied natural gas, and agriculture.”

Both African governments and private sector sponsors of African energy projects value highly the combination of investment and partnership that US investors famously convey. The USAEF seeks to enable successful partnerships between its participants such that the energy development goals of U.S. investors and strategic partners and their African counterparts can be achieved.

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Angola’s Petroleum Agency Outlines Timeline for Ongoing Bid-round

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Angola’s National Oil, Gas and Biofuel’s Agency (ANPG) has outlined its timetable for the evaluation of its ongoing 2020 bid round, as interest in the acreage on offer continues to grow.

In line with its statutory duties as national concessionaire in charge of the attribution of petroleum exploration blocks, the ANPG has sought to adjust its processes to remain competitive in the current market environment, which is dominated by concerns around COVID-19, long-term demand considerations and stiff competition from new and promising frontiers like Guyana and Suriname.

The ongoing bid-round is a manifestation of Angola’s strategy for the continuous attribution of petroleum concessions 2019-2025 which was approved and codified by Presidential Decree no. 52/19, of 18 February 2019. The aim of the strategy is to provide access to promising acreage to competent explorers in an effort to increase geological knowledge about Angola’s hydrocarbons potential and ultimately increase proven reserves.

A hybrid online and physical roadshow for the current bid-round is scheduled for April 6 in at the Talatona Convention Centre in Luanda. This event will provide the opportunity for investors to engage with the agency regarding the blocks on offer, the data packages and the accessibility studies, as well as touch upon environmental, logistical and local content issues.

This will kickstart a series of both digital and in-person roadshows and technical presentations to promote the blocks to be awarded in key international markets. The acreages on offer include:

  • Three blocks of the lower Congo onshore Basin CON1, CON5 and CON6
  • Six of the Kwanza onshore Basin (KON5, KON6, KON8, KON9, KON17 and KON20)

In line with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 86/18, of 2 April 2019, which establishes the rules for the organization of bid rounds, the ongoing 2020 bid round will unfold as follows:

  • Tender Launch
  • Proposal submission
  • The opening of offers from potential suitors in a public setting
  • The evaluation and qualification of proposals
  • The submission of the evaluation report to the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Petroleum and Gas
  • Contract negotiation with the winners of the bid-round
  • Signature

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