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Technology as Disruptive Tool for Used Car Market

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  • Technology as Disruptive Tool for Used Car Market

Just as the advancement in new technologies is disrupting many businesses across various sectors of the economy, technology is also fast becoming a major influencer of the already thriving used car market in Nigeria, writes Emma Okonji.

Global technology evolution is gradually defining how businesses are run and at the same time setting the pace for business growth and development. The recent global technology disruption is helping businesses to automate office functions such as record keeping, accounting and payroll. Business owners are now using technology to create secure environments for maintaining sensitive business or consumer information. With technology, business owners can create positive disruptions that will rake in more money into the business and at the same time meet customers’ demands. Such is the case with Nigeria’s auto business, where Nigeria spends an estimated N1.2 trillion on importation of vehicles, according to recent statistics.

Another statistics released recently by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Nigeria’s professional services firm, which highlighted the huge spend on vehicles importation into the country, mentioned that more than 70 per cent of imported vehicles are used ones, also known as ‘Tokunbo Cars’. This trend has created a thriving used-car market, spurred more by Nigeria’s new automotive policy, a development that saw car import tariff hiked by 35 per cent.

Over the past five years, technology has proven handy in playing a vital role in the success of the used-car market. Specifically, technology is being used to create online marketplaces, curating inventories of used-cars and connecting buyers with sellers.

Impact of technology

Technology has impacted so much on businesses, including the auto business in Nigeria, where the sales of Tokunbo cars thrives.

“In today’s auto business, whether you are selling brand new cars or Tokunbo, you cannot succeed without technology. Technology for dealers has become a very vital tool, more important than even a car dealer shop,” said Lukmon Oloidi who is a used-car dealer in Lagos.

According to him, technology has made it easy for dealers to show their inventories to people outside the main cities of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kaduna and even to some cities in neighboring countries.

Also, a marketing executive with one of Nigeria’s top online vehicle dealerships, Chinenye Ohala, said: “Technology has created a win-win situation for all parties and now both buyers and sellers can emerge satisfied winners. Thanks to technology, buyers can now access inventories from several competing online vehicle dealerships, compare prices and make smarter purchase decisions.”

General challenges

However, despite these successes, some challenges have persisted in the Nigerian auto business. While creating solutions to existing problems, it is not without its own inherent challenges, the major one being fraud which is a headache for most dealers today.

First, while the foreign used tokunbo cars have some form of structure around their distribution, the Nigerian-used tokunbo car market has remained highly fragmented. This has not only created greater problems for sellers but has also inspired a great deal of mistrust in the mind of buyers.

“Nigerian-used car market thrives in so much opacity. In most of the cases, there is no way of ascertaining the true condition of a car or how to make the right valuations,” noted a Lagos-based car dealer.

This remained the situation until another online vehicle marketplace with a unique model- Cars45 was launched in Nigeria in 2015.

Narrating his experiences and challenges in the Nigerian auto business, Head of Marketing at Cars45, an online platform for the sales of Tokunbo cars, Mr. Abiodun Onifade, said: “Unlike other car markets that focus on used cars sales only, Cars45 focuses on buying locally used cars from their owners in a fast and transparent process that is unparalleled in the history of tokunboh car business in Nigeria.”

Addressing the challenges with technology

The Managing Director of Cars45, Etop Ikpe, in his views on how to address the issue of pricing with Tokunbo cars, stated that, “We are easing the friction associated with selling used cars by focusing on three key areas. One of those areas is pricing. Ask any buyer or seller of Nigerian-used cars, and they will tell you that pricing is the thorniest issue in the process”.

According to him, Cars45 has been able to standardise the prices associated with used cars through a proprietary pricing algorithm.

“There is also the challenge of transparency. Most buyers already believe every used car dealers in Nigeria have something to hide. Cars45 addresses this challenge through a reliable car inspection service that helps to put the minds of both buyer and seller at rest,” he said.

According to Ikpe, “We run online live auctions which gives customers 100 per cent visibility into the price offers they receive for any car we inspect at our inspection locations.”

He said: “More so, Cars45 addresses the need for speed. In a market where it would traditionally take up to a month or two to find a serious buyer for a used-car, one can now sell a car in less than an hour without running the risk of underselling. On the average it takes about 30-45 days for users to sell their cars. At Cars45 however, we guarantee a price offer and cash in the bank process within an hour once a customer visits anyone of our inspection locations.”

Customers’ adoption

Nigerians have responded positively to this innovation, showing the great and effective impact technology can have in transforming the Nigerian auto market.

“Just like any great service solving a genuine problem, we have seen massive customer adoption of our model and this justifies our rapid expansion to 27 Centers across Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt in just 12 months while thousands of inspections have gone through our platform,” said Ikpe.

With the evolution of modern technologies, it is expected that Nigerians will experience more positive disruptions in their businesses beyond the auto business.

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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AFP Supports Access to Renewable Energy with €70m

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AFP Supports Access to Renewable Energy with €70m

The Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) is supporting access to renewable energy for Nigerian manufacturers with €70 million under the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Energy Finance (SUNREF) Nigeria Programme for renewable energy.

The fund would be administered through the Access Bank Plc and the United Bank for Africa Plc.

However, only renewable energy projects like solar, wind, small hydro, biomas including waste-to-energy power plants would be eligible for funding under the SUNREF initiative.

The AFP described energy efficiency projects (EEP) as capital expenditure projects that would allow energy consumers to use less energy for achieving the same level of energy service.

The AFP made this known during the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency investors’ virtual conference that was held on Wednesday, in partnership with the Nigerian Energy Support Programme (NESP), which is a technical assistance programme co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Government and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Power and All-On of the Shell Foundation.

The conference was aimed at enabling the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria (REAN) to understand the SUNREF’s technical requirements, equipment and installation quality standards, self-regulatory initiatives and certification for industry practitioners.

The President of the Nigerian Manufacturers Association (MAN), Mr. Mansur Ahmed, who participated in the conference, described the financial and technical assistance offered by the SUNREF as significant opportunity that came at a time, “we needed it most more than ever” to address one of the most militating factors against industrial development of Nigeria.

Mansur said: “Clearly, this is the time for every effort to shore up the manufacturing sector is very welcomed. Therefore, I am delighted that this green energy project is focusing on renewable energy in improving energy efficiency.

“It is our hope that our members will take the full advantage of this facility and be able to diversify their energy sources, improve energy consumption and be able to expand their productive capacity, which is indeed very important in the current state of our economy. I, therefore, urge our members to take full advantage of this.”

The Country Director of the AFP, Ms. Virginie Diaz, said in her opening remark during the conference that the SUNREF would basically provide financial and technical assistance “aimed at supporting business strategies in the green energy sector in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which Nigeria has been supportive of.”

Also, the Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, Ms. Cecile Tassin-Pelzer, said the conference would enable investors and service providers to showcase their products and be able to develop relationships with clients and prospective investors in Nigeria.

She added: “I will like to highlight that this collaboration is an innovative financing and project that will help to address Nigeria’s energy gaps by mobilising foreign investments to finance green power projects.”

The SUNREF Nigeria Team Lead, Mr. Javier Betancourt, described SUNREF as integrated environmental finance that is dedicated to developing renewable energy in Nigeria.

Betancourt said in his presentation during the conference that the AFD has put in place targeted support to develop innovative green financing through dedicated credit lines through local financial institutions in the country.

He said: “The SUNREF is part of the broader initiative to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as the sustainable use of natural resources.”

According to the Chief Executive Officer of All On, Dr. Wiebe Boer, the mission of the SUNREF is to bring the members of the MAN into the green energy fold.

Boer observed that any opportunity to address the significant gap that exists in access to energy in Nigeria would have considerable economic and social impacts.

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Fintech CEO: Morocco’s Move to Revisit CBDC Has Global Implications

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Scottsdale, Ari. – February 25, 2021 – Earlier this week, it was reported by both the Morocco World News and NASDAQ that Bank-Al-Maghrib, Morocco’s Central Bank, is forming an exploratory committee to deliberate whether the institution should launch a central bank digital currency. Significantly, only four years ago, the country banned cryptocurrencies.

“It isn’t so significant that yet another country is exploring the benefits of a CBDC, but, rather, the significance is in which country is doing the exploration,” explained 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. “Even the slightest consideration from Bank-Al-Maghrib marks a historic day for digital assets.”

The newly formed committee is said to be tasked with identifying the pros and cons, while remaining cautious due to the “speculative nature” of cryptocurrencies. This is in line with the country’s original critique that a lack of regulation created risk for consumers and investors.

“It’s worth noting that, despite the ban, Moroccans account for the fourth highest volume of trading in Bitcoin within the African continent, behind Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa,” said Gardner. “A lot has changed in four years. A lot of bureaucrats were leery about the lack of regulatory oversight back then. Even now, many are still cautious. But, the power of cryptocurrencies is real, and they’re here to stay. Especially in Africa, digital currencies could radically change the lives of the unbanked. The fact that Bank-Al-Maghrib is even contemplating the benefits of digital assets — that’s something the whole world will be watching.”

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 a client list which includes NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.

“In addition to the raw power of digital currencies, the technology that powers blockchain-based solutions is something that region can’t afford to miss out on,” opined Gardner. “For example, blockchain-based authentication, especially when blended with artificial intelligence technologies, could be a gamechanger in authenticating malaria treatments. Using blockchain verification solutions, African governments could nearly eliminate counterfeit pharmaceuticals, which is a topic our company intends to continue to explore over the coming months and years.”

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Biotech Firm Launches Lassa Vaccine Trial in West Africa

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Biotech Firm Launches Lassa Vaccine Trial in West Africa

A biotechnology company, INOVIO, says the first participant in Lassa vaccine trial has been dosed in a Phase 1B clinical trial for INO-4500, its DNA vaccine candidate for Lassa fever.

The clinical trial is being done in Ghana, the firm says, adding that INOVIO is focused on bringing to market precisely-designed DNA medicines to treat and protect people from infectious diseases and cancer.

The Phase 1B clinical trial (LSV-002), ongoing at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, Ghana, is the first vaccine clinical trial for Lassa Fever to be conducted in West Africa, where the infection is endemic.

The lead clinical Principal Investigator for LSV-002 is Professor Dr. Kwadwo A. Koram, an expert and specialist in tropical medicines and epidemiologist with more than 20 years of research experience, including malaria vaccines.

INO-4500 was also the first vaccine candidate for Lassa fever to enter human trials, PUNCH Healthwise reports.

Already, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has tweeted his commendation.

Said Ihekweazu, “Fantastic news. The urgency of now. A vaccine for Lassa fever. We have worked very hard with WHO, CEPI vaccines, ACEGID, BNITM_de and many others to put this on the global health agenda. We will keep pushing.”

According to a press release by the biotechnology company, INOVIO is advancing INO-4500 with full funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global partnership that leverages funding from public, private, philanthropic and civil society organisations to support research projects to develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.

INOVIO previously received a $56m grant from CEPI in 2018, under which the company is developing vaccine candidates for Lassa Fever and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

“INOVIO and CEPI are committed to making a vaccine available as soon as possible for emergency use as a stockpile product post-Phase 2 testing,” the press release stated.

The statement notes that INOVIO’s Phase 1B clinical trial, LSV-002, will enroll approximately 220 adult participants who are 18 – 50 years old, with the primary endpoints of evaluating safety and immunogenicity in an African population.

The dosing regimen involves two vaccinations at zero and 28 days with either 1.0 mg or 2.0 mg dosing levels. In addition to providing valuable insights on the INO-4500 safety and immunogenicity profile, this trial will inform dose selection for subsequent Phase 2 studies in West Africa.

Lassa fever is an animal-borne, acute hemorrhagic viral illness primarily observed in parts of West Africa.

Infection is spread through contact with infected rodents, as well as person-to-person transmission via bodily fluids (primarily in health care settings).

The disease can cause a range of outcomes, including fever, vomiting, and swelling of the face, pain in the chest, back and abdomen, bleeding of various parts of the body including the eyes and nose and death.

Lassa virus infection in West Africa is estimated to affect 100,000 to 300,000 people annually, and is responsible for 10 – 16 percent of hospital admissions in the region. The virus is responsible for approximately 5,000 deaths annually.

Because of difficulties in diagnosing Lassa fever, the lack of standardised surveillance assays, and the remote nature of many of the areas in West Africa where outbreaks typically occur, the numbers of reported cases and deaths are very likely significantly lower than the actual numbers of cases and deaths.

Though the majority (about 80 percent) of Lassa virus-infected persons are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, the infection can be quite serious to fatal in others. The case-fatality among patients hospitalized for Lassa fever is about 15 – 20 percent and, in some epidemics, case-fatality has reached 50 percent in hospitalized patients.

Up until now, there are no licensed vaccines or treatments specifically for Lassa fever.

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