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Telecom Firms May Cut Down on New Workers



  • Telecom Firms May Cut Down on New Workers This Year

Telecommunications companies in the country may have lost over N10bn in revenue in the last two weeks due to fuel shortage and this may affect planned recruitment of casual and permanent workers by some of them this year, it has been learnt.

Following Nigeria’s exit from recession, the major telecoms companies are planning new recruitments this year in order to boost their workforce and enhance revenue growth, especially with the consistent low profits garnered per user in the previous years.

With companies like WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook offering the same services as the telcos, the revenue by the firms, which also provide data for the applications to work, has reduce drastically.

A top management employee of one of the telcos said on Friday, “But having lost over N10bn in the last two weeks and with no signs that the fuel scarcity will end soon, there are strong feelers that the telecoms companies that have planned to recruit new workers from January 2018 may have to put a hold on such plans.

“Another option left to them will be to curtail the number of workers they plan to recruit.”

The source said that the lack of adequate power supply in most parts of the country meant that the telcos mostly ran on generators “and are now spending twice or thrice more to buy petrol and diesel that have now become gold in the country.”

“This continues to be debilitating to offering quality services; power provided by both the national electricity grid and generators are also problematic,” the source added.

Parallel Wireless, a telecoms company in Africa, says a solution to the current challenges being faced by telecoms companies in the country will be for the government to help them provide value to the rural market.

According to the company, investments in Nigeria’s rural areas will mean affordable workforce and employment opportunities to the millions of unemployed people in the rural areas.

The company stated in a response to an enquiry by our correspondent, “The service providers require innovative technology solutions to address the unique problems faced by them in addressing the rural market. One of the most critical issues faced by them is that of high incidence of power outages, which adds to the increased cost of conducting business as the telcos are forced to use generators to keep the networks up and running.

“Secondly, extremely low average revenue per user means that the telcos find it hard to justify the massive investment to expand and modernise the networks.

“These factors limit the expansion of mobile networks in the rural areas and ensure that the population is unable to gain from the benefits of broadband.”

To solve these problems, Parallel Wireless proposes bringing down the cost of deploying the networks.

It said, “The telcos need to bring down the cost of deploying the network to bridge the digital gap and to address the vast potential of the rural market.

“Doing that will include exploring the benefits of 2G technology, still the mainstay of the African market.

“Parallel Wireless’s combines the benefits of 2G technology with the concept of virtualisation to offer easy-to-install, easily upgradeable solution, uniquely suited to the requirements of the rural market. It consumes as much as three-times reduced power and covers a much larger area when compared with a traditional network.”

An industry player, Oreoluwa Runsewe, said that by leveraging 2G technologies, “two problems are solved: the rural market is maximised, while less power is consumed in producing these services.”

He noted that by creating an ecosystem built mainly around Africa’s rural market, the biggest user of telco services would help raise revenue.

“Deployment of a rural mobile ecosystem can make a significant contribution to Africa’s economy and growth. It is imperative that telcos adopt the technologies, which make it easier for them to address the rural market, which in turn will allow the population in the hinterland to benefit from connectivity,” Runsewe added.

The Executive Secretary, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbolahan Awonuga, said the Global System for Mobile communications companies, Long-Term Evolution operators and Internet Service Providers remained the biggest consumers of diesel in the country.

He explained that as of 2014, the firms were spending an estimated N175m daily or N45bn monthly on diesel for powering their Base Transceiver Stations nationwide, amounting to N540bn at the end of the year.

Awonuga said, “This figure is bound to have risen by about 35 per cent in the year ended December 31, 2015, and doubled in 2016, going by the expansion of base stations across the country and the fluctuation in the price of diesel, as well as the worsening power situation in the country.

“Operators in the sector have always relied on generators in an industry that does not tolerate recurrent downtimes, and the decision by the telecoms operators to outsource most of the sites to tower operators has not significantly reduced the cost of managing the sites.

“This is because the cost of managing the sites was passed to the service providers who in turn pass it down to telecoms consumers.”

However, the Chief Executive Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, said the power cost of a site connected to the grid was only about one sixth of that of a fuel-powered site, “but only about 10 to 15 per cent of the BTS are connected to the electric power grid.”

“Primarily, because of fuel costs, the average network cost in Nigeria is twice or thrice higher than the cost in a number of other African markets. The implications of such absence of reliable power infrastructure are far-reaching,” he stated.

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


AFP Supports Access to Renewable Energy with €70m



300MW Solar energy

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




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



Lassa Fever

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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