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19 Firms Shut, 250,000 Jobs Threatened by WEMPCO Crisis

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  • 19 Firms Shut, 250,000 Jobs Threatened by WEMPCO Crisis

The current crisis facing the Western Metal Products Company has led to the closure of no fewer than 19 enamelware firms, while 250,000 jobs along the steel and enamelware value chain are also about to end, investigations by our correspondent have revealed.

WEMPCO is reportedly facing a huge debt burden of over N90bn, planning to sell its flagship five-star Oriental Hotel on the island and considering exiting Nigeria.

This may mean the end of its 700,000 tonnes-capacity steel plant.

Our correspondent gathered that the 40-year-old firm was the authorised sole distributor of cold-rolled iron sheet, used in the manufacturing of roofing sheets and annealed iron sheets used in the manufacturing of enamelware.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, in order to protect the local manufacturers, had included cold rolled iron sheet and annealed in the list of 41 banned items from access to official foreign exchange.

The implication is that all the firms that produce roofing sheets and enamelware in Nigeria may have to shut down in the event of WEMPCO’s exit.

Already, all the firms manufacturing wheelbarrows and shovels are said to have shut down while others are winding down gradually having run out of stock of raw materials.

It was gathered that WEMPCO’s trouble stemmed from the influx of substandard roofing sheets smuggled into Nigeria from Cameroon and other neighbouring countries.

The local firms were said to have been mandated by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to keep the standard of roofing sheet at 0.015mm in thickness.

This posed competition challenge against smuggled roofing sheets which were 0.013mm and 0.014mm.

The smuggled versions were also said to be preferred by buyers because they were cheaper.

Low patronage set in for WEMPCO and its stock of unsold products went bad from staying too long in storage.

By last year, the company had closed down almost all its plants as they were no longer producing.

Our correspondent also spoke to some of the buyers of WEMPCO products who recounted a different version of the story.

All of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the firm was not consistent in filling orders.

It was alleged that they either took too long in delivering the product or delivered items different from the specification.

WEMPCO was also alleged to have abused the exclusive rights and waivers that were granted to it by the Federal Government.

Our correspondent learnt that whereas the previous government had granted the firm heavy waivers to aid it in production of cold-rolled sheet locally, the firm had instead embarked on heavy importation of the product.

Trouble started for it when the current administration came into power and decided to cancel the waivers.

It then became a Herculean task for WEMPCO to fill orders as the importation route had been closed and they could not produce to meet local demand.

Customers, who paid money into WEMPCO account, neither saw their money nor the goods they paid for. The bank held onto customers’ money because WEMPCO was heavily indebted to the bank, it was alleged.

When our correspondent sought an audience with Robert Tung, the Managing Director of WEMPCO, he declined the calls and did not respond to text messages sent to his line.

Our correspondent put a call through to a consultant to the firm, Jide Mike, but he denied ever working for WEMPCO; he also said he knew nothing about the company.

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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MoneyGram and Coinme Partner to Expand Access to Bitcoin

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MoneyGram International, a global leader in cross-border P2P payments and money transfers, and Coinme Inc., the largest licensed cryptocurrency cash exchange in the U.S., announced the launch of a new partnership to enable the cash funding and payout of digital currency purchases and sales.

The partnership, which utilizes MoneyGram’s modern, mobile and API-driven payments platform and Coinme’s proprietary cryptocurrency exchange and custody technology, will bring bitcoin to thousands of new point-of-sale locations in the U.S., with plans to expand to select international markets in the second half of 2021.

“This innovative partnership opens our business to an entirely new customer segment as we are the first to pioneer a crypto-to-cash model by building a bridge with Coinme to connect bitcoin to local fiat currency,” said Alex Holmes, MoneyGram Chairman and CEO. “Our unique, global network is an incredibly valuable asset, and we’re excited to open our platform to Coinme as we increasingly look to capture new growth by monetizing our network to new use-cases.”

Global cash on and off-ramps ensure access to bitcoin

The MoneyGram and Coinme integration will provide a fast and easy way for customers to purchase bitcoin with cash and withdraw bitcoin holdings in cash. It is specially designed for customers who may be interested in utilizing bitcoin for the first time. With less than 20,000 cryptocurrency kiosks in the world today, the MoneyGram and Coinme partnership will further expand access to bitcoin and potentially other digital currencies by creating thousands of new point-of-sale locations to buy and sell cryptocurrency.

“MoneyGram has spent more than 80 years building one of the world’s largest P2P payment networks,” said Neil Bergquist, Coinme CEO. “By integrating its global infrastructure with our licensed crypto exchange technology, we can enable the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies across its system using cash. This is a major milestone for the bitcoin and cryptocurrency communities, and for the millions of people who will benefit from a trusted, easy and affordable onramp to digital currency.”

The service will be available at select MoneyGram locations starting in the U.S. in the coming weeks. Additional countries and cryptocurrencies will be made available shortly thereafter.

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International Breweries To Train 500 Young Entrepreneurs Through Kickstart Initiative

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Kickstart Initiative - Investorsking

As part of its commitment to bringing people together for a better world and its objective of delivering impactful, developmental and sustainable projects, International Breweries Plc through its social investment arm, International Breweries Foundation has launched the 6th edition of its Kickstart entrepreneurship programme recently.

The initiative is targeted at enterprise growth and development for young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35.

During a media briefing to update the public on the process of this year’s edition, Managing Director, International Breweries Plc, Hugo Rocha expressed delight that the Kickstart Initiative had evolved from the regional programme it used to be, to an inclusive national programme that reaches the six geopolitical zones and 36 states of Nigeria.

“Over the years, we have held the conviction that the energy, zeal, and brilliance of the youths of Nigeria who constitute about 70 percent of the total population should be tapped and channelled to productive use. This is the logic behind Kickstart – to promote a culture of entrepreneurship among young people through training, provision of capital and mentorship,” Rocha said.

Rocha concluded his remarks on a high note, stating that, “as International Breweries celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, I am pleased that the results of a 3-year impact assessment study that we commissioned on Kickstart came out positive and gives us the confidence to continue to support young people to achieve their dream of entrepreneurship. We remain steadfast in our commitment towards the economic development of Nigeria”

Also speaking at the press conference, Chairman, Advisory Board, International Breweries Foundation, Peter Bamkole explained that International Breweries Plc and its foundation is dedicated to continuing to contribute its quota towards tackling the twin challenges of unemployment and poverty while promoting Decent Work and Economic Growth in line with Goad 8 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDGs).

“By creating Kickstart, International Breweries Foundation set out to be the nursery of innovation in a business where budding enterprise managers are groomed—held by the hand and taken through the rigour of entrepreneurial work. We aim to produce well-rounded entrepreneurs who understand and are prepared to put in the work it takes to do business successfully in a unique climate like ours.” Bamkole said.

Over the past five years, the Kickstart initiative has provided training, mentoring, and seed capital of N325,136 million (in total) for 274 grantees; 708 direct beneficiaries and 2,832 indirect beneficiaries across a wide range of business sectors; with the result of the creation of about 571 jobs and 1,392 new jobs projected across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

Speaking on the mechanics of the award, Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, International Breweries Plc, Temitope Oguntokun revealed that the award is in three phases: the application phase, the training phase and the pitch fest phase which is the final selection of grantees by judges.

She explained that the Kickstart Initiative will be incorporating an expansive training module that will train 500 young entrepreneurs online, with a number of them going into the bootcamp. This year’s edition also features a streamlined search for entrepreneurs into Agriculture, Modular Retailing, Circular Packaging (Recycling), Technology, and Renewable Energy sectors.

“After a transparent selection process on the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) platform via the link, https://reg.smetoolkit.ng/program-apply/kickstart-nigeria-2021, which will open on the 20th of May, successful applicants will be equipped with critical skills and training on entrepreneurship by experienced entrepreneurs and corporate professionals during a 2-day boot camp. They will partake at the pitch fest where a panel of judges will appraise their proposals before final selection. Winners of the pitch fest will then be awarded grants at the awards ceremony in Lagos,” Oguntokun noted.

The press launch which held last week in Lagos had in attendance dignitaries such as the Director for Employment, Lagos State Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment, Mrs Iyabo Seriki-Bello, Director of Partnerships and Coordination for Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria; Dr Friday Okpara; Chairman, Advisory Board, International Breweries Foundation, Mr Peter Bamkole; members of the International Breweries team, past Kickstart Alumni, mentors and a host of others joining online.

Following its trajectory of success, impact over the years, and its extensive yet immersive plans for the 6th edition, Kickstart, under the auspices of International Breweries and its foundation is geared towards transforming Nigeria into an economic powerhouse through the impact of entrepreneurship.

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More and More Under 30s Seeking Financial Advice

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A growing number of under 30s are seeking financial advice, according to data released by one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.

deVere Group has revealed that there has been a 54% year-on-year jump in the number of enquiries from potential clients under the age of 30 who are seeking to work with a professional adviser to devise and implement a financial planning strategy.

Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group, comments: “The sharp increase in the number of under 30s seeking out advice, once again, debunks the myth that younger generations are not interested in building a plan for their long-term financial security.

“It would be a reasonable assumption to make that the year-on-year increase has been largely driven by the pandemic.

“It has brought into all-too-real focus how things can quickly change, how important it is to have a back-up/emergency plan, and value more than ever what really matters to them. For most, this includes ensuring that they can enjoy the opportunities and lifestyle that they desire.”

In March this year, a deVere poll of 450 clients found that seven out of 10 people will not splurge excessive savings accumulated over the pandemic.

When asked ‘Are you likely to spend the majority of the extra money you have managed to save over the last 12 months?’ 72% responded ‘no’, 16% said ‘yes’ and 12% ‘did not know.’

Mr Green continues: “Whilst it’s a fool’s game to generalise about any given cohort, anecdotally, our advisers who are working with the under 30s report that there are some definite trends.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than other generations, the under 30s – who are ‘digital natives’ having grown up under the ubiquitous influence of the internet and other technologies – demand digital solutions such as fintech apps alongside their personalised financial advice.

“This gives them immediate, on-the-go, low-cost access to, use and management of their money.”

Another trend, says the deVere CEO, is impactful saving and investing.

“Our advisers say that, typically, younger people want to use their savings and their investments not only to improve their own lifestyles but for the betterment of their communities and the environments.

“Having more control over their financial affairs is a critical part of their wider activism on issues such as human rights and climate change.”
Mr Green concludes: “Perhaps more than ever, the under 30s are showing a desire to be financially resilient and put their long-term financial goals at the heart of their decision-making process.

“I believe that this ‘think about tomorrow first’ attitude is likely to be a permanent phenomenon due to recent seismic cultural, social and economic shifts.”

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