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InfraCos to Access N65b Broadband Subsidy

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  • InfraCos to Access N65b Broadband Subsidy

Infrastructure Companies (infraCos) expected to drive broadband penetration in Nigeria would have access to the N65 billion subsidies over the next four-years.

However, investigation reveals that InfraCos that will access the subsidy are required to meet some set milestones, as compiled by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), even as it seeks to get approval for more funding from the Presidency.

InfraCos are licensed by NCC to provide Layer 1 (dark fibre) services on commercial basis; focus on the deployment of metropolitan fibre, and provide transmission services, available at access points (Fibre to the Node or Neighbourhood – FTTN) to access seekers.

Already, the Commission planned to license seven operators – one provider for each of the six geo-political zones, and one specifically for Lagos. Six operators have already been licensed, while the remaining one for the North Central, whose process had started, would be unveiled in August.

Those licensed already include MainOne for Lagos; Zinox Technology Limited for South East, and Brinks Integrated Solutions Limited for North East. Others are O’dua Infraco Resources Limited for South-West, Fleek Networks Limited for North-West, and Raeana Nigeria Limited for South-South zone.

Speaking with journalists, during his visit to Lagos, the Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, confirmed that funds have been budgeted for the project, and that the Commission is seeking approval for more from the Presidency.

He also revealed that NCC is now at the verge of concluding on the last InfraCo for the North Central, which was initially licensed to IHS Holdings, noting that many companies have shown interest in the region. “You will even be surprised that those who already bided and won some other regions could also be among those interested in the last InfraCo licence. It all boils down to their capacities. Each zone is independent of another zone.”

With regard to the N65 billion subsidies, Nkemadu explained: “The InfraCo project will be financed yearly, and this is subject to the operators meeting the required milestones. We are not going to pay them to do the job, but we are going to give them money for jobs well done. We shall soon conclude the signing of the subsidy agreement; that process is currently on. The period to get Nigeria connected through the InfraCos is four years; so to access the N65 billon subsidy, we divided the milestones into one year each.”

Some of the milestones operators are expected to meet include that the InfraCo should have established the project; must have started digging metro fibre, pilling, cable installation. It must have brought in equipment and got all necessary approvals in the region of interest.

While the NCC awaits approval to release the N65 billion, Nkemadu said “The provisions we have made in our budget for 2018 and 2019 did not cover the N65 billion. So, we need to get approval from the Presidency to give us lee way that will ensure more money is made available to the InfraCo.”

Meanwhile, an industry source told The Guardian that the President Muhammadu Buhari is also keen on seeing that broadband and Internet access gaps are bridged. As such, NCC is expected to close the 120,000km fibre connections gaps that currently exist in Nigeria.

Recall that the Executive Vice- Chairman, NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, had warned the InfraCos that failure to rollout broadband infrastructure within six months will lead to withdrawal of their licences, as they were given a time frame of one-year to commence country-wide rollout.

Danbatta had said: “This is one of the biggest projects that have ever been undertaken by the regulatory agency. The licence has been granted and there is a time specified in the licence document within which they must start deploying the infrastructure, which is one year. They have since done six months and they have six more months before we see visible infrastructure rollout of broadband services in this country.”

The Guardian checks however, showed that the InfraCo for Lagos, MainOne, has started the deployment of infrastructure across the state.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Nigeria Sees 31% Increase in POS Fraud Amid Rising Terminal Adoption

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The prevalence of fraud and forgery in Nigeria’s payment system has shown a significant shift in the first quarter of 2024, with Point-of-Sale (POS) transactions experiencing the highest increase in fraudulent activities.

According to the “Fraud and Forgeries Report in Nigerian Banks” for Q1 2024 by the Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC), POS fraud cases surged by 31.12%.

In Q4 2023, there were 2,683 reported cases of fraud associated with POS terminals. However, this number escalated to 3,518 cases by Q1 2024.

POS fraud cases made up 30.67% of the total fraud cases (11,472) recorded in the quarter under review.

Financial Impact of POS Fraud

While there was a rise in fraud cases, the amount of money involved in POS fraud declined. In Q4 2023, the total amount involved in POS fraud was NGN604.91 million.

This amount decreased by 37.74% to NGN376.59 million by Q1 2024.

Also, the amount of money lost to POS fraud saw a significant decline, falling from NGN14.62 million by 68.34% to NGN4.63 million on a quarterly basis.

The decrease in financial losses may indicate improved detection and prevention measures, but the overall rise in fraud cases highlights the need for continued vigilance.

Adoption of POS Terminals

The rise in POS fraud cases is attributed to the widespread adoption of these terminals by merchants and consumers alike.

As a cash-driven Nigerian economy, the convenience and efficiency of POS transactions have made them a popular choice.

However, this widespread adoption has also made them a target for fraudsters seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in the system.

In Q1 2023, the number of registered POS terminals increased by 218,475, from 2,318,947 in January 2023 to 2,537,422 by March 2023.

By the same quarter in 2024, the number of registered POS terminals had increased by 289,154, from 3,441,287 in January 2024 to 3,730,441 by March 2024.

Overall, between the end of Q1 2023 and Q1 2024, Nigeria witnessed an additional 1,193,019 POS terminals, marking a 47.02% increase.

Despite this increase in the number of registered POS terminals, the first quarter of 2024 saw POS transaction volumes reach 314 million, which is a significant drop of 73.81 million, or 19.03%, from the 387.81 million transactions recorded in the first quarter of 2023.

Regulatory Measures and Industry Response

The Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) recently stated that POS agents of major fintechs in Nigeria, including OPay, Palmpay, and Moniepoint, among others, must have registered their businesses by July 7, 2024.

However, it extended the deadline by 60 days, giving operators until September 5, 2024. The CAC said the registration is aimed at safeguarding the businesses of fintechs and customers, as well as strengthening the economy.

Meanwhile, the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria (AMMBAN) condemned the mandated registration, describing it as an attempt to tax more Nigerians to generate revenue for the government.

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Apple Aims for 10% Growth in iPhone 16 Shipments in 2024

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Apple Inc. is setting its sights on a significant increase in iPhone 16 shipments for the latter half of this year as it targets at least 90 million units, according to sources familiar with the matter.

This represents a 10% growth compared to the 81 million iPhone 15 devices shipped in the same period last year, reflecting the company’s confidence in the demand for its new lineup powered by advanced AI services.

Despite a challenging 2023, particularly in the Chinese market, Apple is optimistic that the integration of new Apple Intelligence features will drive consumer interest and boost sales.

The company’s projections suggest a potential rebound in 2024, even as it faces stiff competition from AI-enhanced smartphones by rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co. and Xiaomi Corp.

The upbeat forecast comes after a tough year where Apple struggled to maintain its foothold in China, a market disrupted by Huawei Technologies Co.’s Mate 60 Pro, which gained popularity due to its advanced, locally-produced 7-nanometer processor.

However, recent trends indicate a resurgence in demand for Apple’s iconic handsets, aided by a series of strategic discounts and promotional activities, especially around major shopping events like the “618” festival in June.

Apple’s projections have already had a positive impact on its stock, which surged as much as 1.8% to a record high of $232.74 following the news.

The stock has seen a 19% increase this year to date, underscoring investor confidence in the company’s growth strategy.

In the broader smartphone market, overall shipments declined by 3.2% last year, according to IDC. Yet, Apple managed to buck the trend with a 3.7% increase in sales.

This resilience, coupled with the anticipated AI enhancements in the iPhone 16, is expected to further strengthen Apple’s market position.

The integration of AI is a critical component of Apple’s strategy to differentiate its products and enhance user experience.

The company has been playing catch-up in the AI domain, recently announcing a partnership with OpenAI to incorporate AI features into its devices.

However, challenges remain, particularly in navigating stringent AI policies in China, where the availability of services like ChatGPT is restricted.

Beyond AI, Apple faces broader challenges in its largest market outside the US.

Chinese government agencies and state-backed firms have increasingly mandated the use of local devices over foreign alternatives, reflecting Beijing’s push to reduce dependence on imported technology amid escalating US-China tech tensions.

In addition to market dynamics, Apple is contending with legal and regulatory hurdles in China.

The company recently petitioned the Supreme People’s Court to remove references to its “dominant position” in a lower court decision related to app revenue disputes, highlighting the complex regulatory environment it operates in.

Despite these challenges, Apple remains committed to its growth targets and innovation-led strategy. By leveraging AI and continuing to enhance its product offerings, the company aims to sustain its competitive edge and achieve its ambitious shipment goals for the iPhone 16.

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Microsoft, Apple Exit OpenAI Board Amid Antitrust Scrutiny

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Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. have stepped down from their positions as observers on OpenAI’s board following antitrust scrutiny on Big Tech’s influence over artificial intelligence.

Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, informed the startup of its withdrawal through a letter, according to an anonymous source familiar with the matter.

Apple had been anticipated to assume a similar observer role, but an OpenAI spokesperson confirmed that no board observers would be appointed following Microsoft’s departure.

The decision comes amid increasing regulatory pressure on major technology companies.

Last month, European regulators announced plans to survey Microsoft’s competitors regarding OpenAI’s exclusive use of its technology.

This move highlights the intensifying scrutiny on Microsoft, one of the world’s most valuable companies, as it seeks to leverage OpenAI’s services to enhance its Windows and Copilot AI platforms.

The United States has launched a separate antitrust investigation into Microsoft’s dominance in the emerging AI sector.

“Over the past eight months, we have witnessed significant progress from the newly formed board and are confident in the company’s direction,” Microsoft wrote in its memo to OpenAI. “We no longer believe our limited role as an observer is necessary.”

Microsoft, which operates the Azure cloud computing service, is also facing questions regarding its other investments in the AI space.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has opened a probe to determine whether Microsoft failed to properly notify antitrust agencies about its deal with Inflection AI.

In March, Microsoft agreed to pay $650 million to license Inflection AI’s software and hired much of the startup’s staff.

“We’re grateful to Microsoft for voicing confidence in the Board and the direction of the company, and we look forward to continuing our successful partnership,” OpenAI said in a statement to Bloomberg News, without addressing the specific decisions of Apple and Microsoft.

The Financial Times had earlier reported on Microsoft’s exit from OpenAI’s board.

This move by Microsoft and Apple underscores the delicate balance tech giants must maintain as they navigate regulatory landscapes while advancing their strategic interests in AI.

The withdrawal from OpenAI’s board may help alleviate some regulatory concerns but also signals the complex and evolving nature of governance in the AI sector.

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