Recently, Ukraine’s President Zelensky signed the “On Payment Services” bill into law. Among other things, the bill permits the country’s central bank to issue a central bank digital currency. Notably, it also allows the institution to create a testing environment for fintech startups. This comes as the culmination of several years of study on the topic, including a report which was issued in 2019.
“On the one hand, the NBU has been looking into how to develop and issue a CBDC since 2018. On the other hand, I think Estonia has pushed their hand. Obviously, this was well in the works since before Eesti Pank recently released its report on CBDCs. But, Estonia has been a leader in technology and the startup scene in so many different ways. I think that every player in the region really has to be watching Estonia. You don’t want to be left behind, especially if a regional neighbor is able to develop a CBDC that both functionally works and is culturally accepted,” noted 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.
“On the one hand, Ukraine has some of the pieces necessary to use the move towards a CBDC to build their existing tech infrastructure. Ukraine is definitely a player in the tech space. On the other hand, you have to look at what Estonia has done over the past couple decades and acknowledge that they are trending in the right direction. In many ways, the country is a case study, or even a masterclass, in how to build up a critical new segment of your economy,” said Gardner.
“In the end, regional competition can really be a positive for an economy. Iron sharpens iron, and when you strive to compete, you’re better positioned to win. Technology isn’t a zero-sum game. There is more than enough innovation to go around. What’s great about technology is that, while connections and money and historicals can certainly help, the technology that’s trending is really based on what adds value. If you can build something cool that adds value to people, companies, or governments, then you’re going to be a winner in the tech space,” offered Gardner.
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 technology for the world’s most notable exchanges, with a client list which includes NASA, NASDAQ, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays, Siemens, Shell, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago.
“What I see here, when you look at the race to build a CBDC, is three different battles happening concurrently. First, there is the power of being an early adopter. Those who find a way to build a technologically sound digital currency and get their citizenry to adopt it — there’s no question that they are going to gain prestige in the international monetary community. Secondarily, there are going to be new fintech firms that build a lot of innovative technologies on their way to launching the CBDC, and that’s going to be a major economic boon. But, finally, and, in terms of long-term implications, perhaps the most important: getting in on this early is going to build a culture of innovation. Companies are going to see that the government values innovation, especially if they work to build public-private partnerships and bring the private sector in to help craft commonsense regulatory guidance,” said Gardner.
“That culture of innovation is what has brought Estonia and Tallinn so much economic success lately. If Ukraine can follow that roadmap, they may have a chance to benefit from a technological revolution that won’t soon depart. Blockchain technologies are here, and they are destined to change the way the world conceives of finance. That’s real. That’s here to stay. Getting on board quickly is the best move Ukraine has in its quiver,” opined Gardner.
Union Bank Announces the Appointment of Aisha Abubakar as Independent Non-Executive Director
Union Bank of Nigeria Plc (“Union Bank”) has announced a change to the membership of its Board of Directors with the appointment of Ms. Aisha Abubakar as an Independent Non-Executive Director effective 9th September 2021, following the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Ms. Abubakar joins the Board of Union Bank following her tenure as Nigeria’s Honourable Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development from 2018 to 2019. Prior to this, she also served as the Honourable Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment between 2015 and 2018. At the start of her career, Ms. Abubakar worked at Continental Merchant Bank Ltd., African Development Bank and African International Bank.
She is an accomplished public sector administrator with over three decades of professional experience in Public Service and Pension Administration, Investment Banking, SME Finance/Rural Enterprise Development and Micro-Credit Administration.
Ms. Abubakar is a Fellow of the International Professional Managers Association (IPMA-UK), and the President of the International Experts Consultants (IEC-UK).
Commenting on the addition to the Board, Mrs. Beatrice Hamza Bassey, Union Bank’s Board Chair said: “On behalf of the Board of Directors, I welcome Ms. Aisha Abubakar to the Board. She brings many years of robust experience which will be invaluable in supporting our efforts to steer the Bank forward and deliver on our strategic objectives.”
Also commenting, Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Emeka Okonkwo said: “I am pleased to welcome our new Independent Non-Executive Director, Ms. Aisha Abubakar to the Board. We look forward to drawing from her wealth of experience and fresh perspectives as we continue to execute our vision to be Nigeria’s most reliable and trusted partner.”
AfDB Approves $50M Trade Finance Deal with Standard Chartered Bank
The African Development Bank Group has approved a $50m Trade Finance Unfunded Risk Participation Agreement (RPA) for StandardChartered Bank.
This was contained in a statement titled ‘African Development Bank approves a $50m Multinational Trade Finance Risk Participation Agreement facility for Standard Chartered Bank’ published on the bank’s website on Wednesday.
The statement said, “The board of directors of the African Development Bank Group has approved a $50m Trade Finance Unfunded Risk Participation Agreement facility between the African Development Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.”
The essence of this agreement is to promote intra-Africa trade, ensure regional integration and lessen the trade finance gap in Africa.
“The agreement is expected to boost intra-Africa trade, promote regional integration, and contribute to the reduction of the trade finance gap in Africa, in line with implementation aspirations of the African Continental Free Trade Area,”
The bank’s Director for Financial Sector Development, Stefan Nalletamby, stated that “We are excited about finalising this facility with Standard Chartered Bank as it offers us the flexibility to use our strong AAA-rated risk-bearing capacity to increase access to trade finance and boost intra/extra-African trade on the continent, in support of the AfCFTA.
“This partnership is expected to catalyze more than $600m in value of trade finance transactions across multi-sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and energy over the next three years.”
Director-General of the bank’s Southern Africa region, Leila Mokadem, was quoted to have said, “The advent of COVID-19, coupled with stringent regulatory/capital requirements and Know Your Customer compliance enforcement, has seen many global banks reduce their correspondent banking relationships in Africa, while some are exiting the market altogether.
“There is, therefore, an urgent need for financing to reenergise Africa’s trade, which requires more participation of institutions like the African Development Bank.”
The parties in the agreement are expected to share the default risk on a portfolio of eligible trade transactions originated by African Issuing Banks and indemnified by Standard Chartered Bank.
Beneficiaries of this facility are issuing banks in Africa with the ability to grow their trade finance business has been constrained by inadequate trade confirmation lines from international banks.
Other beneficiaries are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and domestic firms which rely on these issuing banks to fulfill their trade finance commitments.
The RPA facility is aligned with the AfDB’s High 5 priority goals which are: light up and power Africa, feed Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa, and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
Standard Chartered Launches Flexible ‘Smart Business Loan’ Product To Support SMEs
Standard Chartered on Wednesday launched its Smart Business Loan (SBL) product to support Small and Medium Scale Enterprise (SMEs) in Nigeria.
David Idoru, Head of Consumer, Private and Business Banking, of the bank in Nigeria, said in a statement in Lagos that SBL was an unsecured installment/term loan available to SME clients within key target sectors.
“Qualified SMEs would be able to access up to N20million loan, without providing tangible security/collateral to purchase asset, finance business expansion and other capital expenditure needs.
“This loan was designed to help SMEs meet their short to medium-term needs.
“As a Bank, our purpose is to drive commerce and prosperity in the locations we operate in. This is done through offering cash, lending, trade and wealth management solutions that specifically drive economic growth,” he said.
Idoru said that the bank was constantly looking for ways to ensure SMEs get access to the needed support to enable their businesses to thrive, adding that prior to the product launch, clients were required to provide full collateral cover to access loans from the bank, but SBL had been designed to provide the necessary flexibility to the clients.
“It is accessible to new and existing clients of the Bank with no waiting period, including small and medium scale organisations, who can access up to N20million in loans without collateral for a maximum tenure of two years,” he said.
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