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Ukraine Pushes Middle East and North Africa Deeper into Hunger as Food Prices Reach Alarming Highs

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This year millions will be struggling to buy even the most basic foods for their families as the conflict in Ukraine has pushed food prices even higher than the troubling levels at the start of the year.

As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins, the soaring cost of food staples in import-dependent Middle Eastern and North African countries is creating ever greater challenges for millions of families already struggling to keep hunger at bay, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today.

Traditionally a month of festivities, when families gather over traditional foods to break their day-long fast, this year millions will be struggling to buy even the most basic foods for their families as the conflict in Ukraine has pushed food prices even higher than the troubling levels at the start of the year.

“We are extremely concerned about the millions of people in this region who are already struggling to access enough food because of a toxic combination of conflict, climate change and the economic aftermath of Covid-19,” said Corinne Fleischer, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “People’s resilience is at a breaking point. This crisis is creating shock waves in the food markets that touch every home in this region. No one is spared.”

The knock-on effect of the Ukraine crisis is adding further strain to the import-dependent region. The prices of wheat flour and vegetable oil – two key staples in the diet of most families – have consequently risen across the region. Cooking oil is up 36 percent in Yemen and 39 percent in Syria. Wheat flour is up 47 percent in Lebanon, 15 percent in Libya and 14 percent in Palestine.

Even prior to the conflict in Ukraine, inflation and increasing prices were putting basic food items beyond the reach of the most vulnerable. Food prices reached an all-time high in February 2022, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index.

The cost of a basic food basket – the minimum food needs per family per month – registered an annual increase of 351 percent in Lebanon, the highest in the region. It was followed by Syria, with a 97 percent rise, and Yemen with 81 percent hike. The three countries, all reliant on food imports, also reported sharp currency depreciation. Meanwhile, a drought in Syria has also impacted the country’s annual wheat production.

With global prices rising, WFP’s meagre resources for operations in the region, especially in Yemen and Syria, will be under even more pressure than before. In both countries, conflict and the related economic shrinkage have left more than 29 million people in need of food assistance. WFP is supporting nearly 19 million people in the two countries.

The global food price hikes and the Ukraine conflict have resulted in WFP facing an additional cost of US$71 million per month for global operations compared to 2019 – a 50% rise.

“The Ukraine crisis makes a bad funding situation worse. There are immediate humanitarian needs that demand attention. Donors have in recent years helped us provide food to millions in the region. Now the situation is critical and it’s time to be even more generous,” added Fleischer.

WFP currently has only 24 percent of the funding it needs in Syria and 31 percent of what it needs in Yemen. Due to funding constraints, WFP has already been forced to reduce food rations in both countries. Further reductions risk pushing people towards starvation.

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Economy

ICT Changing The Face of Nigeria’s Economy

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Paris - Investors King

While many thought the oil sector would save the Nigerian economy, the drift is gradually shifting away from the oil sector into the non-oil sector – the Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

A recent data revealed by the National Bureau of Statistics, sighted by Investors King, shows that the ICT has contributed 16 per cent to the growth of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

On a year-on-year basis, compared to the previous year in the same quarter, ICT contributed 14.9 per cent to the GDP – a growth of 1.3 per cent. 

According to the data released by NBS, “In nominal terms, in the first quarter of 2022 the sector growth was recorded at 20.54 per cent (year-on-year), 12.68 per cent points increase from the rate of 7.86 per cent recorded in the same quarter of 2021, and 14.84 per cent points higher than the rate recorded in the preceding quarter. The Quarter-on- Quarter growth rate recorded in the first quarter of 2022 was -1.87 per cent.  

“The Information and Communications sector contributed 10.55 per cent to the total Nominal GDP in the 2022 first quarter, higher than the rate of 9.91 per cent recorded in the same quarter of 2021 and higher than the 9.88 cent it contributed in the preceding quarter”.   

The report added that the sector, in the first quarter of 2022, recorded a growth rate of 12.07 per cent in real terms, year-on-year.

From the rate recorded in the corresponding period of 2021, there was an increase of 5.60 per cent points. Quarter-on-Quarter, the sector exhibited a growth of -9.09 per cent in real terms.  

“Therefore, of total real GDP, the sector contributed 16.20 per cent in 2022 first quarter, higher than in the same quarter of the previous year in which it represented 14.91 per cent and higher than the preceding quarter in which it represented 15.21 per cent,” the data revealed. 

The Information and Communications sector in Nigeria comprises of Telecommunications and Information Services, Publishing, Motion Picture, Sound Recording and Music Production and Broadcasting. 

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Economy

Nigeria’s Economy Moderates in Q1 2022 as Oil Sector Contracts by 23.89%

Nigeria’s GDP moderated to 3.11% year-on-year in real terms in the first quarter (Q1) of 2022

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Lagos Nigeria - Investors King

Despite the surge in global oil prices due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the largest exporter of the commodity in Africa, Nigeria moderated to 3.11% year-on-year in real terms in the first quarter (Q1) of 2022, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated in its latest report.

Nigeria’s GDP was 2.60% higher than the 0.51% recorded in Q1 2021 when COVID-19 disrupted business activity and dragged on economic productivity. However, this was 0.88% lower than the 3.98% filed in the fourth quarter of 2021.

On quarterly basis, the nation’s real GDP grew at -14.66% in the quarter under review when compared to the fourth quarter of 2021.

Aggregate GDP increased by 13.25% year-on-year from N40,014,482.74 million in nominal terms in the first quarter of 2021 to N45,317,823.33 million in Q1 2022. According to the NBS, “the nominal GDP growth rate in Q1 2022 was higher relative to the 12.25% growth recorded in the first quarter of 2021 and higher compared to the 13.11% growth recorded in the preceding quarter.”

Nigeria’s Oil Sector

In the first quarter, Nigeria’s crude oil production dropped to 1.49 million barrels per day (mbpd), down from 1.72mbp achieved in the same quarter of 2021. This was also lower than the 1.50mbpd recorded in the fourth quarter of 2021. Suggesting that despite the increase in global oil prices in the quarter, Nigeria’s inability to up crude oil production impeded investment in the sector and subsequently dragged on revenue generation.

As expected, the real growth of the oil sector contracted by 26.04% year-on-year in Q1 2022, representing a decline of 23.83% when compared to the same quarter of 2021. Also, growth decreased by 17.99% when compared to -8.06% filed for Q4 2021.

On a quarterly basis, the oil sector grew by 9.11% in the quarter under review. The sector contributed 6.63% to Nigeria’s total real GDP in Q1 2022, own from 9.25% contributed in the corresponding quarter of 2021 and slightly higher than the 5.19% achieved in Q4 2021.

Nigeria’s Non-Oil Sector

As usual, the non-oil sector grew by 6.08% in real terms in the first quarter. This was better than the 5.28% recorded in the first quarter of 2021 and 1.34% higher than the fourth quarter of 2021.

The report attributed the growth in the non-oil sector to the increase in activities in the following sectors; Information and Communication (Telecommunication); Trade; Financial and Insurance (Financial Institutions); Agriculture (Crop Production); and Manufacturing (Food, Beverage & Tobacco).

Nigeria’s non-oil sector contributed the most to total economic growth. The sector contributed 93.37% to the nation’s GDP in the quarter under review.

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Economy

FG Directs NDDC to Revoke 20 Year-old Unexecuted Projects 

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Construction Industry

The Federal Government of Nigeria says it has directed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to revoke unexecuted contracts awarded between 2000 and 2019. 

Director of Corporate Affairs, NDDC, Ibitoye Abosede, said in a statement issued on Sunday in Port Harcourt. According to him, the cancellation followed recommendations of the recently-concluded forensic audit report by the NDDC.

“This is to bring to the notice of all contractors engaged by the NDDC as well as stakeholders and the general public, the implementation of the forensic audit report,” she said.

“The Presidency has directed that all contracts awarded by the NDDC from 2000 to December 31, 2019, for which the beneficiary contractors are yet to mobilise to the sites, are cancelled.

“Consequently, all affected contractors are advised to note that all monies earlier received by way of mobilisation for any of the projects are to be promptly refunded

“The contractors are to refund the monies to the commission’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.’’

Abosede said that the cancellation was subject to any future re-award in accordance with the Public Procurement Act and in line with the terms of the contracts for the projects.

Earlier in February, some contractors, who identified themselves as members of the Niger Delta Indigenous Contractors Association, alleged that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) owed them over N2 trillion. This, among many others, has ravaged the effective delivery of the commission. 

The contractors had earlier picketed the headquarters of the NDDC in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, over the alleged outstanding debt.

Several reports have suggested that there are a group of people who have formed a “cartel” running the affairs of the commission secretly. 

In 2019, the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, during an interim inauguration of a NDDC committee in Abuja said “the mandate of the committee is to help create an “enabling environment” for the forensic audit of the NDDC.” 

Akpabio said the corruption and political interference have disrupted the original purpose of setting up the NDDC. 

“I think people were treating the place as an ATM, where you just walk in there to go and pluck money and go away, I don’t think they were looking at it as an interventionist agency,” said Mr Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State. 

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