Zenith Bank Plc has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat for the development of the SMARTAfCFTA Portal, for trade promotion within the African continent.
The SMARTAfCFTA Portal, which has the capacity to provide information like trade indicators, market trends, custom tariffs, trade agreements, rules of origin, market access requirements of relevant jurisdictions, export potentials, export diversification indicators and contact details of business partners in target markets and other trade-related information about Africa, will help to unlock the vast opportunities for trade on the African continent.
The MoU was signed by the Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank Plc, Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu and the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, His Excellency Wamkele Mene, during the 8th Annual Edition of the Zenith Bank International Trade Seminar on Non-Oil Export themed “Nigerian Non-Oil Export Industry: The Present, The Future”, held on Wednesday, August 8, 2023, at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos and virtually.
Speaking on the partnership with AfCFTA for the development of the SMARTAfCFTA Portal, the Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank, Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, said: “This collaboration aims to unlock the vast opportunities presented by AfCFTA not only for Nigeria’s economic prosperity but also for advancing trade across African countries”.
Dr. Onyeagwu noted the key role that the annual Zenith Bank Trade Seminar plays in deepening the conversation on promoting non-oil export in Nigeria by bringing together non-oil export practitioners and relevant government agencies to interact and explore the opportunities and proffer solutions to the challenges of non-oil export in the country, noting that previous editions’ outcomes have found expression and influenced policy initiatives.
For instance, the extension of the period of repatriation of Non-Oil Export proceeds from 90 days to 180 days, and the policy mandating shippers not to carry export without a Nigeria Export Proceeds (NXP) Form Number were recommendations from previous seminars.
Also, the need to incentivise exporters to repatriate their export proceeds through the official channels and the recommendation to create export terminals across various export hubs in the country were also from past seminars. Also, previous editions recommended having Export Desks in commercial banks, which has now been instituted.
In his keynote address at the Zenith Bank International Trade Seminar, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, His Excellency Wamkele Mene, thanked the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, CFR, for partnering with the AfCFTA for the development of the SMARTAfCFTA Portal. In his words: “Zenith Bank was the first bank to say “we want to partner with you”.
We went to see the Founder and Chairman, and he said that Zenith Bank wants to make a contribution to digitise trade in Africa. And so the portal was not my idea, it was not our idea at the AfCTA Secretariat, it was Zenith Bank that stepped up and said, ‘this has to be done!’. So I want to thank you very much, GMD for this collaboration.”
In his goodwill message, Dr. Kingsley Obiora, the Deputy Governor of Economic Policy representing the Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Folashodun Adebisi Shonubi, commended Zenith Bank for leading Nigeria’s non-oil export promotion advocacy. He bemoaned the 1.2 per cent non-oil export to total GDP ratio and emphasised the need for concerted efforts to boost non-oil exports in Nigeria.
Zenith Bank launched the Non-Oil Export Seminar in 2016 as an initiative to deepen the discourse on promoting the non-oil export business in Nigeria. The 2023 International Trade Seminar also featured a goodwill message from the Secretary of the National Action Committee on AfCFTA, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo.
There were also two-panel discussions, with the first panel discussion titled: “Nigeria Non-Oil Export Industry – Growth Opportunities”, while the second panel discussion was titled: “Harnessing the Opportunities in Service Export”.
Naira Struggles as Apex Bank Delays Clearing $10 Billion Forex Debts
The Nigerian economy is facing growing uncertainty as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has yet to fulfill its promise of clearing over $10 billion in foreign exchange debts owed to Deposit Money Banks (DMBs).
This delay has placed immense pressure on the country’s currency, leading to a challenging situation for both financial institutions and the general public.
Over two weeks ago, the immediate past acting CBN Governor, Folashodun Shonubi, had announced that negotiations on these dollar debts with commercial banks had been concluded and all forex exchange backlogs would be cleared within one to two weeks.
However, multiple top bank executives have revealed that the promise remains unfulfilled, leaving banks in a tight FX liquidity position.
This liquidity crunch has compelled many lenders to temporarily suspend various FX transactions, including school fees and Personal Travel Allowance applications. The situation has also worsened the dollar scarcity at the parallel market, prompting bank customers to turn to the black market to meet their forex needs.
The delay in clearing these forex debts has further eroded confidence in the naira, resulting in a decline in its value to between 990/$ and 995/$ in major cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Kano.
Economic experts warn that if the situation persists, it could lead to higher costs of goods and services, causing more businesses to shut down.
Manufacturers, who heavily rely on imported raw materials, fear that the rising costs will lead to unaffordable products and a preference for cheaper imported alternatives.
The appointment of a new CBN Governor, Dr. Olayemi Cardoso, comes at a critical time, with the central bank facing significant challenges related to the forex market and currency stability.
As the nation grapples with these economic pressures, it remains to be seen how the new leadership will address these issues and restore confidence in the financial markets.
Nigerian Banks’ Borrowings from CBN Surge 835% in a Month, Raising Liquidity Concerns
The Nigerian banking sector has witnessed an unprecedented 835% surge in borrowings from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the span of just one month, igniting concerns over the nation’s liquidity stability.
Data reveals that banks’ dependence on the CBN has reached new heights, with their borrowings skyrocketing from a relatively modest N323.97 billion in August to N3.03 trillion in September. This remarkable increase underscores a growing reliance on the CBN’s support in times of financial stress.
This surge in borrowing activity has primarily been attributed to the CBN’s stringent monetary policies aimed at curbing inflation and managing the demand for foreign exchange. These policies have, in turn, squeezed commercial banks, compelling them to tap into the CBN’s Standing Lending Facility (SLF) for immediate liquidity needs.
Despite the escalating dependence on CBN funds, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the apex bank insists that the Nigerian banking sector remains fundamentally robust. MPC member Adenikinju Festus highlighted key indicators, including Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) and Non-Performing Loan (NPL) ratios, which still align with prudential standards. Furthermore, liquidity ratios have improved, and returns on equity and assets have risen.
However, the banking industry’s persistently high operating costs are raising alarms. In comparison to international standards, Nigerian banks are grappling with substantially higher operating expenses, prompting concerns about their long-term sustainability.
In a parallel development, the CBN’s Development Finance Department has disbursed a total of N9.714 trillion to various sectors of the economy over the past three years, with manufacturing and industries receiving the largest share at 32.6%.
Other sectors, including energy, agriculture, services, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), export, and health, have also benefited significantly from these disbursements.
While the CBN remains committed to fostering sustainable economic growth, the surging dependence of Nigerian banks on short-term borrowings from the central bank is casting shadows on the sector’s long-term stability.
As Nigeria grapples with these liquidity concerns, the financial industry and regulators face the challenging task of charting a course towards a more resilient and sustainable banking environment.
Central Bank of Nigeria Postpones 293rd Monetary Policy Committee Meeting
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced the postponement of its 293rd Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting, originally scheduled for September 25th and 26th, 2023.
Dr. Isa AbdulMumin, the bank’s Director of Corporate Communications, released a statement on Thursday confirming the decision.
In the statement, Dr. AbdulMumin stated, “The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria has deferred its 293rd meeting, which was initially planned for Monday and Tuesday, September 25th and 26th, 2023, respectively. A new date will be communicated in due course. We regret any inconvenience this change may cause our stakeholders and the general public.”
While the CBN did not provide an official reason for the postponement, some industry experts suggest it may be related to the pending approvals for the newly appointed governor and deputy governors of the bank.
President Bola Tinubu recently nominated Yemi Cardoso as the potential head of the CBN. Additionally, Tinubu has endorsed the nominations of four new deputy governors for the apex bank, who are expected to serve for an initial term of five years, pending confirmation by the Senate.
The nominated deputy governors are Emem Usoro, Muhammad Abdullahi-Dattijo, Philip Ikeazor, and Bala Bello. However, the appointment of the CBN governor is contingent upon Senate confirmation, which is currently on a yearly recess.
The CBN assures stakeholders and the public that the rescheduled MPC meeting date will be communicated promptly as soon as it is confirmed.
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