The new foreign exchange regime adopted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will unshackle consumer goods firms that have hitherto been in bondage as restrictions prevented them from accessing dollars to import raw materials and pay suppliers.
Godwin Emefiele, the governor of the apex bank, last week reopened the interbank foreign exchange market and have the naira, completely determined by the market forces.
The Naira had been held at the N197-N199 since mid 2015, a policy that caused capital flight as investors fret that the currency may be overvalued and an abrupt devaluation could culminate in loss of significant investment.
But with the new Forex regime kickstarting today, and with its attendant of liquidity flow in the system, consumer goods firms that had been pained by the old policy will have the leeway to embark on the desired expansion drive as access to dollar will enable them buy plants and machineries for the purpose of bolstering production.
Following massive impairments that have prompted several banks to issue profit warnings and the general downturn in the Nigerian economy, the FSDH Merchant Bank Limited (FMBL) has warned that 2016 will be a very challenging year for banking business in Nigeria.
The bank noted that the federal government’s pronouncement that it intended to run a fiscal deficit in excess of N2.2 trillion this year to revive the struggling economy to ensure a sustainable growth path remained one of the factors that would pose challenge to banks.
Speaking at the bank’s annual general meeting (AGM) held in Lagos, Chairman of FMBL, Osaro Isokpan, noted that the government’s expectation to raise funds in addition to the N900 billion it planned to borrow from the domestic market, has the implication of further toughening the banking environment.
Shareholders of Wema Bank Plc have approved the bank’s bid to either acquire or merge with any financial/non-financial institution to expand its business. They also authorised the bank’s directors to raise additional capital in readiness to pursue the acquisition plan.
The shareholders gave the approval at the bank’s Annual General Meeting, AGM, in Lagos. Addressing shareholders at the meeting, the Chairman, Mr. Adeyinka Asekun, explained that the approval for the capital raising exercise would allow the bank to take advantage of any merger/acquisition opportunity that may arise in the course of the year. He explained that the bank would seek strategic partnerships with during the year, adding that it commenced relationship with key players in various business segments and the relationships are expected to add value to the bank in terms of brand equity and bottomline.
Twenty years after it was discovered, the Aje field located in
Oil Mining Lease 113 has achieved its first oil, putting Lagos on the list of oil-producing states in the country.
The milestone is coming after several missed targets for the achievement of first oil, the latest being March this year.
Yinka Folawiyo Petroleum Company Limited, a wholly-owned indigenous firm and operator of the OML 113 offshore Lagos, on Tuesday announced the commencement of production of crude oil from the field. Other partners are New Age Exploration Nigeria Limited, EER (Colobus) Nigeria Limited, Pan Petroleum (Panoro Energy) Aje Limited and PR Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited.
Panoro had in an update posted on its website on April 20 said the final hook-up procedures were in progress with a view to bringing the wells into production shortly.
The YFP said after over 25 years of exploratory, appraisal and developmental activities, it had successfully pioneered the opening of the Frontier Benin Embayment, describing the Aje field as the first to record production from this part of Nigeria and the first production outside of the Niger Delta.
Apple Inc on Tuesday posted its first-ever decline in iPhone sales and its first revenue drop in 13 years as the company credited with inventing the smartphone struggles with an increasingly saturated market.
The company’s sales dropped by more than a quarter in China, its most important market after the United States, and it also forecast another disappointing quarter for global revenues.
Its shares fell about 8 percent, dropping below $100 for the first time since February. A hike in Apple’s share buyback and dividend as well as bumper revenue from services failed to mollify investors.
Fidelity Bank Plc has disclosed that 80 per cent
of the net proceeds of the N30 billion bonds it
recently raised from the Nigerian Stock
Exchange (NSE) will be deployed to assist
export-oriented Micro-Small and Medium
Enterprises (MSMEs) in the country in order to
raise their level of competitiveness in the global
Dangote Group has emerged “African Company of
the Year” at the just-concluded Africa CEO Forum
held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
To clinch the General Electric (GE)- sponsored
award, Dangote Group emerged top among eight
other international companies nominated through
a special process that took several factors into
At a Microsoft executive retreat during his first month as chief executive officer, Satya Nadella saw a research project that captured his attention. The demonstration in February 2014 used speech recognition and artificial intelligence to translate a live conversation into another language. Nadella told the team he wanted the tool combined with Skype and ready in time to show off at his first public speech three months later.
This is not how Microsoft typically works. As Nadella, a 24-year veteran of the company, would have known, the process of turning a Microsoft Research project into a product would often happen slowly, if at all. That’s partly by design. The company’s research group was set up in isolation from the product teams to allow researchers to envision the future without worrying about how their inventions will make money or fit into the company’s mission.
But Nadella’s tight deadline left executives with no time to debate the separation of church and state. “We did not have a formal team working on this when he made that statement,” said Lilian Rincon, the Skype group program manager. So they assembled one and immediately went to work on what would eventually become Skype Translator.
Without Nadella’s direct intercession, the translation work might have amounted to little more than a talking point among academics. While Skype Translator would set an important precedent for the company, relying on the CEO to personally vet every lab project isn’t a sustainable business plan. That’s why Microsoft is overhauling its research arm and the way it works with the rest of the company. The goal is to quickly identify technology with the most potential and get it into customers’ hands before a competitor replicates it.
To break down the walls between its research group and the rest of the company, Microsoft reassigned about half of its more than 1,000 research staff in September 2014 to a new group called MSR NExT. Its focus is on projects with greater impact to the company rather than pure research. Meanwhile, the other half of Microsoft Research is getting pushed to find more significant ways it can contribute to the company’s products.
Besides Skype, other services that have benefited from the recent transformation include cloud productivity tools in Office, faster and more power-efficient servers running Bing, and the augmented-reality headset HoloLens. The latest to come out of this initiative is a new feature for Cortana. Microsoft plans to release an update to the digital assistant on Monday that relies on work from the corporate research group. It will give Cortana the ability to scan e-mails for tasks the user has agreed to accomplish and automatically set reminders to do them.
“Microsoft totally separated its research arm from the rest of the company and almost made it optional to contribute to the rest of the company.”
Microsoft is in a race with Google and Facebook to establish the strongest hold over people’s digital lives. The changes at Microsoft Research resemble how its younger Silicon Valley rivals have operated for years. “Microsoft totally separated its research arm from the rest of the company and almost made it optional to contribute to the rest of the company,” said Ahmad Abdulkader, an engineer on the applied machine learning team at Facebook who previously worked at Microsoft and Google. “Google took the exact opposite approach.”
Google researchers work very closely with product groups, and almost everything they produce is visible to the rest of the company, said Jeff Dean, a senior fellow at Google. “We don’t have this really isolated group that is doing stuff without any regard to what might be useful in products,” he said. “We have this very porous connection between research and products.”
Researchers and developers on the search engine or Gmail teams share many of the same tools, including the company’s open-source AI framework TensorFlow, Dean said. That kind of close collaboration has helped produce impressive features, including Smart Reply, which suggests e-mail responses based on the content of a message. The feature, released in November 2015, was based on about a year of AI research at Google. Once the company decided to deploy the tech in Google’s Inbox app, it took around four months to produce a prototype, said Jason Freidenfelds, a Google spokesman.
A similarly ambitious effort at Facebook, aimed at developing a conversational AI assistant called M, was born from research that began in 2014. The company published a paper on its work in October 2014, and by summer 2015 the tech was ready to be tested in Facebook Messenger. Alex Lebrun, who leads development of Facebook M, meets weekly with the company’s top AI researchers to explore which lab developments are ready for the world. Facebook employees can track research-in-progress using a tool named FBLearner Flow. It lets them access, copy, and adapt the source code, and then deploy their own versions of the software, said Abdulkader, the Facebook machine learning engineer. “This is how experiments are exposed and shared.”
Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer said the cooperation between its research labs and those working on the social network is an effective recruiting tool. “The promise I made to all the artificial intelligence folks that joined us is we’re going to be the best place to get your work to a billion people as fast as possible,” Schroepfer said during an event last year at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
One potential drawback of this approach is it could encourage scientists to ignore projects that don’t have obvious financial potential. Each company is trying to strike a balance to avoid this breed of short-term thinking. For instance, Facebook assigns some staff to focus on long-term research, and Google’s DeepMind group in London conducts pure AI research without immediate commercial considerations.
The bigger problem at Microsoft was that often the most promising research never made its way into the company’s products until a rival built something similar. Jim Gray, the late Microsoft Research scientist and A.M. Turing Award winner, designed one of the first modern digital mapping programs in the late 1990s. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates showed off Gray’s TerraServer to applause at a conference in 1998 but didn’t do much with it after that. When Google Maps debuted in 2005, Gates ordered the company to build its own version in 100 days.
“We need to be open to new ideas, and Microsoft Research is where they will come from.”
Gates and former CTO Nathan Myhrvold started Microsoft Research in 1991 amid the decline of onetime tech powerhouses Bell Labs and Xerox PARC. They hired Rick Rashid from Carnegie Mellon University to create a lab in the school’s image, hiring bright minds and letting them do their thing. “The bad news was they have an internal technology transfer problem,” said Ed Lazowska, a computer science professor at the University of Washington who has been on the lab’s advisory board since its founding.
Today’s geniuses often prefer impact over independence, which is partly why Microsoft is rethinking its approach. “The product groups are now eager because whatever they’ve been doing hasn’t been working,” Lazowska said. “Part of Satya’s mantra is, ‘We need to be open to new ideas, and Microsoft Research is where they will come from.'”
Jeannette Wing, a Microsoft Research vice president, pitched Lazowska’s students in a speech last month on how the company’s changes make it an attractive place to work. “We have enjoyed a stellar reputation in academia because of our scientific impact,” she said. “Now there’s an emphasis to have as much company impact as we’ve had scientific impact.”
The new reminders feature in Cortana was the product of a series of regular meetings between top researchers and product heads. Marcus Ash, a group program manager for Cortana in Windows, said his team is working with researchers on expanding the feature to track when someone else asks the user to take on a job. “There’s been a more deliberate focus on leveraging some of the best ideas from Microsoft Research to enhance Microsoft services and products,” said Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft’s research group who worked with Ash on Cortana.
These changes won’t happen immediately, but Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle who sold a company to Microsoft in 2008, said the company is well-positioned to make the transition. “You just can’t turn it on a dime. It’s a process,” he said.
A command from the CEO certainly helps. The team behind Skype Translator managed to prepare a prototype in time for Nadella’s onstage demonstration at a Re/code tech conference in May 2014. “I would have never believed we could move that fast,” said Vikram Dendi, who helped bring the product to life. Today, Skype Translator is available in seven languages, and Dendi is the strategy director for Microsoft Research. It’s his job to keep track of MSR NExT projects and identify ones that are ready for prime time. The Skype and research teams now talk every day.
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have emphasised the need for research development to improve the agricultural sector.
According to the Group Executive Director, Elephant Group, Mr. Akin Ogunbiyi, since the the focal point of the current administration was to boost agriculture to diversify the economy, there is an urgent need to adopt technology and research in identifying products in which the country has comparative advantage.
Ogunbiyi, in a recent interview, advised the the nation to look at research development in the sector and boost agriculture extension programmes.
Also, the President, Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Dr. Abdul Bello, in an interview with our correspondent, emphasised the need for research in the sector, lamenting that Nigeria had continued to record poor crop yields, while there were soil testing laboratories lying waste.
He also stressed the need for the sector to embrace technology, adding, “We must learn to work with Information and Communications Technology. Rwanda has adopted ICT in every sector of its economy and everything in that country is currently working. Nigeria should do the same.”
Bello made a case for the decentralisation of the agriculture ministry, adding that little could be achieved by concentrating everything at the centre.
The Chairman, Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria, Mr. Tunji Owoeye, on his part, decried the effect of policy inconsistency on the development of large-scale farming and backward integration.
He urged the government to encourage large-scale farming through consistent and stable policies, adding that Nigeria had become one of the largest producers of cassava today because of past government policies that encouraged cultivation of cassava.
“If Nigeria can be the largest producer of cassava in the world, with the right political will and consistent policies, we can also be the largest producers of other commodities including rice,” he said.
He advised that government policies targeted at the growth of agriculture such as the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending should be maintained.
He also said government should increase access to credit for the value-chain operators, improve the capacity of NISRAL to take on insurance and risks more to support the teeming value-chain operators across all the products.
To make Nigeria succeed as a net producer and exporter of rice, Owoeye suggested that the 10 rice mills approved by the Federal Executive Council of the previous administration should be made to come on stream.
“If we put those 10 on stream, with the capacity of 35,000 metric tonnes per mill, that is about 350,000 metric tonnes added to the nation’s paddy processing. This would encourage our farmers, create employment and bring down pressure on the foreign exchange,” he said.
He added that agribusiness must be technologically driven as it is done in the western world.
In support of the Federal Government’s auto policy, a Chinese firm, has joined the list of foreign companies that have established automobile assembly plant in Nigeria.
Perfection Motors Company Limited (a member of Lee Group) and FAW, China, have set up a Semi-Knock Down (SKD) auto assembly in Ikeja, the commercial capital of Lagos.
General Manager, Perfection Motors Company Limited, Mr. Adrian Fourie, gave his remarks at the opening of the new FAW showroom, workshop and SKD auto plant in Ikeja, Lagos.
According to Fourie, “In view of the fact that we will outgrow this assembly line in the next three years, we will be breaking ground on the future CKD (Complete Knock Down) assembly plant in Ogiju, with construction starting later this year.”
“Partnering with FAW has given us the confidence to invest, as you know, we are bringing a quality brand to Nigeria. We believe that the Nigerian public deserve the best as far as price and quality are concerned,” he added.
“With over 50 years of experience and over 200 vehicles on the road, our group truly understand the needs of the Nigerian people and the Nigeria transport industry as a whole”.
He noted that their dealership network will spread across Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Kano.
The plant is expected to assemble 1000 cars annually.