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Tony Elumelu Joins Trump Senior Adviser Jared Kushner in Bahrain To Launch US Government Growth Strategy for Palestine and Middle East

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Heads of States and other global leaders convened at the Peace to Prosperity Workshop in Bahrain, organised by the Presidency of the United States of America in partnership with the host government, the Kingdom of Bahrain, to launch the US growth strategy for Palestine and the Middle East; a first step in the long journey towards establishing an enduring future for the region; the West Bank, Gaza, and beyond.

Providing the African perspective upon special invitation from the US Government, Tony Elumelu, Founder, the Tony Elumelu Foundation and Chairman, the United Bank for Africa, headlined the summit, speaking on the opening plenary alongside Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF); and HE Mohammed Al-Sheikh, Minister of State & Member of the Council of Ministers, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to share practical recommendations to unlock future economic prosperity for the Palestinian people, using what is done at the Tony Elumelu Foundation as a replicable model for the economic empowerment of young men and women from the West Bank and Gaza.

Elumelu stressed the urgency and importance of supporting and empowering young Palestinians to ignite the entrepreneurial ecosystem and strengthen the Palestinian economy. For stable growth, he reiterated that young Palestinians must be empowered with jobs and economic opportunity to contribute meaningfully to their nation’s development.

“I come from Africa; and the reality is that we do have a lot of similarities with the Palestinian people; especially in the area of demographic make up. With over 60% of its nearly 5 million strong population under 30, the young people of Palestine need Jobs Jobs and more Jobs! Without jobs, there will be no economic hope. Big corporations and government alone cannot supply the jobs demanded by Palestine’s demographic pressures. We need SMEs and startups to address joblessness in the region, create jobs and opportunities in local communities for millions of our Palestinian young brothers and sisters to become employed, meaningfully engaged, and full of economic hope, which in turn leads them away from extremism.”

The renowned investor and philanthropist who is leading by example through the Tony Elumelu Foundation which has committed US$100m to empower young African entrepreneurs, called on endowed Middle Easterners and their philanthropies to step up and become more involved in empowering the young ones of Palestine. As he explained, “In the 21st century, we cannot keep relying on western donors to help empower our own people; we must step up and create a platform where they may partner with us for scale, just as we are doing at the Tony Elumelu Foundation.”

The Tony Elumelu Foundation annually identities and empowers entrepreneurs across all of Africa’s 54 countries with non-refundable seed capital of $5000 each, mentoring and training, and in over five years, has supported 7,520 young Africans. To resolve joblessness in the region, Mr Elumelu offered his Foundation’s unique economic empowerment model to be replicated in Palestine. “Young Palestinian people need similar opportunities like the ones we currently give young African entrepreneurs through the Tony Elumelu Foundation. We acknowledge that given Africa’s huge numbers, we are touching only a top of the iceberg, but we have seen first-hand how this model transforms individual lives, families, communities and cities.”

Agreeing with Elumelu on his call for an increased focus on SMEs and young people, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State Mohammed al-Sheikh, stated: “The younger population and proper planning is essential to creating economic prosperity in the West Bank and in Gaza. If you look at the demographics in the region, it is a young population.

As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia looked to diversify its economy and carry out the structural changes to be less reliant on oil revenue, this required real commitment and hard work and buy in from everybody, with small-to-medium enterprises at the front and center of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”

Elumelu also called on the government to play its own role in supporting and prioritising the young people of Palestine: “Governments must play their own role: ensuring good governance is in place, prioritising infrastructure and the fight against corruption, and creating an enabling and conducive environment so that when these young Palestinians get opportunities, they can succeed.”

He continued: “As an investor, something that speaks volumes to me when I want to chose a country to invest in is this: is the private sector in that environment doing well? Do they have small and medium scale enterprises that are flourishing? This to me is the real signal of how successful my investment will be because what it is good for local investors is good for international investors. If economic conditions for local investors are not favorable, they can’t be for foreign investors. Government must ensure that local SMEs thrive to signal to global investment community that Palestine is open for business.”

Joining Elumelu in advising on the role of the government in creating a conducive environment for the private sector, Christine Lagarde, MD, IMF added, “We have seen a pressing need for capacity development in the field of public finance management, central bank strength and domestic revenue mobilization. These are the background in which private sector can have a predictable environment within which they can operate.

Advising development agencies on a more inclusive model for even greater impact, Elumelu stated: “Development agencies should also not sit in their offices abroad to design growth programmes and strategies for the Palestinian region, but must ensure that the people of Palestine are actively involved in pulling their people out of poverty. Development agencies must assist in a strategic manner, working with local partners who understand local nuances, so that the over $19 billion spent so far by the World bank and allied institutions on innovation and entrepreneurship is more impactful, transforms more lives and addresses the real issues on ground.”

In conclusion, the founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation commended the US Government for this timely initiative and intervention but counseled on the importance of longevity and sustainability. “For what we are gathered here to be sustainable, endure over time and lead to sustained prosperity, we must involve the Palestine people. Until we collectively agree that any economic plan we put in place for Palestine and the region must be anchored by and on the small and medium scale enterprises to be permanent and fundamentally address the issues, we will continue to rely on quick fixes. We must prioritise inclusive growth that brings all to the table – women and youth especially – which in turn will create more hope and beget more security and peace. To achieve this, there must be collaboration between the Palestinian people, friends of Palestine, neighbours of Palestine, and led by the wealthy and endowed elite in the Middle east, to work together to economically empower young Palestinians. It is not too difficult a task for us to touch significant numbers out of the 2-3 million youth in the region.”

He continued, “The Tony Elumelu Foundation is ready to deploy our expertise in collaboration with the wealthy elite from the Middle East region, to create an affirmative plan, and send a strong message of hope for the Palestinian young people. If we prioritize them and create the right future for them, we will signal a new beginning in this part of the world. Only then will we achieve security and peace permanently because these young people will become inclusive stakeholders and the true champions of prosperity.”

BUSINESS

COVID-19: Heritage Bank Offers Seamless Service To Stakeholders, Curbs Impact Of Virus

Peter Okunoren

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As the world grapples with the impact of the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic, which has continued to cause worldwide challenges for healthcare systems, economies and corporate organizations, Heritage Bank Plc has taken practicable steps to offer seamless services to customers, whilst ensuring the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace.

The bank, however, adopted a crisis response measure in place to minimize and manage the risk arising from the disease known as COVID-19 and ensure that the payment infrastructure and logistics to maintain operations going as various State governments brace up for lockdown to contain the pandemic.

The bank’s Management in a statement explained that part of its business continuity management emanating from Heritage Bank’s corporate strategy was to guarantee seamless service delivery to the various stakeholders, adopt measures to tackle significant business risk that might have growth impact on the economy, whilst taken reasonably practicable steps to minimize the risk.

According to Heritage Bank, incognizant with the protocols proffered by the World Health Organisation, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and other health agencies, Heritage Bank provided a work environment that is without risk to health and safety and adequate facilities for workers in carrying out their work, so far as is reasonably practicable.

The statement noted that the Bank has maintained a maximum of 10% of staff who constitute mainly Units heads and “must-have” working from its premises during these times of uncertainties, whilst others work remotely from home to adhere to the social distancing directive.

The bank further noted that efforts have been ongoing via its intranet and other channels to keep staff and customers up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 information and provide clear direction and guidance expected of workers and customers.

“We have enforced and continued to monitor the need for workers to practice good hygiene, including frequent hand washing, use of sanitizer, limiting contact with others, including through shaking hands covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing require workers to stay away from the workplace if they are unwell and not fit for work and encourage them to seek medical advice as appropriate seek advice from health authorities immediately if there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 and for staff who are arriving from affected countries to self-quarantine for 14days,” the financial institution stated.

To ensure seamless banking transactions, the bank explained that customers are constantly communicated to, to adopt its available 24/7 alternate electronic channels.

“We have encouraged our customers to adopt the self-service platforms like *745*0# for balance inquiry, Funds Transfer (Within Heritage Bank): *745*1*Amount*Account Number#, self-airtime recharge: *745*Amount#, third party airtime recharge: *745*Amount*Mobile Number# and change pin: *745*00#.

“We are available via email [email protected] and social media (insert social media icons) to render the following services: Debit Card Hotlist, Post No Debit Request (PND Placement), HB Paddie unlock/ username request/ Password reset, Statement of Account (individual accounts) and general inquiries on products and services

“We have set up a COVID-19 Support Centre to offer COVID-19 safety tips to all our customers during this period, in support of the efforts of the Government and relevant bodies. Please send any information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic via these channels: E-mail: [email protected] and contact number: 01-2369099,” the bank explained.

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Sterling Bank Contributes N250m To Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Sterling Bank Plc, has contributed N250 million as part of its commitment to the newly formed Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 created to help channel resources to combat the coronavirus disease under the theme: “We need you.”

The bank, in an email to its customers, disclosed that it is working with the Bankers’ Committee to lead the effort to raise N120 billion required by the Federal Government to fight the coronavirus pandemic and help achieve the shared goal of eradicating the virus.

Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman said, “While this will go a long way, more still needs to be done. We have come to acknowledge that this battle will require every one of us to play our part as corporate citizens and individuals.”

He enjoined other public-spirited corporate organizations and individuals to join in the fight against COVID-19 by making a contribution to the Fight COVID-19 Fund (FCF) and help the coalition to defeat the pandemic for good. He said every Naira donated will go a long way in saving the country from the pandemic.

Suleiman said donations should be sent to:

Bank Name: Sterling Bank
Account Name: COVID Donations
Account Number: 0076813615

He urged Nigerians to show their strength by uniting against the virus, saying a Swahili proverb which translated into English means “Unity is strength; division is weakness,” is needed now more than ever.

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Heritage Bank, GEZAWA Set To Transform Nigeria’s Agric Sector To Huge Commercial Hub

Gbemileke Ajayi

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The Nigerian agricultural sector is set to witness huge growth, as Heritage Bank Plc the lead settlement bank for Gezawa Commodity Market (GCMX) has collaborated with key stakeholders to revolutionize agricultural value-chain, aimed at providing a fully integrated ecosystem for commodity Exchange.

Heritage Bank was appointed as the Lead Settlement Bank and Transaction Adviser to the Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Ltd and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two firms, whilst over 10, 000 farmers in 3000 cooperatives in the 44 local governments of Kano States were hosted.

The partnership between Heritage Bank and the Exchange would facilitate the ease of agro commodity trading in a more structured way, especially with the closeness to the Dawanu, the largest grain market in Africa.

The MD/CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, Ifie Sekibo, who was a panelist at the 2nd GCMX Farmers’ Cooperative Forum in Kano at the weekend, stated that the partnership is targeted to de-risk the sector that would bring about structured and enhanced agro-business and attain food security that leads to economic development.

Sekibo, who was represented by the Executive Director, Jude Monye explained that the partnership which would help bridge the huge gap associated to risk, will fast track effective price discovery mechanism and traceability and enhanced trade settlement services.

Specifically, the bank’s helmsman stated that under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) and the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), Heritage Bank would provide on-lending funding to aggregated farmers in the 2020 farming season to grow various products that will serve as raw materials to the processors, thereby ensuring market linkages and access to the market as well as reduce importation and conserve Nigeria’s external reserves.

According to him, with its assigned position Heritage Bank would play a pivotal role in ensuring that there would be an effective and readily available platform for market linkages among players in the agribusiness value chain, involving FMCGs, warehouse operators, collateral managers, processors, farmers’ cooperatives to transact in a seamless way that guarantees quality, quantity, payment, and delivery.

Speaking the event, the ED/CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Segun Awolowo affirmed that the initiative would help foster diversification of non-oil export trade.

He, however, stated that NEPC would ensure that the primary for the signing of the MoU would be achieved, whilst calling for the need to ensure adequate and seamless supply of agricultural commodities for the business to be sustainable.

The Gezawa Project Consultant, Binchang Binfa, Managing Director of Makarios Global Resource, disclosed, “the ultimate goal was to unlock the vast potential of agricultural value chain via partnerships and synergy with like-minded enterprises, organizations and institutions that will mutually create wealth, generate local employment and contribute significantly to the economic growth and GDP the nation.”

He stated that the Exchange would provide services on price discovery and transparency, increase foreign exchange earning capacity, commodity storage and warehouse receipt system, employment generation of 15, 000 direct and indirect jobs, investment opportunities, increase in non-oil export, ease of doing business, weather report, soil test report, as well as 24/7 online trading of commodities on an alive trading platform.

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