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Africa Fintech Foundry To Boost Innovation And ‘Techpreneurs’ With 2021 ‘Accelerator’ Programme

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Africa’s foremost innovation hub, the Africa Fintech Foundry (AFF), has opened up its registration portal for the 2021 Accelerator program.

The initiative, which is being executed in partnership with Access Bank Plc, seeks to fast-track the growth of the best start-ups operating within the African technology ecosystem. The ‘Accelerator’ programme will fast track and assist the selected start-ups to navigate issues such as start-up pricing and competitiveness, creating endearing customer experiences, support and retention, hiring and people management, scaling for growth and product development cycle fundamentals amongst others.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative, the Head of the Africa Fintech Foundry, Daniel Awe, said, “Research has shown that 90% of start-ups fail due to various reasons such as lack of funding, being in the wrong market, a lack of research, misaligned partnerships, ineffective marketing, and poor competitive positioning to name a few.  90% is a high percentage rate of failure. This indicates that many things need to go right for a business to succeed. Enabling start-ups to grow, scale and remain relevant in the tech space is where we play a major role as AFF.”

“Since its establishment, the Africa Fintech Foundry has progressively demonstrated leadership in the areas of innovation, financial technology, and entrepreneurship. We recognize the vast array of talent possessed by Africans and the wider global players and the immense potential that our technological start-ups have.

Hence, through the Accelerator programme, we will be providing cohorts with mentorship and clinic hours from leading entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts. They will also get access to funding, unrivaled business insights, access to markets, and networking opportunities with our partners at various stages of the program,” he said.

The AFF Accelerator programme will span 12 weeks, with formal and informal mentorship from established founders, investors, and pioneers across various industries.

Ade Bajomo, Access Bank’s Executive Director for Information Technology and Operations, highlighted the need for increased corporate investment in tech-focused capacity building initiatives.  He said “Technology can serve as the catalyst for solving many of the problems faced across various industries. We also believe that it holds the potential to resolve social and economic challenges faced across the African continent.  Therefore, as Africa’s gateway to the world, we have partnered with the continent’s leading accelerator, the Africa Fintech Foundry, to create a platform that will nurture the brightest minds, providing them the needed resources to develop and scale their projects, to the benefit of all.

Start-ups to be considered for admission into the programme include those that: have a tech-enabled solution; offer a unique solution or unique application in a regional setting; have a cross-functional team with a deep understanding of the market – which includes technical lead(s) and founder(s) that are fully committed to the business; have a defensible position (IP; network effects; domain or region expertise); have been in operations for at least 6 months, amongst others.

Interested participants can visit www.africafintechfoundry.com for more information. Those who meet the required criteria will be required to fill an online application. Entry deadline has been disclosed as Saturday, 31 January 2020.

BUSINESS

Heritage Bank’s 8 Years Journey Of Entrenching Business of Banking In Nigeria

Peter Okunoren

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Today marks a worthy milestone in the life of one of the fastest-growing financial service providers, Heritage Bank Plc as it celebrates eight (8) years of entrenching seamless service delivery in the business of banking in Nigeria.

This is a journey that began eight (8) years ago, premised on passion, commitment, doggedness, culture, and hard work amongst others stands today as a reputable financial organization in the Nigeria banking space.

The story began in 2012; a story of hard work and determination when Heritage Bank Plc emerged from a business combination of Heritage Banking Company Limited (HBCL) and Enterprise Bank Limited (EBL) after the acquisition of Societe Generale of Nigeria’s (SGBN) license by IEI Investment Ltd from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) having met all requirements by Nigeria’s apex bank.

Heritage Bank returned 100% of existing SGBN account holders’ funds which were frozen at the closure of the SGBN. This move brought a lot of smiles to the faces of former account holders and inspired many of them to open new accounts with Heritage Bank. In October 2014, Heritage Banking Company Ltd successfully met the requirements of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) and the CBN toward owning 100% shares in Enterprise Bank Ltd., after a highly competitive bid process.

This development firmly anchors the Heritage Bank in a rich legacy of technology and innovation in the banking industry. SGBN, which was incorporated in December 1976 and commenced full banking operations in August 1977, pioneered the introduction of e-banking services including its flagship, the 24/7 Cashpoint through the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in 1990.

With management focused on innovation through technology and a unique philosophy to create, preserve and transfer wealth to its customers, Heritage Bank found itself in a fiercely competitive banking environment but it remained guided by passion, resilience, innovation, and brand architecture that exuded quality service, performance, and sheer excellence.

Still, as big a move as it was, it remained just one of the many strategic moves to change the banking industry and Heritage Bank has made a lot of them and attains giant strides in reshaping the economy since it began operations in 2013 to drive improved investment outcome and job creation.

Success stories of entrenching business of banking in Nigeria:

As a catalytic financial institution, Heritage Bank, through its strategic partnerships with government and private organizations, has continued to make efforts to transform the nation’s economy through championing entrepreneurial schemes for businesses and the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector was not left out, which have always focused on dependable job-creating sectors, such as education, agricultural value chain (fish farming, poultry, snail farming), cottage industry, mining, and solid minerals, creative industry (tourism, arts and crafts), and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

In recent times, the bank’s response to dealing with the global economic challenge occasioned by COVID-19, which highly impacted SMEs, Heritage Bank PLC has continued to deepen its support to young entrepreneurs in Nigeria to grow their businesses either as start-ups or prospective business owners.

One of such is the last season of the reality TV show The Next Titan, themed “The Unstoppable” that was designed to search for business ideas that are immune to any pandemic, innovations that break boundaries, and technologies that can survive any lockdown. This programme produced a young vibrant entrepreneur, a graduate of the Federal University of Technology Owerri with a Bachelor Degree in Environmental Science who is the Chief Executive Officer of Josult Oil Processing Company, a palm oil processing company in Akwa Ibom State, Joshua Joseph Idiong, as he finally emerged the winner of the Next Titan Season-7, going home with a whooping sum of N10million.

Furthermore, Heritage Bank PLC in partnership with the Honourable Fatima Mohammed (FAMO) Foundation also provided succor to over 300 affected private school teachers and small-medium enterprises (SMEs).

Heritage Bank has continued to blaze the trail on the SME’s space to empower young entrepreneurs in such schemes as the HB Innovation Lab Accelerator programme (HB-LAB), Ynspyre Account, Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YIEDP), Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL) on Young Entrepreneurship Business Training Programme (YEBTP), Young Entrepreneurs and Students (YES) Grant and Nigerian Youth Professional Forum (NYPF), Big Brother Nigeria, Lagos Comic-Con, among others.

Last year witnessed the Launch of the Nationwide Dukia-Heritage Bank Gold & Precious Metals which stands to create new opportunities for Nigeria to grow its potential reserves of 200 million ounces of gold.

The Nationwide Dukia-Heritage Bank Gold & Precious Metals Buying Centre will fast-track the 10 per cent contribution of the mining sector to GDP by 2026. Referring to these giant strides, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo remarked that the launch of this project between Heritage Bank and ‘Dukia Gold SPV’ would enable Nigeria to mine reserves properly, trade responsibly, refine locally and boost the nation’s foreign reserves.

Heritage Bank has continued to support Nigeria’s aspiration and roadmap to become a leading Information Communication Technology (ICT) Hub in Africa, The Bank doled out the sum of $40, 000 grants to winners of the maiden edition of HB Innovative Lab.
The bank’s commitment is to create enabling environment, resources, and support required to innovate and accelerate impactful solutions with the potential to radically improve financial inclusion/intermediation, health, automobile, agriculture, and other related problems affecting critical sectors of the economy.

For the bank’s giant stride of support to tourism, Federal Government commended Heritage Bank for its commitment to the development and growth of the creative industry.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave the commendation at a two-day Creative Nigeria Summit.

The bank, aimed at boosting Nigeria’s tourism via the creative arts industry supported the sponsorship of exhibition at the National Museum Benin, at the Exhibition Gallery of National Museum Benin by the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), in collaboration with the Edo State Government, and the Smithsonian Institute, United States of America.

Also, efforts are being taken by Heritage Bank Plc and the River State government during the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) to make art and culture a unifying factor and major earner to the contribution of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

Heritage Bank Plc partnered with the organizers of the International Festival of Contemporary Dance (IFCOD) to host the second edition of One Language, a musical production of intrigue, dance, and drama.

Most prominent of its partnership and supports is the annual Calabar Carnival and festival, tagged “Africa’s Biggest Street Party,” was created as part of the vision of making Cross River State the number one tourist destination for Nigerians and other tourists across the world.

Heritage Bank is not done yet. The bank went further to prove its trend-setting profile by driving the seat of the agricultural financing revolution.

In a bid to support the real sector and unlock food potentials, Heritage Bank Plc provided over N5billion long-term facility under the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) to Triton Aqua Africa Ltd (TAAL).

TAAL known as Triton Farm accessed the CACS through Heritage Bank, which was used to set up aquaculture businesses; nursery/hatchery to produce fingerlings and broodstock in Ikeja and earthen ponds for catfish and Tilapia in Asejire, Iwo, and Gambari towns in Oyo State.

Under the arrangement, TAAL will also help small-scale farms increase their fish production by making fingerlings available to them.

In the short term, the loan is expected to help Triton double its current production capacity of 25,000 metric tonnes with a projection to scale it up to 100,000 metric tonnes in five years.

The bank also has thrown its weight behind Globus Resources Limited, a subsidiary of Triton Group, to flag off the second phase of the afforestation programme in Oyo state.

Nigeria’s demand capacity for fish was estimated at 2.7million metric tons and the country currently produces 800,000 metric tons.

Triton is now producing over 25,000 metric tons and with them on board, over 25,000 metric tons capacity will be added to our current production, the company’s projection is to exceed 100,000 metric tons in 5years.

In the state level, Heritage Bank entered into a partnership with the Oyo State government in a multi-billion-naira project to give agriculture a boost.

Under the initiative, the bank supported the Oyo State Agricultural Initiative, OYSAI, a programme designed to revive agriculture, boost agro-allied businesses, and massive empowerment programme for both youth and women across the state through the creation of thousands of jobs in the sector.

This huge, albeit laudable, project that is spread across 3,000 hectares of land in 28 of the 33 Local Government Areas of Oyo State is in three stages: food crop cultivation, cash crop/horticulture, and food processing.

Heritage Bank is supporting agro investors involved in this initiative with funds and advisory services and indications are that the programme has already led to more than 30 per cent increase in food production in the state.

The Bank also supported thousands of smallholder farms in Kaduna and Zamfara states to benefit from the bank’s financial support for rice and soya beans production under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).

Further, on job creation, Heritage Bank through its establishment of a full-fledged learning and development institute accredited by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), dubbed “The Refinery” successfully trained and employed about 300 new intakes.

In the midst of the bank’s audacity to dare and succeed, industry watchers have continued to ask; how are they doing it? The answers may not be far from the fact that this is one bank whose leadership team continues to exude the charisma of the Midas touch. With Heritage Bank, the MD/CEO, Ifie Sekibo has proven over and over again that whatever he touches, turns into gold.

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BUSINESS

Fidelity Bank Set To Organise Diaspora Webinar Series, Deepens Engagement On New Remittances – Osinbajo, Emefiele, Dabiri-Erewa To Attend

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Fidelity Bank Plc, a top Nigerian bank has concluded plans to host its Diaspora Webinar Series with the inaugural edition slated for Saturday, March 06, 2021, by 2 pm. This virtual session seeks to enlighten Nigerian citizens’ residents abroad on recent policy measures by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and its attendant implications for Diaspora investments.

Rightly themed, “The New CBN FX Policy and Positive Impact To Diaspora Investments in Nigeria”, the session will also aim specifically at providing them with valuable insights, intelligence, and expertise on how to stay on top of their investments back home.

 The event will have in attendance special guests and notable personalities including the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who is the Special Guest of Honour and the Chief Host, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele who will deliver a keynote address at the event.

Other speakers and panelists at the session include Professor, Benedict Okey Oramah, Chairman/President of African Export-Import Bank, Honorable Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM),  Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Lead Faculty, Tekedia Institute, and Professor Olawale Sulaiman, renowned Neurosurgeon and Chairman of RNZ Global among others.

Streamed live on YouTube and ZOOM, the Series was borne out of the need to deepen engagement with Nigerian Diaspora Community particularly as developmental partners considering the critical role remittances play in driving sustainable economic growth.

Speaking on the webinar, Fidelity CEO, Mrs. Nneka Onyeali-Ikpe stated that the session was most appropriate and timely, adding that “the session will offer the Nigerian Diaspora greater clarity on all of the recent policies enacted by the government with a view to enabling them to make sound investment decisions”.

According to Mrs. Onyeali-Ikpe, the bank, in the last twelve (12) years, has become a dependable partner for diaspora remittances and investment. Armed with a deep understanding of these customer’s needs, she went on to explain that the bank has continued to offer bespoke products and services that are unrivaled in the financial services industry.

Worthy of mention is the Diaspora Mortgage and Dollar Denominated Fixed Deposit Investment Account that attracts up to 5 percent annual interest depending on the amount and tenure.

The CBN, as part of efforts to liberalize, simplify and improve the receipt and administration of Diaspora remittances into the country had issued guidelines to ensure that beneficiaries of Diaspora remittances through International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) receive such inflows in foreign currency (US dollars) through the designated bank of their choice.

The policy became necessary in view of the urgent need to deepen the Foreign Exchange (FX) market, provide more liquidity and create transparency in the administration of Diaspora remittances into Nigeria.

To register for the webinar, click on the link – https://www.fidelitybank.ng/diaspora-webinar/

The programme will be streamed LIVE on YouTube and ZOOM. For more information, send emails to [email protected]

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BUSINESS

Lasaco Shares Not Suspended

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Our attention has been drawn to an online publication on the 22nd of February 2021 that Lasaco Assurance Plc. (“LASACO”/”the Company”) shares had been placed on indefinite suspension. This is not correct as the shares of the Company were never placed on indefinite suspension by The Nigerian Stock Exchange (“NSE”/”the Exchange”).

The shareholders of Lasaco Assurance had at the Annual General Meeting of 8th October 2019, approved the reconstruction of 7,334,343,421 Ordinary shares of 50k each in the share capital of the Company in the ratio of ONE (1) new ordinary share for every FOUR (4) Ordinary shares previously held by the shareholders into 1,833,585,855 Ordinary shares of 50k each.

Lasaco Assurance, through its Financial Advisers and Stockbrokers, filed necessary Applications with the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”/”the Commission”) and The Nigerian Stock Exchange (“NSE”/”the Exchange”) for the reconstruction of the said Issued shares as directed by the shareholders.

Following the approval of SEC with the Issuance of Letter of no Objection to the reconstruction by the Commission and submission of the said letter to the Exchange, suspension from trading in the shares of the Company was placed by the Exchange from Monday 1st February 2021 to Friday, 19th February 2021 to allow the Share Reconstruction exercises to be concluded.

The shares of the Company resumed trading on Monday, 22nd February 2021 following the conclusion of the Share Reconstruction.

It should be noted that Lasaco Assurance is a regulatory compliant institution and had not done anything to warrant an indefinite suspension of its shares at the Exchange as published by your paper.

Management.

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