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MainOne & Orange ink deal to boost internet access into Francophone West Africa

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French Telecoms company, Orange and leading West African Connectivity and Data Centre services provider, MainOne have struck a partnership that will see the French telecoms giant co-invest in two new cable landing stations in Dakar, Senegal and Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire while the broadband infrastructure provider will provide additional capacity via its 7000km cable system from Europe to Africa with landing stations in Nigeria, Ghana and Portugal, reinforcing the position of both companies in the African telecommunications ecosystem.

Thanks to this new cable connection, several countries in West Africa will benefit from better connectivity, lower prices and access to new services. Orange will benefit from multiple Terabits per second of additional bandwidth for the development of fixed and mobile data in Africa to meet the increasing demands for Internet access via 3G and 4G network. More specifically, this cable extension is an opportunity to improve connectivity and offer a broader range of services for both Orange Côte d’Ivoire & Senegal’s Sonatel. In addition, neighboring countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania will benefit from enhanced capacity.

For MainOne, the partnership underscores the company’s vision for a better connected region, its Chief Executive Officer, Funke Opeke says “MainOne continues to lead the digital transformation of our sub-region by investing in affordable connectivity to drive economic development. Our objective is to bridge the digital divide between and within West Africa and the rest of the world. We are committed to deepening broadband penetration across West Africa and believe our investments in technologically advanced subsea infrastructure will continue to liberalize the international bandwidth market, further support Orange and other wholesale customers, and ultimately result in improved digital services in the region”.

Speaking on the strategic deal, Chief Executive Officer of Orange Middle East and Africa, Alioune Ndiaye says “The development of new digital services in Africa has fostered huge social and economic developments over the past few years. As barriers to access continue to fall with improved networks and more affordable equipment, Orange, as part of its multi – service strategy, is seeking to position itself as an important partner in the continent’s digital transformation Through this new partnership, Orange is set to secure and improve direct access to high – speed broadband services in two of its most important countries, Senegal and the Côte d’Ivoire.”

The MainOne Submarine Cable System links West Africa with Europe, bringing ultra-fast broadband in the region. It runs from Seixal in Portugal through Accra in Ghana to Lagos in Nigeria, with capacity to land branches in Morocco, Canary Islands, Senegal, and Cote D’Ivoire. The cable system, which now has an upgradable capacity of over 10 TBPS, first went live in July 2010, becoming the first private subsea cable to bring open-access, broadband capacity to West Africa.

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Promasidor supports over 60 Families of Children with Disabilities

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Promasidor Nigeria Limited has provided succour to more than 60 parents of children with disabilities through its low-interest microcredit scheme christened We Too Can Grow in advancement of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy.

The scheme, in partnership with Children’s Developmental Centre (CDC), which supports children and young adults with disabilities, has benefitted 5 (five) cooperative groups to which these families belong, with 3 (three) more to receive grants.

Promasidor, makers of Cowbell Milk, Loya Milk, Top Tea, Onga, Miksi and other products, initiated the scheme to provide funds to the cooperative groups located in Lagos and Ogun States through CDC. It is facilitated by Surbpolitan Microfinance Bank.

Commenting on the support received from Promasidor at a ceremony held for the cooperatives at the CDC in Lagos, the Project Director, Delphine Misan-Arenyeka stated that the company has shown that it cares for children as well as young adults with disabilities.

She said a lot of progress has been made and that other groups would also get the funds after undergoing training with the Community Development Foundation (CDF), which is in charge of capacity building, in partnership with CDC.

The trainings are for proper organisational development, which involves conflict management, credit and financial management and entrepreneurship.

Misan-Arenyeka added that four of the five cooperatives that have benefitted from the scheme are in Lagos, while one is in Abeokuta, Ogun State. They include Excellent Cooperative, Success Cooperative, Affectionate Cooperative, CDC/Parents and Atunda-Olu.

She commended Promasidor for the laudable scheme and eulogised the company for demonstrating that it cares for the less privileged, while urging other organisations to emulate the gesture. “We Too Can Grow also includes provision of Promasidor’s products to CDC which are sold to support the children through funds disbursed to parents,” the Project Director explained.

On her part, Dr. Olayinka Akindayemi, CDC Service Director advised the benefitting parents to take adequate care of their children and make judicious use of funds provided to them. She said there are plans to extend the scheme to other cooperative groups for the wellbeing of children with special needs.

In his remarks, the Coordinator Corporate Communications, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, Isiaka Lawal said: “We Too Can Grow is a way of saying that we recognise that children with special needs are members of the society. They have the right to pursue their dreams like other members of the society do.”

At the ceremony, Akinyemi Akintola, CDF Executive Director affirmed that apart from the two-day training, which was held in languages the groups understand, its organisation’s role is also to monitor and ensure that loans are used properly by the cooperatives and paid on time for others to benefit.

He said CDF is involved in the partnership with CDC in order to bring to use its expertise for development in areas where the centre does not have and then continue from there. “It started based on this programme and will continue from there,” Akintola stated.

On the impact of the trainings and the loans received, the Chairman, Affectionate Cooperative Group, Cornelius Akintola Kasunmu said the fund was well disbursed among the 22 members of the cooperative. He added that the training at CDF was quite useful as it has helped him to grow his business and also in attending to issues relating to his child’s wellbeing.

Another member of the group, Ganiyat Falade explained that the training by CDF has broadened her knowledge on how to manage funds for investment purposes.“Now, l can adequately take records of sales and products l invest in. The training has been very useful,” she said.

A member of Excellent Cooperative Group and a beneficiary, Femi Oladapo said the funds has enabled him cope with the health of his child as well as his business. “I thank God for this initiative,” he stated.

Ojo Olubukunola from Dayonmi Love Foundation, a cooperative group in Abeokuta, and Ishola Abiodun from CDC/Parents Cooperative Group in Lagos both commended Promasidor and CDC for the scheme.

Exuding joy, Abiodun said: “My child’s health has taken me to places but Promasidor and CDC has brought relief to me. I thank Promasidor for this scheme.”

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Access, Diamond Mobile Apps will run Side by Side to Meet Customers Needs

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Customers are at the centre of the Access Bank, Diamond Bank merger to create a leading outfit. Diamond Bank customers will lose nothing under the new arrangement. Access Bank will bring to bear on the deal its commitment to customers, financial inclusion, sustainability, corporate expertise and strong balance sheet. Both banks’ Mobile Apps will run side-by-side until when they become so much alike that their 13 million customers will not bother about their integration.

Globally, business combinations are seen as the surest route to achieving greater impact and giving customers the more values and enhancing profitability for the entities.

The merger deal between Access Bank Plc and Diamond Bank Plc, which will be concluded in April, presents great benefits to customers especially in the deployment of technology in providing banking services.

Based on the agreement reached by the boards of the two financial institutions, Diamond Bank shareholders would receive a consideration of N3.13 per share, comprising N1 per share in cash and the allotment of two New Access Bank ordinary shares for every seven Diamond Bank ordinary shares held as at the Implementation Date. The offer represents a premium of 260 per cent to the closing market price of N0.87 per share of Diamond Bank on the NSE as of December 13, 2018, the date of the final binding offer. Immediately following completion of the merger, Diamond Bank would be absorbed into Access Bank and it will cease to exist under Nigerian law.

“Together, we will bring the power of banking to millions across Nigeria, focused on speed, service and security. We are determined to ensure that both Access Bank and Diamond Bank customers will experience no distruption to normal banking services while we join forces to create Nigeria and Africa’s largest retail bank by customers. While there may be some changes in due course, we are committed to inform you ahead of time and in a way that is most convenient for you,” both lenders said in an emailed statement.

Executive Director, Personal Banking, Access Bank Plc, Victor Etuokwu, had during a media briefing in Lagos gave insight on what the future looks like for both lenders.  He said: “ It is a merger of two big banks to meet the needs of customers. We are going to run the mobile Apps of both banks side-by-side until when they will look alike, and when eventually integrated, customers will not even know. We know that Diamond Bank Mobile App is a market leader and we will leave it that way and same thing applies to the Diamond Extra”.

Continuing, he explained that where there are two close branches of both lenders, the customers will be the ones to determine which one will be closed, based on performance.

“If we have two branches like in Gbagada, Lagos, we will keep both of them open for one or two years. Then we will see where the customers go. Our customers will decide where they want to go. For us, we believe that the customer is king, and this merger is about giving the customer the best of services and value,” he stated.

Findings also showed that existing Diamondxtra customers have nothing to worry about as the reward scheme is not changing and winners will continue being paid while new winners will continue to emerge. Infact, with the merger with Access Bank, Diamondxtra will become bigger and better as the scheme will also be opened to Access Bank customersThe merger will create about 13 million mobile customers, 3,100 Automated Teller Machines, over 600 branches and 29 million customers.

Besides, Diamond Bank customers can now enjoy instant borderless banking from any Access Bank branch.

“When they walk into any Access Bank branch and initiate payment in their local currency, the beneficiary will receive an instant direct credit to their account or cash in their local currency. This service is available in all Access Bank subsidiaries – Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Zambia and Sierra Leone,” the bank said.

Financial analysts said some other objectives behind mergers of the banks include increasing customer base and expanding into new activities.

Another important advantage of merger is that the process reduces competition and eliminates competitors from the banking industry.

Announcing Access Bank as the preferred bidder, Diamond Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Uzoma Dozie, said the potential merger of the two banks would create Nigeria’s and Africa’s largest retail bank. He added that the transaction, to be completed in the first half of the year, is in the best interest of all stakeholders.

Dozie also stated that the completion of the merger is subject to certain shareholder and regulatory approvals, adding that the proposed merger would involve Access Bank acquiring the entire issued share capital of Diamond Bank in exchange for a combination of cash and shares in Access Bank via a Scheme of Merger. Based on the agreement reached by the boards of the two lenders, Diamond Bank shareholders will receive a consideration of N3.13 per share, comprising N1 per share in cash.

Dozie said the transaction would include the allotment of two new Access Bank ordinary shares for every seven Diamond Bank ordinary shares held as at the implementation date. He said the bank’s shares would be absorbed into Access Bank at the completion of the merger and Diamond Bank would cease to exist under Nigerian law.

“ The board of Diamond Bank believes that the proposed combination of the two operations provides an exciting prospect for all stakeholders in both businesses,” he said.

Access Bank CEO speaks

Access Bank Plc Group MD/CEO Herbert Wigwe said the bank has a strong acquisition and integration track record.

Speaking to the conclusive acquisition of Diamond Bank, Wigwe said the banks involved have complementary operations that will ensure benefits for customers of Access Bank and Diamond Bank. “Access Bank has a strong track record of acquisition and integration and has a clear growth strategy,” Wigwe said via a joint statement with Diamond Bank.

“Access Bank and Diamond Bank have complementary operations and similar values, and a merger with Diamond Bank, with its leadership in digital and mobile-led retail banking, could accelerate our strategy as a significant corporate and retail bank in Nigeria and a Pan-African financial services champion. Access Bank has a strong financial profile with attractive returns and a robust capital position with 20.1 per cent Capital Adequacy Ratio as at 30 September, 2018. We believe that this platform, together with the two banks’ shared focus on innovation, financial inclusion, and sustainability, can bring benefits to Access Bank and Diamond Bank customers, staff and shareholders.”

Stakeholders speak on the deal 

Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Director-General, Muda Yusuf, said the first gain of the takeover is that Diamond Bank has been saved from going under and the economy protected from the consequences of such occurrence.

“Today, the good thing is that depositors fund is safe. Some of the employees are not likely to lose their jobs since it is acquisition, and that is good for the economy. If Diamond Bank had failed completely, there would be systemic effect. In terms of foreign perception, acquisition or merger is better than bank failure,” he said.

Yusuf, however, advised shareholders to be more active in knowing how their banks are run. “Shareholders should provide effective oversight to ensure that their investments are protected,” he said.

Also, former Diamond Bank’s General Manager, Richard Obire, said Diamond Bank has such a brilliant brand name and customer base and these are what Access Bank will inherit. “The name Diamond Bank is gone forever and the next will be integration, which will lead to exit of the bank’s management team.”

Former President/Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Okechukwu Unegbu, said the process of takeover of Diamond Bank was an improvement from what happened at defunct Skye Bank.

According to him, the decision is a proactive step when compared to that of Skye Bank because Diamond Bank investors will even gain in the new arrangement.

“I think that shareholders of Diamond Bank did not lose much. Whether it is merger or acquisition between the two banks, the fact is one big bank is better than two weak banks.

“With this development, one expects a strong, virile and capable institution in the future that will equally protect the interest of the investors,” he said.

He, however, said the CBN should institute new measures that ensure that people who violate banking rules are punished.  “The CBN is the regulator and is expected to monitor and punish some of the recklessness of some of the banks and their managing directors. Banks’ boards should be held accountable. Again, there should be extra-ordinary shareholders’ meeting to approve the acquisition and possibly plan for a seamless integration process,” he said.

Michael Azu, a Lagos-based financial analyst, said the acquisition would boost stability and investors,w adding that it was a welcome development instead of allowing Diamond Bank to face regulatory sanctions and possibly liquidation for its poor liquidity positions.

“The merger has helped to protect investors’ and depositors’ confidence. It has ensured that depositors’ funds are protected from undue risk, and also removes the issue of systemic failure in the financial system,” he said.

Diamond Bank’s position

Diamond Bank had earlier announced its decision to drop its international operating licence to focus on national operations following capitalisation issues.

Dozie said: “The re-licensing as a national bank supports Diamond Bank’s objective of streamlining its operations to focus resources on the significant opportunities in the Nigerian retail banking market, and the economy as a whole,” he said in a statement.

“The move follows Diamond Bank’s decision to sell its international operations, which included the disposal of its West African Subsidiary in 2017 and Diamond Bank UK, the sale of which is currently in its final stages.

 

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Heritage Bank debuts ‘HB LAB’ tech start-ups to boost economic growth

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…As winner gets $25, 000 grant, other benefits

Heritage Bank Plc, Nigeria’s most innovative banking service provider, adopts a focused approach that removes barriers and galvanizes the critical sector of the economy around a bold growth agenda with the launching of its innovation accelerator programme tagged, “HB LAB”.

The maiden edition of HB LAB is a 12-week programme, expected to provide technology startups with enabling environment, resources and support required to innovate and accelerate impactful solutions with the potential to radically improve financial Inclusion/Intermediation, agriculture and other related problems affecting critical sectors of the economy.

The application portalhttps://www.hblabs.com.ng/ which was launched on the 31st January 2019 closed on the 14th February 2019.

About 154 applicants who applied were reviewed and 24 of them scored above 60, whilsts the final selection will produce seven successful applicants, which the winner will emerge.

Speaking on the HB LAB, the MD/CEO of the bank, Ifie Sekibo explained that in Nigeria, technology startups still account for a relatively small share of all businesses, but they have an outsized impact on economic growth, because they provide better-paying, longer-lasting jobs than other start-ups, and they contribute more to innovation, productivity, and competitiveness.

He disclosed that the team with the most compelling solution will be awarded a $25,000 grant alongside access to workspace and IT infrastructure for solution testing and development for a defined period.

According to him, the HB Innovation Lab Programme is open to product development teams and technology driven startups across Nigeria.

Sekibo stated that the critical areas of focus are Fintech, agriculture, education, digital, security and power, whilst noting that the application requirements include names, age, gender, contact number, home and email addresses of the participants.

Meanwhile, for participants who have previously enlisted to participate in any entrepreneurial/innovation programme with a current website or demo reference point, were expected to discuss idea/solution not more than 140-character limit.

Also, such participant   discussed problem statement (not more than 140-character limit), ideation/solution stage (not more than 140 characters), target market (Max 150 words), any challenge(s) faced requiring professional intervention (Max. 150 words), intsroduced its team (Max 150 words) and upload business plan.

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