Two Nigerians in Times Top 100 Most Influential People


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Aliko Dangote were recognized in the Times Top 100 Most Influential People. Below are the pieces written by Bono (Okonjo- Iweala) and Bill Gates ( Dangote).

Guardian of Nigeria’s public funds

I first met economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala when she was campaigning for Nigerian debt relief. We’d been fighting our way through capitals around the world trying to get Cold War–era debts canceled for the poorest, most heavily indebted countries. During her first term as Finance Minister of Nigeria, Ngozi arrived at her desk to find a weighty $30 billion owed. With oil prices on the rise, she stopped having to plead with her creditors and bought a massive chunk of her own debt so she could cancel it herself. As if to make a point. She became a legend in that moment. Humor and joy spill out of her, which can belie the fact that she’s got one of the toughest jobs on the planet — how to ensure that the tens of billions of dollars earned each year in oil receipts go into productive usage, like agriculture, infrastructure, health and education. Ngozi has made corruption her enemy and stability her goal. She is fiercely intelligent; everyone wants her to work with them. I couldn’t be prouder to work for her.

Bono is the lead singer of U2 and a co-founder of ONE and (RED)

Africa’s richest man who does good in addition to doing well

A year ago, I gave a speech in London about the fight to eradicate polio. It included a section on Nigeria, one of just three countries where the virus still circulates. The organizers told me Aliko Dangote had been invited. I thought, I’d like to see him, but he’d end polio faster by staying in Nigeria and doing the work he does every day. Fortunately, Aliko thought the same thing. He skipped my speech, and the children of Nigeria are better off for it.

Aliko is Africa’s richest man, and his business activities drive economic growth across the continent. That’s impressive, but I know him best as a leader constantly in search of ways to bridge the gap between private business and public health. It’s for that reason he helped create the Nigeria Private Sector Health Alliance. And it’s for that reason he is an advocate for agricultural research and malaria control.

All of this is in addition to Aliko’s leadership on polio and other diseases. The last time I was in Nigeria, we met with dozens of people, from government leaders to front-line health workers. After I left, Aliko followed up with them to make sure they were doing the work they said they would do. This year, Nigeria is on pace for its lowest number of polio cases ever. Aliko is a big reason why.

Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Nigeria’s Nollywood: most prolific movie machine


Will Nollywood be the next big film market? by Heather Murdock, Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A 15-second drum roll and the title of the film, “Deceptive Heart,” comes crashing onto the screen in a groovy 1970s font.

Less than 10 minutes into the Nollywood movie, the heart of plot is revealed: A woman has two boyfriends and doesn’t know what to do.

The story moves as quickly as the film appears to have been shot. Some scenes are shaky, with cameras clearly in need of a tripod, and musical montages are often filled with pans of the same building.

Most Nollywood movies are made in less than 10 days and cost about $25,000.

Fueled by low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigeria’s film industry has grown by some estimates over the past 20-plus years into the most prolific on Earth, pushing out more movies a year than Hollywood in California or Bollywood in Mumbai, India.

Hollywood tends to portray Africa as an exotic land of deserts and giraffes, populated by huddling masses, according to Samuel Olatunje, a Nollywood publicist known in the business as “Big Sam.”

Nigerian movies are popular because they portray African people more accurately, Big Sam explains outside his single-room Lagos office. They explore African issues rarely touched on in Hollywood — magic, tribal loyalties, the struggle to modernize.

“Stories that you can relate to,” he says.

Ventures Africa business magazine says Nollywood knocks out 2,000 titles a year and is the third-largest earner in the movie world, after Bollywood and Hollywood. The $250-million industry employs more than a million people.

Artists say Nigeria’s bad infrastructure and chaotic legal system prevent them from making films that are as impressive in their quality as they are in quantity.

“You’ll find that we’re having to make do,” legendary Nollywood actor Olu Jacobs explains at an exclusive country club in Lagos.

Trained at Britain’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Jacobs says Nigerian artists often have the same artistic capacity as their Western counterparts, but not the same financial capacity. “We’re not happy because the finished product doesn’t have the finish that it should have,” he says.

Later that day, Jacob’s driver inches his car through grinding traffic in Lagos, the African megalopolis as chaotic and bustling as any Nollywood production scene. A young businessman in an SUV nearly cuts him off. The SUV driver’s eyes grow wide when he recognizes Jacobs, and he smiles like a child meeting Santa Claus. He lets the actor’s car pass in front.

Nollywood was born, so the story goes, when Kenneth Nnebue, a video storeowner, had too many blank tapes in the early 1990s. To find a use for them, he shot “Living in Bondage” with a single camera for video. The protagonist joins a secret cult and kills his wife in a ritual sacrifice that wins him enormous wealth but leaves him haunted. The movie was an instant hit, selling 500,000 copies.

But at the country club, Jacobs says modern Nollywood is no accident. When he returned to Nigeria from the London stage in the early 1980s, he, like many other artists, knew he could make successful movies at home.

“We all knew that we had a market,” he says. “When I grew up, cinemas were always filled up. Stage performances were all ways full. Why shouldn’t there be?”

The main problem for movie-makers, Jacobs says, is also the top complaint of almost every industry in Nigeria: not enough power. Less than half the population of Africa’s most populous country has access to government electricity, and even the wealthiest families deal with daily power cuts. Nigerian film producers pay a premium for fuel to run generators to keep the lights on and the equipment going.

Piracy also cuts into profits, Jacobs says. After a film is released, producers have only a few weeks before illegally burned copies undercut their sales. Pirated Nigerian DVDs cost no more than a dollar or two and are available at markets in even the farthest corners of Africa.

But these cheap DVDs have also helped the industry grow, making Nigerian movies wildly popular in Africa and among Africans overseas.

Last year, Nollywood ventured off the continent entirely to screen “Half of a Yellow Sun,” a movie about Nigeria’s 1960s civil war based on an award-winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, at film festivals Toronto, London and Los Angeles.

While it didn’t get rave reviews, the Hollywood Reporter called it an “epic-on-a-budget” that will continue to draw audiences. “Half of a Yellow Sun” had a budget of about $8 million, the largest in Nollywood history.

By comparison, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” based on a book by Suzanne Collins, had a budget of about $130 million and was one of the highest grossing Hollywood movies in 2013.

A week after the Los Angeles premiere of “Half of a Yellow Sun,” the cast and crew of a Nollywood soap opera, “Remember Me,” pack into a hot, borrowed apartment in Lagos. Director F. Olu Michaels secures a red film over a harsh white light with masking tape before calling out “Action!”

Then he silently drops to his hands and knees and crawls behind the cameraman to avoid casting shadows on the set.

After the shoot, as a generator rumbles just far enough away from the set to avoid being picked up by microphones, Michaels says Nollywood films are improving rapidly because of intense competition.

“The quality of what we bring out now is not what we brought out, even five years ago,” he says.

Still, he says, the industry has a long way to go before its actors and directors have a chance to make millions of dollars.


South Korea seeks more investment in Turkey


Can South Korean foreign investment further grow the Turkish financial sector?

Business Recorder by Parvez Jabri

ISLAMABAD: The South Korean ambassador to Turkey Sang Kyu-Lee says the Asian nation wants to invest in its host’s financial sector, but added that such investment is not without problems.

Speaking in an interview with Anadolu Agency, Sang Kyu-Lee said that South Korea sees Turkey as a hub for the region, and after expanding in its manufacturing sector it wants to invest in Turkey’s financial sector, too.

He highlighted, however, a problem with the upfront payment that foreign companies are forced to make before they can do business.

“The Turkish Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BRSA) requires foreign companies to pay up US$300 million before they can invest,” he said. “I understand that for Turkey’s banking sector it is important to maintain stability, but this requirement for foreign companies is a very big ask.”

He highlighted that if South Korean financial institutions, such as banks and insurance companies, can finance various projects in Turkey it will help the economy grow.

The ambassador expressed satisfaction with economic relations between the two countries, which excelled in 2012 when President Lee Myung-Bak arrived in Turkey on an official visit.

“We agreed to conclude a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which came into effect on May 1 last year and helped bilateral trade increase a great deal,” he said.

Turkey’s imports from South Korea during January and February increased from US$670 million to US$1.065 billion compared to the first two months of last year, while Turkish exports to South Korea also increased from US$52.3 million to US$57.8 million during the same period.

“In future I believe trade [bilateral] will be balanced,” he said, adding that he also hoped that Korea would continue to import even more Turkish products.

The ambassador added that bilateral cooperation in the defense industry is also increasing thanks to an agreement signed in 2008, and highlighted that indigenously developed systems and South Korea’s armor technology were a major contributor to the increase.

We are both also cooperating in producing a Turkish national tank, he added.

The ambassador talked of South Korea’s nuclear energy industry, underlining that the country has 23 nuclear power plants which provide 30-40 percent of the country’s electricity.

Turkey presently has none, but applications have been made to construct and operate a nuclear plant at Akkuyu in the country’s south, and a second plant at Sinop in the north.

“The priority of any such plant in Turkey is that it has to be safe,” he said. “And then Turkey should follow South Korea’s line to develop its own nuclear power generating technologies.”

“Such supply can help generate Turkey’s economic growth, and help it become one of the 10 largest economies in the world by 2023,” he added.


Indonesia Touts Population to Entice Facebook Investment


“Investing in Indonesia is a must on a 10, 20-year view,” says Paulius Kuncinas, Asia editor at the Oxford Business Group.

Bloomberg News by Neil Chatterjee and Novrida Manurung

Consumer-focused companies from Ikea to European automakers are putting money into Indonesia to target the country’s young population.

Investment will grow at least 15 percent this year, a slower pace than last year’s 27 percent, and a more sustainable level, Mahendra Siregar, chairman of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board, said in Jakarta yesterday. Investment growth has been faster in recent years as it came from a lower base, and the main challenges are a lack of infrastructure and the need to improve the ease of doing business, he said.

The Indonesian government is seeking foreign investment to support growth in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, which slowed to the weakest in four years in 2013, and help narrow a current-account deficit. Elections for a new president in July are spurring consumer confidence, leading to greater investor interest in the world’s fourth-largest population, Siregar said.

“Everybody has confidence that investing in Indonesia is almost a must,” Siregar said in the interview, after recent trips to meet investors in South Korea, Vietnam, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “The biggest opportunity is the growing market.”

Siregar will head to the U.S. this month to meet with software and gaming companies including Facebook Inc. (FB), Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. to discuss designing applications aimed specifically at a country with half the population aged below 30. Facebook, with 65 million users in Indonesia, opened an office in the capital last month, the Jakarta Post reported.

Cars, Shopping

The country has a pipeline of 1,400 trillion rupiah ($122 billion) to 1,500 trillion rupiah of investments, based on investor interest in the past two years, Siregar said. About two-thirds is foreign direct investment, and consumer-focused manufacturing and services have replaced natural resources as the key area, he said.

The number of middle class and affluent Indonesians may almost double to 141 million by 2020, according to a 2013 report by The Boston Consulting Group, while McKinsey & Co. estimates 90 million Indonesians will join the “consuming class” by 2030.

“Investing in Indonesia is a must on a 10, 20-year view,” Paulius Kuncinas, Asia editor at the Oxford Business Group, a publisher of economic and business reports, said by e-mail today. “The question is when is a good time on a 12, 18-month view. Right now the risks are relatively high compared to last year, but companies should be exploring and looking for credible local partners.”

The hottest industry for investment is automotives, with companies from Europe, the U.S. and South Korea either planning new investments or expansion of existing plants, Siregar said, declining to name them. Monthly car sales rose an average 5 percent in the first quarter, after reaching 1.2 million last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Only about 10 percent of Indonesians have a car, showing the growth potential, with existing investment expected to lift the country’s production capacity, Siregar said.

Ikea Store

Ikea, which already gets some of its wood from the country, will open its first store in Indonesia this year, he said. The world’s largest furniture retailer will invest $100 million for its first store due to be opened in September, Mark Magee, Ikea’s Indonesia general manager, said in November.

Abu Dhabi-based LuLu Hypermarket plans to open a store in Java this year and expand to 20 outlets by 2020, Siregar said. The company is investing in Indonesia and the date of the first store opening hasn’t been finalized, Sudheer Konderi, a communications manager at parent LuLu Group International, said by telephone today.

Dubai companies are interested in investing in consumer goods, hospitals, mineral smelting and property, Siregar said after talks in the country. The National Bank of Abu Dhabi is looking at Indonesia, he said, with the country needing access to cheaper long-term funding for infrastructure projects.

Online Licenses

The top challenge remains infrastructure, he said. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who steps down this year after two terms, has struggled to make progress on the new ports, railways and roads needed to transport goods.

The country ranked 114th among 177 countries in a 2013 Transparency International survey on corruption perceptions, also undermining its investment appeal.

Indonesia came 120th out of 189 countries for the ease of doing business in a World Bank study. In an effort to address this, Siregar said this month he had moved the application process online for a “principal license,” an early permit that allows a company to open an office, and other steps needed would be moved online later this year. Foxconn Technology Group (2354) has such a license, though its plans to invest in mobile-phone manufacturing in Java have yet to be completed, he said.

Election Promise

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo is the frontrunner to replace Yudhoyono after his party led unofficial results in an April 9 parliamentary election. While Widodo has taken steps to address Jakarta traffic and cut red tape, he has yet to detail policy plans for the country. Indonesian markets rallied after his candidacy was announced on expectations he will get things done.

“The election has become a positive factor to investment,” said Siregar, a former deputy finance minister who has worked with Widodo as a city leader and furniture- exporting businessman. “Changes always bring new hope and new expectation, that’s the biggest boost of the election to investment, as Indonesia growth is driven by consumer confidence and with that comes investor confidence.”

East Java

Indonesia’s consumer confidence index rose in March to the highest level in 16 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Foreign funds have poured more than $2.7 billion into Jakarta stocks this year and the rupiah is up more than 6 percent, the most among 11 Asian currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Reliance on resources for investment is not sustainable and the country only has a window of about 20 years to take advantage of a demographic dividend for consumer companies, so long-term gains require greater competitiveness, Siregar said.

The greater Jakarta area pulled in three-quarters of total manufacturing investment last year, and its roads risk becoming the world’s largest car park within a few years, Siregar said. He is trying to persuade companies to instead invest elsewhere in Java island, which holds over half of Indonesia’s population.

New industrial estates are being finished this year near Gresik, a port city in east Java, while the Madura Strait has been deepened to allow for bigger container ships, he said.

“Everyone knows Indonesia has 17,000 islands, but they don’t even know where central Java and east Java are,” he said.

Nigeria Sees End to 2014 Budget Wrangling Before Easter


Bloomberg News by by Gabrielle Coppola 

Nigeria’s lawmakers will send the 2014 spending bill to President Goodluck Jonathan before the Easter holiday, ending wrangling that has delayed the budget by four months, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said.

The Nigerian Senate passed a budget of 4.7 trillion naira ($28.9 billion) budget in proceedings in Abuja yesterday. The House of Representatives has to pass a spending bill before it goes to the president to be signed into law. Investors have been watching the budget of Africa’s biggest oil producer for signs that spending will surge in a pre-election year as it did before the 2011 presidential vote, when it climbed 17 percent.

“We have been on a path of fiscal consolidation, and we’ve continued on that path, even this year,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “That was always a risk, but I think we’re almost over that now that they’ve passed the budget.”

The Finance Ministry has lowered the benchmark oil price in this year’s budget to $77.80 a barrel, from $79 a barrel in 2013, Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. The holidays start April 18.

Nigeria’s foreign reserves have fallen this year as the central bank intervened in the market to prop up the naira after it reached a record low of 165.65 on Feb. 25. Jonathan suspended central bank governor Lamido Sanusi in February after he called for an investigation into the state-owned oil company for allegedly failing to repatriate $20 billion of revenue to the government. The state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Foreign Reserves

The naira “is stabilizing” and foreign reserves are growing again because the country’s Excess Crude Account, which holds the savings the nation makes when the oil price is above the benchmark price estimated in the budget, is being built up again, Okonjo-Iweala said.

The naira rose 1 percent against the dollar to 161.25 on the interbank market as of 12:22 p.m. in the commercial capital, Lagos, narrowing its drop since the start of the year to 0.5 percent.

Nigeria’s economy surpassed South Africa’s as the largest on the continent after the West African nation overhauled its gross domestic product data for the first time in two decades.

On paper, the size of the economy expanded by more than three-quarters to an estimated 80 trillion naira for 2013, the National Bureau of Statistics said April 6. That compares with the World Bank’s 2012 GDP figures of $262.6 billion for Nigeria and $384.3 billion for South Africa.

A poverty survey by the NBS shows that 61 percent of Nigerians were living on less than a dollar a day in 2010, up from 52 percent in 2004. While the revised economic data saw Nigeria’s 2012 debt-to-GDP ratio decline to 11 percent from the 19 percent projected with the old figures, the country won’t change its debt policy and borrow more, Okonjo-Iweala said.

“Our per capita income with new figures is $2,688, so we can’t rush out and say, ‘now we are a rich country,’” she said. “We have to be very prudent and conservative.”

Temasek Nigeria Deal Shows Interest in Faster-Growing Africa


Bloomberg News By Klaus Wille

The second major acquisition in Africa by Temasek Holdings Pte or one of its units in six months shows the growing interest in a continent where many countries are expanding faster then developed markets.

Singapore’s state-owned investment company will buy a stake in Seven Energy International Ltd. for $150 million, the Nigerian closely-held energy company said in a statement April 14. That follows an announcement in November of a $1.3 billion investment in three gas blocks offshore Tanzania by Temasek’s liquefied natural gas unit Pavilion Energy Pte.

“It ticks all the right Temasek boxes as it is an investment in a fast-growing emerging economy and it is an investment in resources,” said Song Seng Wun, a Singapore-based economist at CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. (CIMB) “They are slowly getting more comfortable with the region.”

Temasek joins other investors including Carlyle Group LP and Robert Diamond’s Atlas Mara Co-Nvest Ltd. (ATMA) that are seeking to profit from the continent’s development. Nigeria has the potential to be one of the top 15 economies in the world by 2050, fueled by its population, which would account for about a fifth of Africa’s people by then, Jim O’Neill, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, wrote in a Bloomberg View column April 6.

“We are interested in investment opportunities in Africa where they fit our investment themes; in particular, around the transformation of economies and the demand for consumption by growing populations,” Temasek spokesman Stephen Forshaw said.

The International Monetary Fund forecast this month economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa will accelerate to 5.4 percent this year from 4.9 percent in 2013. It also forecast growth in Nigeria would rise to 7.1 percent from 6.3 percent.

Bomb Attack

Ahead of the most recent investments in Africa, Temasek’s assets in the continent, central Asia and the Middle East accounted for just 2 percent of its total holdings as of March 31, 2013, according to its latest annual report published in July. That’s on a par with investments in Latin America and compares to 13 percent in Australia and New Zealand, and 12 percent in North America and Europe.

Investing as little as $150 million in a Nigerian company makes sense because the country is still politically unstable, Song said.

At least 75 people were killed April 14 in the worst-ever bomb attack on Nigeria’s capital Abuja, which the country’s President Goodluck Jonathan blamed on Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Security forces are fighting a four-year-old insurgency by Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of people in gun and bomb attacks in the country’s north and Abuja. With less than a year before general elections, the government is increasingly stretched in its efforts to quell violence across huge swathes of the West African nation.

Frontier Market

“One has to have a very high-risk appetite to invest in a failed state like Nigeria,” Friedrich Wu, an adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore said in an e-mail. “After the BRIC economies, investors are chasing the next frontier markets to pour their money in. Africa has been talked up by various analysts and the media, but it could turn out to be a nightmare or quagmire.”

Founded in 2004, Seven Energy focuses on the emerging Nigerian domestic gas market, according to the statement.

Apart from Temasek, International Finance Corp., a unit of the World Bank, will invest $75 million and the IFC African, Latin American and Caribbean Fund $30 million, Seven Energy said.

Robert Diamond’s Atlas Mara on April 6 said it was buying a stake in state-owned Development Bank of Rwanda after previously agreeing to acquire Gaborone, Botswana-based financial services company BancABC for as much as $265 million.

The city-state’s investment firm in August 2011 said its unit, Sennett Investments Ltd., and E. Oppenheimer & Son, the investment holding company of the Oppenheimer family, would form an Africa-focused private equity joint venture that would primarily buy stakes in African consumer and agricultural businesses.

Lagos Airport wins Best Emerging Airport in UAE


Nigerian Tribune by Shola Adekola 

The Murtala Mohammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos, has been recognised as the 2014 Best Emerging Airport in the African region.

The award was given to the airport at the fourth Annual Emerging Airports Conference and Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.


The spokesman for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Yakubu Dati, who disclosed this in a statement issued to journalists, said the Managing Director of FAAN, Mr Saleh Dunoma, received the award on behalf of the Lagos airport.

According to Dati, the organisers of the conference cited the revolutionary turnaround of the airports in Nigeria as one of the reasons for the award, adding that it also applauded the Aerotropolis and the perishable cargo projects as clear indicators of an emerging giant.

He emphasised that the award ceremony also featured conferences and an exhibition, which attracted over 15 airport directors, Civil Aviation Authorities, CAAs and airport companies from the emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Middle East.

Dati informed that Dunoma presented a paper at the conference where he showcased the investment potentials and business opportunities in the Nigerian aviation industry.

Others, who attended the event, according to him, included Mozambique Airports, Tanzania Airports Company, Ghana Airports Company, Kilimanjaro Airports Company (as delegate), Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, Bahrain Airports Company, GMR Airports and GVK Airports from India.

Others were Abu Dhabi Airports Company, Dube Ports – South Africa, Jordan Airports Company (delegate), Egyptian Airports Company (delegate), ADPI – the airport design company, Hill International, TAV Airports Holdings (Turkey) and over 45 exhibitors representing airport suppliers, investors, contractors, equipment manufacturers, suppliers and others involved in ground handling, airport operations, airport ATC / ATM, airport maintenance and ancillary services providers.