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Ecobank Boss Advocates Synergy Among Super Brands to Solve Africa’s Problems

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The Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan has advocated a synergy between super brands in Africa to solve the multifarious challenges facing the continent. Akinwuntan, who made this submission at the International Advertising Association (IAA) Africa Rising 4 virtual conference, posited that recent happenings in the global arena such as covid 19 pandemic further reinforces the need for bigger brands on the continent to collaborate effectively to achieve sustainable solutions to challenges facing the continent.

According to him, “It is not just about digitization but understanding that life itself has deeper substance. What we have learnt in the past 18 months calls for common agenda for human race, an opportunity for collaboration to search for sustainable solutions to the myriad challenges facing the continent. This also reenforces the fact that until we are comfortable, no part of the globe is comfortable. This provides a completely new direction between developed worlds, developing worlds and whatever categorization that you want to bring to the table. With people having to stay at home because of the pandemic, we quickly saw that being disconnected from the economy fabric is much more dangerous than the health risk that we are trying to avoid from the social distancing and stay at home”.

On how Ecobank as an African Super Brand responded to the covid 19 pandemic, Mr. Akinwuntan noted that the bank’s success story in handling the outbreak and spread of Ebola disease in some parts of Africa came handing, adding that the bank’s investment in technology also paid off as it was able to provide financial services seamlessly to its customers in countries where the operates.

“We came out with strategies to ensure that small business and women enterprise leaders are able to learn to improve their capacity and source for labor without physical contact and able to access market without physical contact and be able to be financially strong without having to physically visit distant locations. For the small businesses, it is enabling them to have faith in themselves to be able to see that tomorrow has a brighter future. The covid-19 pandemic was a leveler and therefore everyone felt the impact. For a brand like Ecobank, we needed to demonstrate our ability to reach everyone at the same time. First is knowledge, people need to know, is this circumstance unique to my country, or to my own livelihood? if it is not, what has worked for other people and how have we leveraged it. That is quite a lot of learning that we focused on. We actually partnered with NEPAD and brought about leveraging on technology and capacity building for the small and medium scale business.”

Aligning with Akinwuntan’s submission, another speaker at the session, Group Executive for Marketing, MTN, Bernice Samuels said it was imperative super brands in Africa have a common platform to address and offer solutions to challenges facing the continent. The captivating session was moderated by Robyn Curnow, Anchor & Host of CNN Newsroom

Earlier in his welcome address, World President and Chairman, IAA, Joel Nettey said the 2-day virtual conference with the theme: ‘Africa To The World’ is aimed at projecting African brands to the world and bringing together the best on the continent to discuss trends and key developments. According to him, “as the most influential network of industry leaders with a broad spectrum of expertise, we help brands grow, strengthen, and forge new paths around the world through meaningful relationships with consumers. We use our thought leadership, initiatives in education and development, and world-class events to help our members navigate through the ever-changing worlds of business and technology. We are delighted to be able to put together this conference in such trying times to add value and bring together those who shape the industry’s future. The African continent is endowed with vibrancy, creativity, culture, its people, and strong brands weaving coherently into what makes the engines of economies move.”

The  International Advertising Association’s (IAA) Africa Rising for Leadership Conference 2021 is first IAA virtual conference and it is congregating speakers and participants from across the globe – Nigeria, Kenya, south Africa, USA, Italy, Russia, Malaysia and several other leading countries where IAA has presence.

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Corpreneurship Challenge: Unity Bank Splashes N10m Grant on 30 Corps Members

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Unity Bank Entrepreneurship Development Initiative – Corpreneurship Challenge, targeted at empowering fresh graduates and Corp Members on one-year compulsory national youth service has, in its ninth edition of the Corpreneurship Challenge held across 10 States recently, doled out N10 million grant to 30 winners.

The winners emerged after a business pitch presentation held across 10 States; namely, Rivers, Delta, Sokoto, Edo, Abuja, Akwa-Ibom, Osun, Kano, Bayelsa, and Enugu, with each state producing three winners who took home cash grants of N500,000, N300,000 and N200,000.

The winners of this ninth edition included Corp Members focusing developing entreneurship in renewable energy, fashion, beauty, agro-processing, confectionaries, etc.

Some of the winners at the Rivers State NYSC Orientation camp at Nonwa Gbam Tai included Muoneke Gift, whose business plan on renewable energy took home the grand prize of N500, 000; followed by Ilesanmi Olamide’s business proposal on beauty services to claim the N300, 000-business grant for first runner up. Ekanem Moses Idoreyin’s confectionary business proposal took home the N200, 000 grant.

The winners emerged after their business plans were assessed by a panel looking out for business ideas that demonstrate originality, marketability, future employability potential of the product, and knowledge of the business.

The Unity Bank Corpreneurship Challenge has gradually joined the league of some of the most impactful, youth-focused entrepreneurship development initiatives in Nigeria, empowering no fewer than 100 young entrepreneurs over the past three years.

Recently, one of the beneficiaries in Sokoto, Beulah Yusuf, who emerged as second runner-up in one of the editions successfully launched her recycling business with the grant received from the Bank. She unveiled her products widely acclaimed for addressing environmental pollution and waste management inefficiencies, underscoring the Bank’s motivations to sustain the initiative.

Speaking during the finale at Rivers State NYSC Orientation Camp recently, the Group Head, Retail, E-Business, and SME Banking, Unity Bank Plc, Mr. Olufunwa Akinmade, said the Bank was delighted with the impressive records the Corpreneurship Challenge has pulled so far.

“When we launched the initiative in 2019, we set out to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs that will disrupt the job market by creating much-needed jobs across all sectors. Today, we have come a long way and the Corpreneurship Challenge has lived up to its billing.”

Represented by Regional Manager, Port Harcourt Region, Unity Bank Plc, Mr. Eto Ukpe, Akinmade reiterated the Bank’s commitment to sustaining the initiative and mainstreaming the Corpreneurship Challenge as a reliable and impactful entrepreneurship and business empowerment and mentorship programme in the country.

“What we have today in the labour market is far from the ideal. However, it is not enough to keep complaining. We must make lemonade out of lemon. We believe that the Corpreneurship Challenge has proved to be one of the most creative approaches to tackling the intractable crisis we have in the job market in Nigeria.”

“Our goal is to expand this programme to all 36 states and sustain it for as long as possible to achieve record impact. We continue to encourage the winners to continue to learn the rudimentary lessons necessary to build a successful business. We emphasize that the budding entrepreneurs who take part in this initiative constantly think about the challenges they will face and put the same energy they all have displayed in preparing for this contest in their businesses as they face their post-service year ahead.”

The Corpreneurship Challenge, which has earned the Bank national recognition for its impact on youth empowerment and job creation, has continued to elicit growing interest among the corps members, attracting over 2000 applicants and participation in every edition.

In partnership with the NYSC Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development, SAED, the initiative prominently features a business pitch presentation that provides the participants with the opportunity to present their business plans and stand a chance to win up to N500, 000 cash in the business grant.

So far, Unity Bank has invested over N100 million in the initiative which has now produced 118 winners since it was launched in 2019.

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Applause As Zenith Rewards Tech Fair 2.0 Hackathon Finalists with N53m

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A total sum of N53 million in prize money was won at the end of a keenly contested hackathon session at the Second Edition of the Zenith Tech Fair, themed “Future Forward 2.0”, which was held on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, at the Eko Convention Centre, Eko Hotels & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The prize money was shared among eleven finalists who emerged from the over 500 contestants that took part in the hackathon, with Ecotutu, a cleantech company making cooling affordable and accessible for businesses, especially in the agricultural sector, emerging as the overall winner and taking home the grand prize of N20 million. This is in addition to a mentorship programme with Seedstars, a company dedicated to implementing high-quality capacity-building programmes for entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

The first runner-up, Foris Labs, an app-based platform that allows students to conduct science experiments individually and in groups interactively via their mobile phones, won N15 million and a mentorship programme with Seedstars, while the second runner-up, Finva, a start-up which helps creditors offer credits at low risk, won N10 million as well as a mentorship programme with Seedstars. Other finalists who took home N1million each include Sanwo, Itinu -Ev, Eduvacity, Green Bii, Zion Robotics, Sono Care, Base, and I grow Africa.

Speaking during the presentation of the prize monies, the Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, congratulated all the finalists for coming this far in the competition. He reiterated the bank’s readiness to provide all that is necessary to make the budding entrepreneurs succeed. According to him, “all finalists would be enlisted into our incubation lab for grooming and mentorship. Our expectation is that we are going to scale and grow them just like the zenith brand. So, looking at what we have gone through, I can tell you that so much iron has been loaded on fire. The only thing left is to activate the digital talents, tech skills and entrepreneurship that would culminate in a new digital economy for Nigeria”.

Described as a huge success by participants, the two-day Tech Fair featured presentations on the leading technological innovations that cut across different aspects of life, such as Artificial Intelligence, Computing, Machine Learning, Blockchain, Robotics, Big Data, FinTech, Augmented Reality, Data Analytics, 5G and Communication Technologies, with the keynote address, “The Future of Banking: Digital Transformation Journey”, delivered by Brett King, the renowned futurist, bestselling author, award-winning speaker, Founder of Moven and Author of Bank 4.0.

The event also featured a goodwill message by Jim Ovia, CFR, Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank and opening remarks by Ebenezer Onyeagwu, Group Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc and Chairman of Body of Banks’ CEOs, Nigeria. Other eminent IT practitioners from top global brands who also made presentations include; Tarik Alatovic, Senior Partner, McKinsey; Juliet Ehimuan, West Africa Director, Google; Ola Williams, Country Manager, Microsoft Inc.; Andrew Uaboi, Vice President/Head, Visa West Africa; Mrs Rakiya Mohammed, Director of Information Technology, CBN; Chris Lu, Managing Director, Huawei Technologies Nigeria, and Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, OON, Deputy Managing Director of Zenith Bank Plc, amongst others.

The fair featured three panel sessions. The first panel, which examined “The future of payments: what next and how can we get there”, had Prof. Yinka David West of Lagos Business School as the host, with four discussants, including Agada Apochi, Managing Director, UPSL; Olu Akanmu, Managing Director, Opay; Premier Oiwoh, Managing Director, NIBBS; and Kari Tukur, V/P & Head of Products East/West Africa, MasterCard.

The second panel explored the theme “What are the main challenges of digital transformation in the financial industry? How do we solve them?”. It was hosted by Brett King and had four discussants, including Tosin Eniolorunda, Managing Director, TeamApt; Obi Emetarom, Managing Director, Appzone; Dr. Babatunde Obrimah, COO, FintechNGR; and Olugbenga Agboola, Founder/CEO, Flutterwave.

The third panel discussion, titled “Driving the global trade revolution with technology: current transformation trends”, was hosted by Samuel Eze, Founder/CEO, Ourpass, and had five discussants, including Mike Ogbalu III, Managing Director, PAPSS; Akeem Lawal, Divisional CEO, Interswitch; Massimiliano Spalazzi, Country Manager, Jumia; and Dr. Ozoemena Nnaji, Director of Trade & Exchange, CBN.

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Dangote Sugar Scales Up Investment in Sub-Sector

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Dangote Sugar refinery plc has said that it is significantly scaling up its investment in the sugar sub-sector in line with the requirement of the Nigeria Sugar Master Plan.

President, the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, announced this while speaking at the flag off ceremony of the 2022/2023 Crushing Season and Outgrower Scheme Awards in Numan, Adamawa State.

In a statement, Dangote said the company was making massive investments in Adamawa State through the expansion of DSR Numan sugar refining capacity from 3,000 tonnes of cane per day to 6,000 tcd, 9,800 tcd and to 15,000 tcd.

He noted that increasing the sugar refining capacity would require a corresponding increase in sugarcane production capacity. The company, he added, had concluded plans to increase its sugar plantation from the current land area under cane production of about 8,700 hectares in 2022 to about 24,200 hectares within the next seven years. He also assured that the company would double its scholarship and empowerment schemes in its host communities.

He said, “We will continue to introduce more initiatives to support our host communities. Through these initiatives and our numerous Corporate Social Responsibility activities, DSR Numan will be able to touch the lives of the people, bringing social, economic, and infrastructural development to our host communities.”

“We are thus committing over $700m to our investment in the Backward Integration Programme to enable us put in place needed infrastructure for the eventual commencement of full-scale production.”

Dangote assured that Dangote Sugar would change the trajectory by making Nigeria self-sufficient in the sector.

He explained that the company had spent billions of naira in developing infrastructural facilities for host communities.

At the event, the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, described the Dangote Sugar Refinery as the biggest contributor to the sugar development stride of the Federal Government.

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