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NCOY: FirstBank Powering Next Generation of Innovators, Entrepreneurs

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What did (the various territories that were later to be amalgamated into) Nigeria look like in 1894? How about a hundred years later in 1994? And what could Nigeria look like in the year 2094? History provides elaborate answers to the first two questions. Answers – accurate or near-accurate answers, that is – to the third, however, will rely entirely on the ability to predict/envision the future and work to invent and create the predicted future.

With a continuing shining legacy of nation building – supporting innovative financial, commercial and other developments in Nigeria and even Africa – one bank is already projecting beyond today to the year 2094 – exactly 200 years from its founding in 1894. The bank, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd, is not just predicting a bright, innovative future for Nigeria but is going all out to foster what is required to invent it. FirstBank is putting its money where its mouth is. The bank has been betting the farm on Nigeria’s young and emerging generation for decades.

Take the last two decades, for example. FirstBank has been involved with Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN) for over twenty years as one of the many ‘fronts’ in the bank’s engagements with the next generation of Nigerians to collaboratively create the bright, innovative future that Nigerians dream of. For ten years now, FirstBank has been supporting the National Company of the Year (NCOY) competition, an extension of the JAN Company Programme, designed to help senior secondary school students better understand how businesses are organised and operated. The students will be required, during the course of the competition, to develop a business plan, establish production and sales of goods and services for their company, monitor progress toward goals at regular department and company meetings, maintain complete financial records, compile a report to stockholders, and liquidate the company at a given period with the support of a volunteer.

FirstBank’s partnership with JAN on the National Company of the Year competition has meant a decade of impact and innovation illustrated by the very nature of innovative products and services created by young minds to solve real problems facing society and the business systems they put in place in form of student companies to successfully produce and market the products and services sustainably and to impact their local communities. Consider the growing problem of fire accidents and deaths from gas explosions resulting from gas leakage in homes, offices and industries. The students from Taidob College, Abeokuta, through their student company, TC Achievers, created an innovative solution to address it.

TC Achievers produced a domestic and industrial gas leakage detector – a device which raises an alarm and sends SMS to the owner’s mobile phone once there is any gas leakage. Their innovative device fetched TC Achievers first position in the regional competition in Ogun State and at the national level in Lagos, earning them the right to represent Nigeria in Ghana at the 2019 African Company of the Year competition. Taidob College emerged from Ghana with four awards, the most by any of the participating Junior Achievement member countries, including Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Nigerian representatives won the following: Client Focus Award, Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, Facilitator of the Year Award and were second runners-up for Company of the Year Award.

The 2018 National Company of the Year competition winners who went on to emerge the grand winners at the Africa Company of the Year competition in Ghana same year, Inventive Explorers from Caro Favoured College, Ajegunle, Lagos were concerned about traffic accidents, especially in areas with school children crossing busy streets. Their innovative device, a rechargeable handheld LED traffic light, was designed to solve this real problem faced by various congested communities. Besides the grand prize at the Africa Company of the Year competition, they also brought back home the Access Award, given to the business that best exhibits the principles of global connectivity.

Guided by the same spirit of innovativeness and enterprise and a passionate desire to solve a real problem facing society that were at work when TC Achievers and Inventive Explorers devised their award-winning innovative solutions, the first runners-up in 2018, Brain Max, the student company formed by student representatives of Government Girls Secondary School, Abaji, Abuja designed a website and software application for connecting local produce farmers directly to their customers. Brain Box also won Best Corporate Social Responsibility Project Award on account of which they visited camps of Nigeria’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) to provide financial literacy and entrepreneurship education to occupants, including helping the IDPs to secure seed funding. It was the same inspiration for the second runners-up, Sharon Glory Ventures, the student company formed by students of Sharon Rose College, Saki, Oyo State who produced a water-level indicator to enable homeowners to determine the level of water in their tanks. Sharon Global Ventures also received the award for the Most Innovative Product.

In 2020, given the global COVID-19 pandemic, the FirstBank-sponsored National Company of the Year competition will be conducted virtually. The virtual format will, however, not take anything away from the allure and competitiveness that the competition has been noted for over the years. This year’s unique competition, holding on Saturday, 12 December 2020 at 3 p.m. (West/Central African time), will bring together six outstanding student companies across Nigeria to lock horns for a lifetime opportunity to carry Nigeria’s flag at the JA Africa Company of the Year competition later in the year, and possibly repeat the feat achieved by the 2018 Nigerian representatives.

The Virtual Company of the Year (VCOY) competition is the culminating point for the implementation of the Virtual Company Programme. The goal of the VCOY is to create a signature showcase for JAN and the students who benefited from the impact of the digital JA Company Programme. This pilot programme will be in two stages where the first stage will identify the top business ideas from each region and select the top five most viable business ideas and reward them with seed funding to fully develop their ideas into businesses. The second stage of this competition sees the introduction of top professionals across different sectors who would serve as the panel of judges to determine each student company’s performance against a set of established criteria. Judges look out for evidence of innovation and application of new ideas in all aspects of business and select the best team to represent Nigeria at the Africa Company of the Year competition.

Whichever student companies emerge as winners of the 2020 National Company of the Year competition, one thing is certain: All the participants, not just at the national level but also at the regional levels, will join the ever-growing and rapidly-expanding crop of young minds engaged, trained, prepped and reoriented in a FirstBank-sponsored empowerment programme to become innovative and entrepreneurial thinkers and problem solvers. The bank is supporting such programmes so the young participants will join it in the arduous task of nation building and inventing the desired future for Nigeria. FirstBank is confident that the young minds who come through the JAN Company of the Year competition will be Nigeria’s future Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In their time and in the envisioned future for Nigeria, the country will stand tall, unintimidated by her Western counterparts, having been catapulted to the status of a leading developed nation by the young and emerging generation FirstBank has been betting big on for years.

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Experts Urge States to Focus on Revenue Generation, Fiscal Transparency

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…Extol Sokoto for performance

Public Finance experts, and business analysts have urged Nigerian States to focus more on internal revenue generation rather than waiting on the Federal Government to allocate funds to them.

This was part of the conclusion reached at the January 2021 CIAPS Roundtable tagged “Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability of Nigerian States”. The event hosted by the Lagos based international Graduate school CIAPS had participants from across the 36 States for the federation and from outside Nigeria discussed how Nigerian States were doing in terms of budgeting, revenue, debt management and fiscal responsibility.

Lead discussants at the CIAPS Roundtable included Ayo Teriba, CEO Economic Associates, Phillip Isakpa, Executive Director Businessnewscorp and Yemi Kolapo Editor In Chief at The Point Newspaper, the event was chaired by Anthony Kila.

Dr Ayo Teriba lead the conversation and opend by disagreeing with the general concept introduced by Prof Anthony Kila that many Nigerian States were not financially viable. According to Teriba every State in Nigeria has the potential for being viable, it is just about having the right leadership that can identify how to generate wealth. Teriba noted that too little is being done by States to generate investments and that no Nigerian State has a portal dedicated to attracting and guiding investors. He listed the Economy, Natural Capital, Human Capital and Governance as the four levers that the states need to push on to generate revenue.

In analysing the Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability of States, Mr Philip Isakpa noted that generally speaking too many individuals and businesses are focused on the Federal Government instead of looking at what states are doing. He called on all to be more vigilant of and involved with States Government. Philip Isakpa agreed with Anthony Kila that the tying grants to fiscal responsibility is a very good move that allows citizens and businesses to know and access which States were doing well and which ones were doing badly.

Ms Yemi Kolapo sounded a note of caution warning that while the performance conditioned grant was a good thing, we should be careful to make sure that States are actually doing good things and they are not just working the books to get funds.
Prof Kila invited the media and other observers to provide information of the States doing well and those doing badly in terms economic management and fiscal responsibility. “We need to know who are the performers and who are the bench warmers” noted Kila.

The federal government early January disbursed N123.34 billion performance-based grant to eligible states under the World Bank supported states fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability (SFTAS) programme for results.

Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget and national planning, announced then that Sokoto state received the highest amount of N6.612 billion while Kano state got the lowest amount of N1.710 billion. Bayelsa, Imo, Rivers and Zamfara States got zero allocation due to their inability to meet the 2019 eligibility criteria which required States to publish online approved annual budgets and audited financial statements within a specific timeframe.

In separate interviews many of the experts that participated at the event urged all states to focus on Revenue Generation and Fiscal Transparency and to learn from Sokoto State that was able to lead the table of performing states. Rotimi Olarewaju a financial analyst noted that Sokoto state must be praised and used as an example for other States since it is showing others that wining the World Bank performance-based grant is possible.

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After Losing to Sheffield, Solskjaer Claims Referee Made Two Mistakes

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer criticised referee Peter Bankes for making two mistakes as Manchester United were beaten 2-1 by Sheffield United.

The Manchester United boss was not happy with the referee for allowing Kean Bryan’s opening goal to stand at Old Trafford despite Billy Sharp’s interference with David de Gea, and ruling out an effort by Anthony Martial minutes later.

Solskjaer told BT Sport: “It’s a foul. Billy Sharp just runs into him (De Gea) so he can’t get up, so it’s a foul.”

When asked about Martial’s disallowed effort, Solskjaer said, “No foul… but it’s this kind of season, inconsistencies, so it’s going to be unpredictable. But it’s two mistakes by the referee.”

Solskjaer’s side had the chance to leapfrog Manchester City back into top spot but froze under the pressure against bottom-of-the-league Blades, who had only won once in the Premier League this season.

Aaron Ramsdale was not overly tested in the Sheffield United goal as Manchester United only mustered four shots on target.

“We had all the possession but when you concede two bad goals it’s always going to be difficult,” Solskjaer said.

“We didn’t create big enough chances to score enough goals.

“That magic was missing, that little bit extra. They defended well, fair play to them but we didn’t have the right ideas or solutions.

“It wasn’t to be, the second goal we conceded is so poor, so sloppy. Easy. We stopped getting out to the ball, three or four bad decisions which is out of character.

“There will be no big inquest. There have been so many odd results this season but with the world as it is we have been the most consistent team, it hit us today.”

The Blades had just five points to show from their first 19 games – the worst haul in Premier League history – and had not beaten the Red Devils since 1993, with their previous Old Trafford victory coming in 1973.

And despite only naming six substitutes and having to rely on 38-year-old Phil Jagielka at centre-back – who subsequently put in a man-of-the-match performance – Chris Wilder’s men grabbed a richly-deserved three points.

“We have to play close to near perfect to get results and if you make mistakes, then you get punished,” Wilder said.

“It’s a brutal league and you have to be at your best every week. And sometimes it’s difficult to do that. Tonight we were good, we were brave in possession when we had to be and we created some little half-chances. You have to take those big moments and we took two, to give us a result.

“A slight deflection for the second goal but we all need that bounce of a ball. We’ve kept going, we have an identity and we’ve shown it tonight. We’ve had a little break, took it and managed to see the game out.”

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Concentrate on How to Fix Healthcare Facilities, Not COVID-19 Vaccines, Bill Gates Tells FG

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American philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, has advised the Nigerian government to prioritize fixing its healthcare sector rather than spending money on COVID-19 vaccines.

Bill Gates gave the advice during a virtual press conference on Tuesday ahead of the launch of the 2021 Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letters.

Gates said that the deaths from the deficits of primary health care were dramatically higher every year than the total deaths going on in Africa from the COVID-19 pandemic.

He stressed that the impact of investing funds into the health system, particularly the primary health care system, would be very high in terms of saving children’s lives.

Bill Gates advised the Nigerian government to wait for the GAVI vaccines rather than diverting its limited health fund into trying to pay a high price for other COVID-19 vaccines.

He strongly advised the government to invest the proposed vaccine funds into other health-related areas, stressing that it would assist to deepen vaccine coverage and save lives.

“The key is that Nigeria is still eligible (for GAVI Vaccinee), and so, for a lot of those vaccines, they will come through the GAVI facility that we’ve raised money for.

“I’m an advocate for the government to have more resources and prioritise health. Obviously I’m not a voter in Nigeria, so Nigeria can decide that independently.

“So my advice is that the primary health care system is what’s super important and that with those finite resources, you have to prioritise expenditure.

“And in that case, waiting for the GAVI vaccines would be the best thing. So I hope it causes everyone in society to look at these health issues.

“There should be close to 100 per cent coverage of all the vaccines and you need to have those very functional primary health care systems because the number of lives you can save is absolutely huge,” he said.

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