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BY MOSES AKAIGWE Improved infrastructure, patronage of locally made vehicles and wide differential between charges paid on CKD (completely knocked down) parts used in the domestic auto industry and duties paid on fully built up (FUB) vehicles, have over the decades been high on the demand list of the Nigerian Automotive Manufacturers Association (NAMA). But,
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TO sustain the growing trend in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) growth in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) has called for the harmonisation of regulatory regimes in the continent.
Established in 1977 in Kinshasa, the DRC, as Pan-African Telecommunications Union (PATU) as a specialised agency of AOU for telecommunications. It was re-named in 1999 as African Telecommunications Union (ATU) still as specialised agency of AU for telecommunications.
Speaking at the just concluded Conference of African Telecommunications Regulators on Consumer Affairs, organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Lagos at the weekend, the Programme Coordinator, Alice Koech, disclosed that in the past five years, there had been major developments in regulatory environment, which rose from harmonised regulations.
This, according to Koech included the liberalisation of the international (voice) gateways, converged licensing and technology neutral spectrum licensing.
Areas that require urgent regulatory harmonisation, according to Koech, include service neutral licensing which would allow a single ICT provider to provide both ICT and broadcasting services, such as Zuku in Kenya which provides (Phone, Internet and TV), market based spectrum licensing for better maximisation of spectrum utilization, making available the digital dividend spectrum to foster broadband in particular in remote/rural areas and equitable access to marine optical fiber cables by all countries in particular landlocked countries.
The ATU Programme Coordinator noted that to accelerate harmonisation, there should be more interactions between the regulators on the continent with the outside world such as the ITU Telecomm to learn of prevailing and most importantly emerging best practices. She also said that there was need for robust and more frequent regional and continental ministerial meetings to adopt and review performance of harmonisation and that there should be case studies that show the benefit of harmonisation.
To achieve this feat, she said that key actors including Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Regional Regulatory Associations (RRA), African Union Commission (AUC), African Telecommunications Union (ATU), States Policy Makers and States National Regulator.
According to her, stakeholders’ role would include identifying areas for regulatory harmonisation through forums, identify best practices, keeping in touch with the world developments, develop harmonised regulations, negotiate and develop action plans in good faith, follow through on commitments and targets and develop and implement a monitoring and evaluation mechanism.
To have an harmonised regulation, she said that the development cycle would include development of baseline regulations, domestication of baseline regulations onto regionals and to national, identification of key issues, consensus of best practices and global benchmarking.
Going forward, she stressed that there was need to improve the regulatory environment in order to foster growth in the ICT sector, which remained the focus of ATU member states.
Koech disclosed that there was need for stakeholder engagement, collaboration, saying that following through on commitments was key.
“Encourage close collaboration and smart partnerships among regulators to promote creative and innovative ICT applications like m-banking among others.
“Crucially, harmonised frameworks are keys to creating regional and continental markets and for the creation of investor confidence.
“ICT is a key enabler for socio-economic development and regulators must give priority to protecting consumers of ICT services and ATU is ready to work with the regulators and all the stakeholders for the benefit of consumers,” she stated.
Masao Motoki is the Managing Director, Panasonic Marketing, Middle East and Africa. Recently, at the company’s products’ exhibition and marketing forum, in Nairobi, Kenya, he unveiled plans by the organisation to strategically bolster its market share in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. Business Editor, ADE OGIDAN, was there. Excerpts.
WHAT’S the current market share of Panasonic in Africa?
As far as Africa is concerned, Panasonic’s current market share is about 15 per cent but we plan to increase the profile in the next few years to 30 per cent. We hope to be able to do this in three years actually. However, if we increase our sales and market activities in Africa, we would need personnel and in so doing, create more employment opportunities in the continent.
Currently, Nigeria is our biggest market in the continent.
Since you said Nigeria is your biggest market in Africa, what are your plans to establish a manufacturing plant in the country?
Nigeria, despite the big size, is a very tough market to be frank. However, I am sure that in November this year, I will meet you in Lagos because our partner is going to have a launch at that time. By the end of that month, we will promote our Max 700 24Tw OVR equipment, which is good for night clubs or huge audience. These are some of the areas of our consumer type of business. We are committed to using our knowhow to enhance our customers. We have several products that we intend to promote in the years ahead but these are the ones we have for now. Nigeria is a country that we would like to have a large chunk of its market. To have a large market share in Nigeria, it is better we set up a factory in the country, but to do that, several things have to be addressed. Among them is the infrastructure deficit. At the moment, we have not yet reached any conclusion but as time goes on and as part of our strategy, we are studying what we can do.
There is a drive by the Nigerian government to get investors to come and produce in Nigeria, rather than companies importing their products. Are you keying into this?
At the moment, we are working through our partners, especially our representative office in Lagos and it is not therefore possible to do any large scale business now. But we are searching for opportunities through our Lagos office. We must get good partners. After that, we may increase our marketing activities in Nigeria. Thereafter, I think we can do more by ourselves.
But do you have a timeline for your plans to set up a factory here?
At the moment, I cannot say, but in the long term, we will consider it seriously because Nigeria is a really big market.
What is your market share in Nigeria?
For air conditioner, we control 20 per cent.
What plans do you have to address the challenge of infrastructure in Nigeria, which you earlier noted?
When we start operation, we will look at all possibilities because we also finance infrastructure.
Specifically, what are you coming to do in Lagos in November?
It is an occasion to announce our new products.
Several, we have television sets and other home appliances.
Generally, how has the market been, given the huge competition in the industry?
One of our areas of strength is service. Customer service is very key to us and we are willing to do more. Another one is product quality. We are far ahead of our competitors in that respect. Our pricing is also very good. Above all, customer service is key.
There is power reform in Nigeria and electricity generating and distribution companies have been sold by the government. Since you are into power solutions, what part would you want to play under this new dispensation in Nigeria?
Not directly but through our product, we are contributing. For example, our eco products are power-saving products and this will reduce power consumption in the country.
There have been several complaints about energy saving bulbs in the country. What is it in your bulbs that are different from what we have in the market?
The question is a bit technical so I will like to explain. Our energy saving bulbs also has mercury but in comparison with our competitors, our products are more eco-friendly and we are very careful with the environment. Also, the recycling of our products depends on the models and some have between eight and 10 thousand hours of life, which is the highest in the market.
Are all your products solar compatible because power is a major problem in Africa and how are you working to protect your products from being fraudulently imitated?
We are looking at using solar projectors to enhance our service and that is why we are starting a new project in our company. The project is called “Made for Africa”. This means Panasonic will have to supply products that meet the needs of the African people. To help the African people understand our vision, we have established a research centre in Dubai called Life Style Research Centre and we are looking at setting up branches in Nigeria and Kenya. In these research centres, the person in charge will always study the need in people’s life styles and the findings will go into the thinking in making products for Africa.
Fighting counterfeits is a very tough job, you cannot prevent it 100 per cent but what we do at Panasonic is to differentiate the products. We do this via things like warranty stickers or any kind of customer care activities. Very soon we are looking at expanding our warranty coverage more than we have at the moment.
What is your best selling product in Africa and what edge does it have over others in the market?
Air conditioners are the highest selling among our products followed by the sets. Our competitors are giving us a fight because they are seriously studying what African people need and addressing their needs. They are ahead of us in this respect but we are working hard to exceed whatever it is they have achieved.
You are stronger in West and East Africa. How are you strategizing to penetrate the Southern Africa?
We are currently promoting our products through our partners in Southern Africa especially in Zimbabwe. You know in Africa, there are 54 countries, so it is not very easy to be in every country and that is why we have divided the continent into four regions. In each region, we have a kind of hub or representative office. Through this medium, we will extend our reach to other smaller countries in Africa.
Do you have plans to enter the smart phone market?
In the past, we had GSM phones, which we stopped. After that, we tried to start again through smart phones but we have decided to concentrate on other types of communication business for now.
Bishop Enoch Adebayo, co-founder of Nigerian-Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of Concord Incorporated, based in Tokyo, Japan, in this interview with BABATUNDE OSO, proffers the leeway to improved trade relations between Nigeria and the Far East Asian country. Excerpts
HOW would you assess the nature of Japanese businessmen?
Japanese businessmen are keen to do business with Nigerians especially if you have stayed in their country at least for a considerable number of years and most especially, learnt the language.
Japanese businessmen are not ready to transact business with someone who has not stayed in their country well enough, learnt and know their culture.
The import of what I am saying is that you have got to know them very well, for them to trust you and be ready to do business with you.
Before a Nigerian can have successful business relationship with the Japanese people, you must soak up a lot of information, be knowledgeable about them because they are very sensitive with whom they have business deals with. They are very conscious; they have a culture where they don’t venture out easily. When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was in power and he visited Japan, I advised him that the Nigerian government should outrightly purchase the Embassy, which was then rented, near the American Embassy. One of their sensibilities of a typical Japanese businessman is that if you want to earn their trust as regards business deals, you will be in good standing with them if you own or have a property in their country. There was one Dr. Onwube (can’t remember his exact name), one of his Special Advisers then, who also supported me. President Obasanjo, who came three times and hosted me, sometimes with my family, accepted my counsel and ordered that the Embassy house be bought and also for the Ambassador. This gave Nigeria a solid moral ground to grow business activities with Japan. My experience with the former president, Chief Obasanjo is that he listens to pieces of advice, no matter which angle or direction this is coming from: whether you are a Christian, Muslim or even pagan or you are a Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa. This singular decision of ex-President Obasanjo has raised the tempo of Nigeria-Japan trade relationship.
The other factor, which has boosted Nigeria-Japan trade relations, is that Nigeria, out of the 55 countries in Africa, was the first to get the licence to establish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan, which it had done 10 years ago. South Africa just got theirs two years ago. Nigeria, therefore, has a comparative trade advantage than any other African country in Japan. In fact, other African countries are calling us at the chamber, wanting to join us, learn from us and take advantage of our experience.
What has been the major impact of the chamber in attracting trade to Nigeria?
Nigeria exports about 80 per cent of her commodities to countries in Western Europe, North America and the rest to Asia and Japan in particular. The bulk of her imports come from the same sources. It is therefore, noted that exports to Japan are still very low. This is one market, which many African countries including Nigeria have tried to penetrate with little success.
This analysis of the direction of trade reveals that, for the United Kingdom. Nigeria had a trade deficit and the EU. The same situation holds for Japan. The direction of trade seems to confirm Nigeria’s dependence. The power Japan granted to Nigeria as a Chamber of Commerce has flourished under previous Nigerian envoys to Japan. However, the current mission has not been doing enough to promote trade relationship between the two countries. In fact, the conduct of present embassy officials has impacted negatively on Nigeria-Japan trade volume. There have been investment situations where the chamber was to act as liaison between Japanese businessmen, even government which the Nigerian embassy here, from the Ambassador frustrated. Many Nigerian businessmen here are so passionate about our country so much so that they are ready to go the whole distance to facilitate direct foreign investment from Japan to Nigeria. However, the negative attitude of the embassy here has frustrated that.
While one may accept the argument that the high price of commodities and availability of alternative sources made import from Nigeria unattractive, the question of distance is unconvincing. After all, the distance did not affect Nigeria’s import from Japan but why the other way round? Japan embraces an export-oriented approach to its foreign economic relations. She maintains a greatly undervalued currency, restricted imports, stimulated home production and undertook vigorous export promotion drives. The success of this policy had enabled her to enjoy a balance of trade surplus, which had also helped to finance her enormous import bills mainly for raw materials. What Japan lacked but needed was possessed in large quantities in Nigeria and vice-versa. Since Nigeria became a significant exporter of oil in the 1970s, Japan had been a very reluctant customer. Nigeria, unlike Japan, possesses large arable land area as well as abundant supply of raw materials including the highly priced resource-petroleum. Nigeria has been losing so much investment flow from Japan to Nigeria because the opportunity of the Nigerian-Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry has not been fully exploited because of the attitude of government officials in Japan to this reality.
There is therefore, the need for the Federal Government to scrutinize or investigate the activities of Nigerian Embassy in Japan. Again, It is my considered opinion that Japanese auto industries like Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi look into building assembling plants in Nigeria. For a country like Nigeria, which craves for foreign direct investment, trade infusing from Japan is seriously needed.
How was your initial experience in Japan like?
My entire luggage were stolen, though I would not know now whether it was at the point of boarding or disembarkation and I was left with one shirt and one shoe with $2, 000 when I landed in Tokyo. However, I trudged on and with my B Sc Economics certificate from the University of Ibadan, which is respected worldwide I soon found my footing. I was involved in many businesses, which involved TV commercials with Sony, Tokyo, jewelry transactions.
• CBN, BOI, Zenith Bank, others participating
THIS year’s edition of Delta State Trade Fair takes off Monday at the Permanent Trade Fair Site, Osubi in Okpe Local Government Area with over 150 companies, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) participating.
AS at yesterday, finishing touches were being put to arrangements, just as participants had started streaming to the venue of the fair.
Delta State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Dr. Kingsley E. Emu, disclosed that the trade fair, which is Public-Private Partnership driven, is aimed at creating a platform for corporate bodies, small and medium enterprises to meet and showcase some novel products by Deltans.
Emu, who spoke to newsmen shortly after inspecting the level of preparations for the Trade Fair, said “The Trade fair will help to expose our people as major manufacturers are coming. The Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) is also coming.”
The Commissioner said this year’s fair is unique as it is completely being financed by the private sector and enjoys the support of the Delta State Government.
He disclosed that the one week trading event is aimed at promoting innovations by Deltans, particularly state-owned technology incubator centres in Warri.
He also asserted that the Trade Fair would help small and medium enterprises, SME in the state to attract investors and be exposed on how to access the Federal Government Loan on SMEs.
According to him, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will organise a two-day seminar on that issue.
“The Bank of Industry is also coming. The Warri Industrial Business Park and DESOPADEC are also coming.” Also participating at the fair are Guinness Nigeria Plc, Zenith International Bank Plc, DESOPADEC, the State Ministry of Poverty Alleviation, PIND Foundation, amongst others.
The trade fair, will be formally declared open on Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
The Trade Fair being put together by Delta State Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, the Delta State Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in collaboration with Crown Media Limited and Message Wise Limited, ends on Sunday.
• ‘Dangote’s proposed refinery to meet Nigeria’s demand by 2016’
THE Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has denied making plans to stop importation of petroleum products as reported by a section of the local and international media. (The Guardian not included).
This was contained in a statement issued in Abuja Sunday by NNPC’s Acting Group General Manager (Public Affairs), Ms Tumini Green.
The importation saga may however be halted when the proposed Dangote refinery takes off in 2016, according to recent industry projection.
The NNPC’s statement said petrol supply in the system was in line with the approved quota for the national demand to ensure “seamless supply especially in the last quarter of the year.”
“The NNPC as supplier of last resort has responsibility for maintaining a robust strategic reserve with additional reasonable buffer in line with the nation’s energy supply policy,’’ it said.
The statement said that the corporation’s petrol stock holding was in tandem with the approved PPPRA allocation to NNPC and assured that the stock level covered marine, inland and strategic stock.
It added that as at Thursday, the marine stock offshore stood at 19 cargoes translating to 25- day sufficiency as part of the national strategic reserve.
The statement said the aggregate strategic reserve had been misrepresented in some media as marine stock lying offshore.
Strategic reserve is an alternative product reserved to cushion the effect of unexpected scarcity of the petroleum products in the country.
The statement said that the NNPC had taken proactive measures to ensure stable supply of petroleum products across the country, especially as the end of year festive period approaches.
The latest industry report stated that importation of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) may soon be a thing of the past, as the proposed Dangote refinery is expected to meet 100 per cent of the country’s petroleum products’ need.
Earlier estimate stated that the new facility would cut importation need for petroleum products by 50 per cent. But the latest projection affirmed full self-sufficiency profile for the country by 2016, when the refinery would be commissioned.
The 400,000 barrels per day refinery, which is expected to be completed by 2016, according to the President of the Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, would employ over 25,000 people over a four-year construction period and create about 3,500 permanent jobs when completed.
Nigeria imports around 7.6 million barrels (900,000 tonnes) of fuel each month to meet local demand of the product.
Speaking as the Chairman at the third Quadrennial Delegate Conference of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) in Port-Harcourt at the weekend, Dangote expressed the need for the Federal Government to complete the ongoing reforms in the oil and gas sector to create opportunity for the export the country’s petroleum products.
He disclosed: “It may be of interest to this particular assembly to learn that the refinery and petrochemical complex as well as the fertilizer plants, shall be served by an off-site truck parking stop, built entirely to international standards with the linkage of all its amenities and communication to the complex.
“A communication and electronic monitoring system will be established on each land access route to the complexes to ensure there will be no chaotic traffic congestion near the complexes. The project will result in the largest refinery/petrochemical/fertilizer complex in Africa.
“At the conclusion of the project, Dangote Refinery will meet 100 percent of local demand for refined fuel products, while polypropylene, which is used in the manufacture of agro-sacks, poly bags and other industrial products, will catalyze the birth of new and allied industries. We are estimating that the project will engage up to 25,000 people over a four-year construction period and will create about 3,500 permanent jobs when completed.”
Dangote declared that only an enabling environment provided by all stakeholders in the industry offer the panacea for any meaningful investment in the local oil and gas industry for the growth and development of the nation’s economy.
The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), according to him, is a bold step that was initiated to correct perceived flaws in the industry as it is intended to address structural, policy and managerial issues in the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
He noted that the bill, which has been designed to enhance the value of the sector for the Nigerian people, also seeks to plug identified loopholes in policies and management agreements and by so doing improve transparency and efficiency of the sector.
He added: “When the PIB is fully signed into law, it is expected to address observed weaknesses and abuses by operators and stakeholders, eliminate corruption and restructure the industry in order to make it more responsive to social and economic needs of both Nigerians and the investors in the sector.
“It is now generally accepted that successful passage and signing of the PIB into law is vital to the growth and development of the Nigerian petroleum industry. Amongst other things, it will help address gas flaring, which is a perennial and highly contentious issue in the industry, and by improving the empowerment and buy-in of host communities, it will ultimately curtail youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region.”