Global Trade Must Evolve to Remain Relevant, Says WTO Boss

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Participating in a series of ministerial discussions during the just concluded World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Roberto Azevêdo reviewed the challenges and opportunities facing global trade today, and stressed that the trading system must evolve if it is to remain relevant.

The meetings included the informal ministerial gathering on WTO issues hosted by the Swiss government.

The discussion largely focused on possible reforms to the trading system, with a range of different perspectives being aired.

The need to address the impasse in appointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body was a common theme, along with the need to make progress in a number of other areas.

Speaking at the forum, the WTO boss said trade was top the of the agenda in Davos.

This, according to him, was a sign of the strong and very widely-shared commitment to the global trading system.

“This is particularly vital now, as we face a number of significant challenges. The current trade tensions pose a threat to the entire international community. The risks are real and have real economic effects. But the opportunities are real too.

“It is in everyone’s interests that we improve prospects for global trade. It is vital for jobs, growth and development around the world. This is what the WTO is all about – so we are taking action.

“First, by working urgently to ease tensions. We’re facilitating conversations between members, complementing bilateral efforts. And we’re helping members to resolve their disputes.

“Second, we are working to modernise and strengthen the global trading architecture to ensure that it can support a changing global economy. These are the key elements that we have been discussing here this week.

“The word we keep hearing is ‘reform’. Members are exploring possible reforms that would help to diffuse the current tensions, fix the impasse in appointments to the Appellate Body, improve monitoring and transparency in the system, and speed up our negotiating processes both on the longstanding issues and on other initiatives that been launched more recently.”

“We must do more to make the WTO work faster, and be more flexible and responsive to members’ needs – building on the progress of recent years. The G20 leaders’ declaration made this clear. It called for “necessary reforms” to the WTO so that it can keep playing its essential role in the global economy. All this has created a political window to modernise the WTO. We must seize that opportunity.

“We are working hard on all of this. 2019 will be a crucial year for global trade and for the WTO. We have an opportunity to tackle the systemic challenges before us and strengthen the WTO for generations to come. Ultimately our success will depend on whether members are ready for the system to evolve,” he explained.

‘Empowerment of Girls in Software Programing, Key to Nation Devt’

Emma Okonji

The Co-founders of Girl Code Academy, Peter Ogedengbe and Adeola Haruna, have stressed the need for the empowerment of girls with technology skills that will enhance national development.

According them, the percentage of female participation in technology related courses and programmes remains low in Nigeria, while stressing the need for more involvement of women in technology skills acquisition.

“As a Tech Lead in one of the leading technology companies in the country, I decided to co-found the Girl Code Academy with Adeola Haruna, a female expert in software programming.

The Girl Code Academy is a platform that offers technology skills in software programming and coding for young female university graduates, irrespective of their disciplines.

“At Girl Code Academy, we carry out eight weeks intensive training programme annually. We started in 2017, and since then we have trained over 200 young girls that have graduated from university. This year, we plan to have two bathes of training programme. In the first batch, we are training 60 out of which 50 will be trained as front-end web developers, and the remaining 10 on advanced web programming, while the second batch will be coming up in December this year,” Ogedengbe said.

Speaking on the selection process for the training programme, Ogedengbe said: “Every year we advertise and we receive several applications and we invite them for interview and shortlist to a sizable number that we can comfortably train. This year we had over 700 applications, and we shortlisted 60 in the first batch and another 50 in the second batch. The training is completely free of charge and we expect them to take full advantage of the training programme.”

According to him, the academy has trained web developers in their hundreds who are gainfully employed after the training, while some became employers of labour.

Haruna, who is also the Programme Director at Girl Code Academy, said the academy, through its annual training programme, would train more female programmers to compete with the men that have dominated the technology industry.

President, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) Dr. Yele Okeremi, commended the efforts of the academy in keying into the vision of smart nations that are using technology to drive wealth. “Women empowerment is key because empowering the women in ICT skills is as good as empowering the entire nation because of the unique position and role of women in nation building,” Okeremi said.

Andela Secures $100m Funding to Support Local Talents

Emma Okonji

Andela has announced the completion of a $100 million Series D funding.

The capital raising was led by Generation Investment Management with participation from existing investors, including Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, GV, Spark Capital, and CRE Venture Capital.

The financing brings Andela’s total venture funding to $180 million.

Co-founder and CEO of Andela, Jeremy Johnson, who made the announcement, said the firm was founded in 2014 to connect Africa’s engineering talent with the demand for software developers worldwide.

“In four years, Andela has assessed more than one hundred thousand applicants, hired one thousand software developers, and integrated them into hundreds of companies, such as Safaricom, Percolate, and InVision.

“With the Series D funding, Andela will accelerate the development of its technology platform to identify, develop and match talent at scale. By doing so, Andela will provide its customers with the data they need to understand developer performance and better manage distributed teams.

“The company will also expand its presence across Africa to meet the global demand for high-quality engineering talent,” Johnson said.

According to him, “It’s increasingly clear that the future of work will be distributed, in part due to the severe shortage of engineering talent.

“Given our access to incredible talent across Africa, as well as what we’ve learned from scaling hundreds of engineering teams around the world, Andela is able to provide the talent and the technology to power high-performing teams and help companies adopt the distributed model faster.”

Country Director at Andela, Omowale David-Ashiru, said: “Andela has been a critical player in Nigeria’s technology revolution. Due to our unwavering commitment to our mission throughout the last four years, Andela has grown into a thriving platform for hundreds of technologists in Nigeria.

“With this investment, Andela will accelerate the development of Africa’s best tech talent in Nigeria and beyond.”

Co-head of Growth Equity at Generation Investment Management, Lilly Wollman, said: “Generation’s investment in Andela resulted from our deep research into the future of work.

“We believe Andela is a transformational model to develop software engineers and deploy them at scale into the future enterprise.

“The global demand for software engineers far exceeds supply, and that gap is projected to widen. Andela’s leading technology enables firms to effectively build and manage distributed engineering teams. We are great admirers of the outstanding team, mission and culture Andela has built across two continents and five countries.”

Nestoil Develops Evacuation System to Tackle Oil Theft

Peter Uzoho

Nestoil Limited has developed an alternative evacuation system to reduce stealing of Nigeria’s crude oil to the barest minimum.

Through the alternative evacuation system, the regular downtime

caused by technical issues to pipelines carrying crude oil, and

vandalism done on pipelines across specific routes recorded

through the use of flow lines or the Trans-Forcados Pipeline (TFP) would be negated through  evacuating the oil by batches.

The Chief Technical Officer, Neconde Energy limited, a subsidiary of

Nestoil, Ifeanyi Ezuka, who disclosed this in Lagos during an

interview with journalists, said the innovation was the latest

testament to Nestoil’s growing reputation as an innovative company

that constantly seeks proprietary ways of working in difficult

terrains.

Ezuka, also explained that the innovation was also borne out of

necessity due to the downtime recorded on Forcados terminal when

moving their products there.

He, however, stressed that the initiative would be of immense benefit

to most oil companies, saying with alternative evacuation system,

“they now have control over the value chain, in that they can account

for all the barrels produced unlike when it’s through the pipelines

that they have no control of the process and lose revenue but now the

days of avoidable revenue losses through the pipelines are over.”

Ezuka said: “Historically, in the last 45 years, oil producing

companies have used the 200 kilometres long TFP in transporting crude oil to the Forcados Oil Terminal (FOT). However, frequent shutdowns due to

vandalism and oil theft, as well as technical challenges, means a

number of producers are unable to meet export targets.

“It is either some of the crude oil gets stolen in the course of its

journey through the flow lines or the TFP is completely shut down due

to technical challenges. The TFP has an average downtime of 25 percent

and as of March 2016, the TFP had a downtime of 49 percent which

ultimately results in revenue losses.

“The NPDC/Neconde JV like many others gets impacted by these

challenges in the course of operating its OML 42 fields and the big

challenge was how to develop a system that can effectively separate

produced crude oil from water and gas, then deliver dry crude (export

grade) to the point of sale without needing to use the TFP and the

FOT.”

However, explaining the system’s operation proper, Ezuka said in the

modified system and facilities designed and built by the Nestoil Group, the liquid that comes out from the

wellhead has four constituents – oil, water, gas and sediments known

as wet crude.

“The wet crude needs to be processed to get export grade crude oil and

in the first step, the processing wet crude oil is fed into a 3-phase

separator where sediment, oil, water, and gas are separated with the

crude further fed into an electrostatic heater treater where it is

further treated to remove gas and water to meet export requirements

(dry crude).

“The ready-for-export dry crude is then pumped to the loading platform

where it is stored in a dump batch/Vessel. Shuttle vessels come to

load the crude and transport to the FSO Ugo Ocha offshore, where

buyer’s vessels load the crude.”

Accion MFB Supports Physically Challenged Customers

Ugo Aliogo

Accion Microfinance Bank has supported three physically challenged customers of the bank with two power generating sets as well as financial support.

The move was part of the bank’s corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Speaking at the bank’s annual customer forum in Lagos, the Managing Director, Accion Microfinance Bank, Taiwo Joda, said the financial institution’s social impact is focused on giving back to the society where they operate, adding that the bank is focused on empowering people.

Our social impact is linked to the fact that we need to be able to give back to the society that we operate. Micro finance banking is actually focused on empowering the people and so you can not totally dissociate yourself from the poor and we are trying to empower the poor. You also know there cannot be effective financial inclusion without social inclusion. If you do not give back to the society and you do not drive social sustainability you cannot be talking about financial sustainability,” he noted.

He also said much of the things they have done include reaching out to schools.

Joda, added that Accion has partnered with a lot of schools. According to him, in September 2018, the bank gave out over 5,000 school bags and exercise books, notebooks to different schools across the country.

“It so exciting to children who have never seen a school bag before and we are so excited about that idea.”

The Accion MD expressed confidence in 2019, saying the bank would take the initiative a step further because of its understanding that there are lots of abilities in disability.

According to him: “Today we are celebrating three of our customers that are living with disabilities, but who are also economically active doing business and you can see the joy in them. They are not relying in family and friends to be able to feed themselves.

“We felt the least we could do is to help their business grow and that is why for two of them- one is into laundry business, and the second is into sales of drinks, we gave them generators. While for the individual with visual impairment, we felt the way we can impact him is to pay the children school fees.

“When we interviewed them, we realised that the whole school fee has not been paid and the school session has to break, so what we did was to pay the back log of the outstanding school fees. We also paid for the new session and as time progresses; we will review what we can do to further increase the lives of the people.”

Speaking on the annual customer’s forum, Joda said the event was an opportunity for customers to come together to give the bank feedback on areas of our services to them.