Thursday, June 29, 2006

Invest in Micro Finance and Community Banking in Nigeria

The year 2005 was designated the year of micro finance/credit by the United Nations. With less than 40% of Nigerians having access to formal banking services, it is apparent that Nigeria is underserved in the banking and financial sector.

Despite the 25 billion Naira capital requirement needed to set up commercial banks, there is room for private participation in the banking sector via Community Banking or Micro Finance Banks(MFB).

The Central Bank of Ngeria, the apex banking agency is the country is pushing for the establishment of private sector-driven MFBs and has disclosed the rationale and requirements in this policy paper (Dec. 2005, PDF): Microfinance Policy, Regulatory and Supervisory Framework in Nigeria.

With as little as a 20-million-Naira-capital-base per branch, interested investors can set up MFB in any local government area in Nigeria. One billion Naira permits the MFB to have branches statewide. I must clarify that the operations of a MFB is not limited to micro financing- a license permits the bank engage in all aspects of banking and provision of financial services with the exception of dealing in foreign exchange or currency transactions.

There is about 60% economically productive Nigerians ready to be served; this offer represents a fantastic opportunity for diasporic Nigerians to invest in the country.

Related articles:



MIT's OpenCourseWare: A Web-based Collection of Free Educational Resources

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an American top notch research university has an extensive collection of free and open educational resources- MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW).

MIT OCS is large-scale, web-based electronic publishing initiative that provides "free, searchable, access to MIT's course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world". The initiative started in 2001, the course material can be used free of charge, copied and distributed anywhere in the world under a Creative Commons license (non commercial and not-for profit uses).

Unfortunately, these resources haven't been of significant benefit to many African colleges. According to MIT OpenCourseWare's Farnaz Haghseta states, "the OCW materials are largely underutilised in many African regions where Internet connectivity is limited. To overcome this limitation, MIT OCW is looking to collaborate with educational institutions that are interested in hosting a mirror site, or a local copy of the MIT OCW materials."

Haghseta says "the goal of the programme is to have 100 mirror sites installed at African educational institutions by the end of 2006." Interested institutions should contact Haghseta at



TrustAfrica: Ford Foundation's Independent Philanthrophic Foundation for Africa

The Ford Foundation, one of the top five charity organizations in the world has launched an independent philanthropic foundation for Africa, called TrustAfrica.

Launched with a $30 million commitment from the Ford Foundation, TrustAfrica "will convene innovative African leaders from varied disciplines to identify new approaches to the violence, discrimination and economic isolation that impact many African nations".

TrustAfrica will fund regional initiatives, rather than country-specific programs. The foundation states that most of the challenges facing Africa today transcend border...stating TrustAfrica will develop and fund regional initiatives that have relevance across the continent.



Monday, June 12, 2006

CNN's 'How to Rob a Bank'- a Nigerian Image Killer

The CNN aired program on identity fraud in May: "How to rob a bank" generated a lot of hot and bad blood amongst diasporic Nigerians, particularly those of the Houston-Texas stock. The Nigerian news web portal and forum- the Nigeria Village Square and a Nigerian business news website- Business Day Online; have posted write-ups disparaging the CNN for putting Nigerians in bad light.

I haven't watched the documentary yet, but I read the transcript (link below) to understand what the beef was all about. If the contents of the transcript were indeed accurate, I have failed to find anything offensive or "stereotyping" in it, and would not understand why anyone should feel offended.

While I understand the nationalistic zeal and fervor of those that have protested the CNN program, I'm sorry to state that their actions are baseless and slanted in so many ways.

The program did not focus solely on Nigerian fraudsters; other Americans tricksters were also showcased. The "40 percent of Nigerians in Houston were fraudulent" statement that cause much of the brouhaha- was made by a Nigerian fraudster serving time for his crimes. Since Houston-Texas is home to the largest concentration of Nigerians in the U.S; anecdotal evidence (here in the U.S and in Nigeria) suggests the "40%-stat" is not beyond belief. Some even drew parallels between the corporate fraud e.g. Enron, identity theft, credit card and mail fraud. Would Enron and its executives be where they are today if the company operated in Nigeria?

The issue presented by CNN aside from being- somewhat a consequence of bad governance- is also fallout of Nigeria being a complexly heterogenous entity. The rot and worm in several bad apples are now putting other good apples at risk, and it is simply silly, condescending and unpatriotic to choose the path of rhetoric over commonsense.

Commonsense demands throwing away the bad apples, are we ready to do just that- identifying the bad and rotten ones in our midst and handing them over? Until we Nigerians are ready to do what is morally right, we should learn to keep our mouths shut and live quietly with our shame, and it simply doesn't matter anymore that Nigeria has produced a Noble laureate, top-notch scientists and world-class technocrats- the nation can be tagged simply but erroneously as one full of rogues and thieving "Yahoo-Yahoo" boys.

Related links:
How to rob a nation, CNN transcript:

CNN Attacks On Nigerians In Houston & Why Nigeria's Image Matters, Nigeria Village Square:

Diaspora Nigerians hit back at CNN on bad image, BusinessDay Online :



International Finance Corporation offers Credit Line to Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs

One of the 25 Nigerian mega banks- Access Bank ( in collaboration with the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC)- will start extending lines of credit to Nigerian women entrepreneur. The bank signed a $15 million loan with the IFC last week.

Access Bank Plc will be one of the first banks in Africa to dedicate lines of credit to finance women-owned businesses and this is the first major loan under IFC's Gender Entrepreneurship Markets (GEM) program, which is designed to leverage the potential of women in emerging markets, according to IFC press release.

This collaboration is being driven by the World Banks research that shows African women are more entrepreneurial and more likely than men to augment household income through small to mid sized businesses. While this may be a hard knock on the head for African men- it is the truth.

The last time I checked, the Nigerian the Small and Medium Enterprises Equity Investment Scheme (SMEEIS)- a public-private organ meant to provide funds to small and mid sized businesses in the country- had only disbursed 30% of its funds since its inception in 1999.

The problem with small business may not necessarily be that of capital, but access. Applicants to the SMEEIS have often complained of difficulties in navigating the bureaucratic bottlenecks and meeting the eligibility requirements- conditions that have been put in place in order to minimize default rate. These in combination with poor accounting skills and inadequate and improper documentation have rendered the fund inaccessible to many.

How the IFC/Access Bank-2-billion-Naira fund will address and ease access to credit is not clearly discernable (to me) at this time. Clearly, Nigerian small businesses will benefit from re-education and the acquisition of basic and relevant business skills, and I won't be surprised if these are eligibility criteria to access the IFC fund. Building a strong collaborating with non-profit/non-governmental organizations is one of the few evidence-based interventions that may help bridge this void.



Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Direct Expatriate Nationals Investment (DENI)

Direct Expatriate Nationals Investment: An excellent opportunity for Africans in the Diaspora to reclaim and consolidate their heritage by investing in their respective national economies.

Check out the details from the blog: DeniAfrica, a collaboration of Emeka Okafor (Timbuktu Chronicles & Africa Unchained) and others. Many see an half-empty cup, but this man's cup is always half-full! I will surely re-visit the topic later.



Nigerian Varsity Students Register Courses Online

It gladdens my heart to read that the University of Lagos, one of the 'top notch' varsities in Nigeria has adopted an internet-based registration system for its students. UnilagFaces reports that the online registration is for year one and two students. Expectedly, there are disapproval from some of the students; but for these students to see the system as a waste of time is totally unexpected.

Considering that many Nigerian students regularly use email and are conversant with online messaging system, I would have guessed that the newly introduced system would be readily adopted by the students. I hope it's a safe assumption that the 'dissenters' are in the minority.

The educational system in Nigeria is light-years away from the norm- both in standard and amenities. The introduction of simple technology such as Internet-based registration system goes a long way in bringing the college closer to world standard. Last year, a Nigerian wireless telephone provider donated a digital library to the same university.



Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Suffering (and Smiling) Under Nigerian Democracy

Fela Kuti (late) was the one that coined and used the phrase "shuffering and shmiling" in his 1977 song higlighting the polarizing influence of foreign religions on Nigerians. I have chosen to use the title somewhat differently in this post...

Residents cross a flooded street during rainfall in Lagos, Nigeria May 16, 2006. REUTERS/Akintunde Alinkeye. Picture via Yahoo!

There're many things not right about this image, particularly in a society that is now supposedly under democratic rule, and not under a military dictatorship as was the case pre-1999.

Another round of elections is around the corner. Come Aril 2007, Nigerians will go to the polling booths to decide who govern and man their affairs for another four years. Is the electorate wiser and savvier than they were in 2003?

  • Do the multitudes that endure unnecessary hardship understand how democracy works?

  • Does the Nigerian electorate appreciate the power bestowed on them by democracy?

  • Do Nigerians realize that to a great extent, they are in fact responsibile for several of the ills and lapses in the system?

  • Do Nigerians realize that Election Day is judgment day for the politicians?

  • Will Nigerians rather continue to 'suffer and smile' than diligently vote with all moral consciousness?

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