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SBC’s Scale-Up Bootcamp: Equipping SMEs For Economic Growth 

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Small and medium-scale enterprises are projected to contribute 49.5% to Nigeria’s GDP in 2024, which is an indication that Nigerian SMEs are in for another impactful year. In 2023, the sector performed incredibly well, as it contributed 45% to the Gross Domestic Product of the country. That SMEs are the major drivers of economic growth cannot be overstated. However, in developing economies like Nigeria, there remain several clogs in the wheel of growth for players in this sector.While they battle the perennial challenges, experts have observed that most small-sized business owners in the country also lack strategic awareness and acumen to grow their enterprise. To help bridge this knowledge gap, and further unlock the potential of Nigerian SMEs, Seven-Up Bottling Company, in partnership with Zenith Bank and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), recently organised a two-day Scale-Up Bootcamp for budding business owners. The bootcamp, themed “Dream big, Scale Bigger”, was aimed at providing SMEs with practical strategies for scaling.After years with multinational companies growing brands across Asia, the Managing Director Seven-Up Bottling Company, Ziad Maalouf, came to Nigeria, and has spent the last 17 years with the company. He was one of the facilitators at the bootcamp held in Lagos, during which 40 CEOs of small-sized businesses, across different industries, had the rare opportunity of learning from his expertise.SEMs currently employ 90% of the country’s labour force, and according to Maalouf, have immense potential for more. “Scale-Up Bootcamp 1.0 is aimed at giving back to the economy in a way that has an impact. If we empower all the SMEs present here to scale up and grow to become billion-dollar enterprises, within ten years, they will create more employment opportunities for millions of Nigerians,” he said.In his corporate growth strategy session, he outlined ten scaling tips for SMEs: “Companies that must grow must pay attention to these 10 things: the big idea, passion, cash, value, teamwork, strong business acumen, purpose, network, artificial intelligence and business transformation advice,” he said.Drawing from his decades of experience, Maalouf said not all business ideas will scale up. According to him, ideas with the potential for scaling are those with a blend of experience, passion, and value that meets global needs. “Matching these three gives you a sweet spot,” he said. “If your business doesn’t tick the three boxes, I’m afraid, you need a rethink. You might just be in the wrong business.”He also warned businesses priming for growth of pitfalls to avoid and traits to imbibe. “As entrepreneurs, it is normal to want to get involved in everything, but it’s a pitfall you must avoid. Spend more time on ideas to grow the business rather than stalling the growth by trying to micromanage. Learn to delegate tasks. When recruiting, scout for talents and skills you lack, don’t employ people like you.“Do your best to network. Your business won’t scale up until you elevate your relationships. Understand the difference between cash flow and profit. Never spend from your cash flow. It is the oxygen of your business. Lose it and you are gone. Also, alway be on the lookout for technology that improves your business. This is crucial to scaling in today’s market,” he said.In his finance strategy session, GDM Head of Retail Banking at Zenith Bank, Lanre Oladimeji, highlighted the different offerings of the bank, which are suitable for SME scaling. He listed tips on how businesses can boost their chances of accessing loans from financial institutions. According to him, business owners need to be conversant with the five Cs of credit and know that character is key to accessing loans. He said “SMEs must have a business continuity and succession plan and know the type of funding available to businesses in their sector.” He further explained that to access loans, “an applicant needs to help the banker understand the business and explore the options they provide to support the business. Make every effort to service existing loan obligations. If loans go bad, stick with your bank and work out a remediation plan. In this digital era, there is no running away when a loan goes bad,” he said.Speaking at the bootcamp, the National Director, UNIDO, Oluyomi Banjo, stressed that the difference between developed and developing economies is innovation. Banjo emphasised that UNIDO is committed to advancing Sustainable Development Goal Number 9, with Nigerian startups, through the GCPI programme. “The Global Cleantech Innovation Programme is a Global Environment Facility and UNIDO programme that supports entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to transform their cleantech start-ups and SMEs into investment-ready, market-ready, and scalable ventures. Nigeria is one of the selected nations for driving this programme in Africa, ” Banjo siad.He disclosed that funding and global exposure opportunities are available on the UNIDO platform, and called on participants, who own waste recycling businesses, to take advantage of the GCIP, to access business support for scale-up.Advising entrepreneurs in her people management session, Founder, Thrive HR Nigeria, Adeshola Aliogo, said entrepreneurs should set their value standards, then find workers with the same level of enthusiasm and who understand how everything they do ties to the growth of the business. “The cost of not hiring right is more,” she stressed. Aliogo added that entrepreneurs should set their business volume, recruit employees with shared values and endeavour that employees find MAGIC – Meaning, Autonomy, Growth, Impact, and Connection in the business.Former Chief Executive Officer, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Agency, Babatunde Irukera, charged entrepreneurs on strict adherence to industry regulations if they want to scale their businesses. Irukera noted that while regulation is an existential threat to businesses worldwide, it also ensures that innovation is rewarded. “Several businesses have been killed by regulatory issues globally. This is why it is important to understand the regulatory scope within your business space. Without regulation, SMEs won’t have a level playing field to survive and scale. Regulation secures everyone. Your businesses won’t grow if there is no regulator to check competition. It is important to keep everyone accountable to certain standards,” he said.The bootcamp was a platform for business owners in attendance to learn, network and leverage global expansion opportunities and funding. With a projected contribution of 45.9% to the GDP in 2024, empowerment workshops like this for SMEs, could go a long way in actualising national economic targets and overall growth of the Nigerian economy.

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Ecobank Partners Nigeria Chess Federation: To Host 2024 National Schools’ Team Chess Competition

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Lagos, April 15, 2024 – Ecobank Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of the Ecobank Group, has entered a strategic partnership with Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF) to host the 2024 National Schools’ Team Chess Competition. The competition is scheduled to hold between 24th – 28th May 2024 at the Ecobank Pan African Centre (EPAC) in Victoria Lagos. It is open to students from primary, Secondary and Tertiary education level with prizes of over N10 million to be won. Representatives of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth Development, parents, teachers, embassies and several others are expected at the event. Registration and participation are free, and School’s team can register by sending an email to: nationalschoolsteamchess@gmail.com Managing Director/Regional Executive, Ecobank Nigeria, Bolaji Lawal, said the decision of the bank to sponsor the Chess competition was to further showcase Ecobank’s commitment to supporting intellectual and sports development in Nigeria, being part of Ecobank’s strategic human capital development drive.“Children and youth empowerment is part of our shared objective as the pan-African Bank. It aligns with our overall long-term vision of building a world class Pan African bank that contributes to the economic and financial integration of the continent. We are also using the opportunity of this competition to introduce and empower them with convenient, affordable, and accessible digital financial services they can access anytime and anywhere they are. Arrangements are in place to make the competition exciting and fulfilling for both the children and undergraduate students”. He stated.Vice President, Nigeria Chess Federation, Prince Adeyinka Adewole said Chess, the game of Kings and Queens, has proven to be more than just a pastime, stating that it is an educational tool that enhances critical thinking, concentration, and problem-solving skills. While commending Ecobank for being a good ‘corporate citizen’ for sponsoring the competition, he noted that the competition will promote and showcase the skill and talent of chess players from Nigerian schools, while promoting teamwork, fostering a spirit of sportsmanship among participants, and providing networking opportunities to players.He enjoined all the institutions to take advantage of this opportunity to participate in the prestigious event, adding that participation will undoubtedly contribute to the championship’s success and provide an enriching experience for the participating students.Ecobank has embarked on several initiatives to develop youths in the country. The bank through a collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), is currently providing training and support services on Agribusiness which includes aquaculture, horticulture, poultry, and value addition to 16,000 youths in Nigeria. Also, Ecobank recently partnered with Learntor to provide capacity building for youths through Agile, Scrum, Data Analytics, Business Analysis, Cyber Security, and Scrum Master Certifications. The bank has also refurbished and donated learning equipment, provided digital training for students and promoted financial literacy in several schools across the country.

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LAWMA Welcomes April Interns  

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LAWMA Academy, the educational arm of the Lagos Waste Management Authority, has welcomed a fresh set of candidates, for its one-month internship for the month of April.The interns were all recent graduates of various universities in the country, across different academic disciplines.Addressing the interns, the Managing Director/CEO of LAWMA, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin, congratulated them for making the internship programme, as it would assist them, to learn as much as possible about waste management and inherent benefits.He noted that waste was really not waste but resource, urging them to embrace the business opportunities offered by the circular economy value chain, where so-called waste becomes wealth and blessing, to individuals, society and the environment.According to him, “This internship will go a long way in exposing you to the positive and rewarding side of waste management. I am sure you are aware that nothing is a waste until you waste them. What used to be waste is now a resource that can be harvested to make money and improve lives. Indeed, it’s a long value-chain you can tap into, depending on your area of interest. It is a promising and highly rewarding venture.”Speaking further, the LAWMA boss urged them to pay good attention to the practical aspects of their training and arm themselves with determination, to become change agents and champions of environmental sustainability.Speaking in the same vein, the Executive Director of LAWMA, Mr. Kunle Adebiyi, urged the interns to maximize the knowledge gained, to leverage their areas of interest along the value-chain, for personal enterprise and good reward.He said, “This is a good opportunity for you to acquire knowledge and make money from modern waste management initiatives. What is important for you here, is to pay attention to the various things you will be taught, so that you can decide where to key in, for future enterprise and handsome financial rewards”.Similarly, LAWMA Academy had last month ran a one-month internship programme for some graduate and post-graduate candidates, representing the first batch of interns for this year. The candidates who enjoyed in-depth training in modern waste management from various departments of the agency, received completion certificates, after presenting their group final project, an illustrative diagram on circular economy, relating to manufacturing industries, to the LAWMA boss.LAWMA Academy, has since the beginning of this year, taken environmental advocacy to more than 5,000 pupils of public schools across the state, in Eti-Osa, Ikeja, Mushin, Ijora –Olopa, Agege, Victoria Island, and other areas.The pupils were enlightened on LAWMA’s diverse operations, effects of indiscriminate waste dumping, making money from recyclables, usage of trash bags and cans, shunning cart pushers and the need to patronise assigned PSP operators.The founding objective was to expand the frontiers of knowledge on waste management, by teaching it as much as possible, to the younger generation for new cultural orientation and perception of waste management, for environmental sustainability. It is the basis for stretching the dragnets to bring in as many young people as possible into the fold, to form the vanguard of environment ambassadors, for a new culture and orientation, for a people-friendly environment.LAWMA Academy Internship, is a monthly programme of environmental and waste management education, for willing candidates.

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Cryptotimes Africa and 4 Other Crypto-Focused Publications shaping the narrative of cryptocurrency in Africa

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It’s no doubt that Africa has emerged as a hotbed for cryptocurrencyadoption and innovation. With a growing interest in digital assets andblockchain technology, several publications have sprung up to cater tothe information needs of crypto enthusiasts across the continent.Among these, Cryptotimes Africa stands out as a leading source of newsand insights on the African crypto scene. Let’s take a closer look atCryptotimes Africa and five other noteworthy publications that areshaping the narrative of cryptocurrency in Africa.1. Cryptotimes AfricaAs the name suggests, Cryptotimes Africa is dedicated to covering allthings crypto-related on the African continent. From news updates andmarket analysis to interviews with industry experts, this publicationoffers a comprehensive view of the rapidly evolving crypto landscapein Africa. With a focus on promoting blockchain adoption and financialinclusion, Cryptotimes Africa serves as a valuable resource for bothnewcomers and seasoned veterans in the crypto space.2. Bitcoinke.ioBitcoin Africa is another prominent publication that provides in-depthcoverage of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in Africa. With a teamof experienced writers and analysts, Bitcoin Africa deliversinsightful articles, guides, and reviews to help readers navigate thecomplexities of the crypto market. Whether you’re interested intrading strategies, regulatory developments, or technologicalinnovations, Bitcoin Africa has you covered.3. TechnextTechnext is a broad tech publication with a strong focus on Africanstartups, innovation, and trends, coverage includes articles onblockchain technology, cryptocurrencies beyond Bitcoin, and theirapplications in Africa.4. Tech CabalTech Cabal focuses on providing in-depth analysis and reporting on theAfrican tech ecosystem, including funding rounds, investment trends,and interviews with key players. While its primary coverage is notsolely focused on cryptocurrencies, Tech Cabal features insightfularticles on blockchain technology, cryptocurrency adoption in Africa,and the regulatory landscape. Targeting investors, entrepreneurs, andprofessionals working in the African tech sector, Tech Cabalcontributes valuable insights to the broader conversation on cryptoinnovation in Africa.5. NairametricsNairametrics is a financial and business news platform with a focus onthe Nigerian economy and markets. While covering a wide range offinancial topics, Nairametrics includes articles on cryptocurrenciesas an investment asset class, analysis of their impact on the Nigerianfinancial sector, and regulatory updates. Targeting investors,business people, and those interested in the financial sector inNigeria, Nairametrics provides valuable insights into the evolvinglandscape of cryptocurrencies in Africa’s largest economy.In conclusion, Cryptotimes Africa and the aforementioned publicationsare playing a crucial role in shaping the narrative of cryptocurrencyin Africa. By providing reliable news, analysis, and educationalresources, these platforms are empowering individuals and businessesto participate in the digital economy and seize the opportunitiesoffered by blockchain technology. As the crypto revolution continuesto unfold, these publications will undoubtedly remain essential guidesfor enthusiasts and professionals alike.

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