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Economy

Brent Hits $76 as Omicron Fears Subside Amid Rising Cases, Restrictions

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brent crude oil

By Adedapo Adesanya

Brent crude traded at $76.85 per barrel on Thursday after rising by $1.56 or 2.1 per cent on signs that the worst effects of the Omicron variant might be more containable than previously feared, even as countries imposed travel restrictions on surging infection levels.

Also, the United States West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude appreciated by $1.03 or 1.4 per cent during the session to settle at $73.79 per barrel.

The oil market has wavered in recent days over how seriously to take the threat of another slump in fuel demand largely influenced by the latest discovered COVID-19 mutation.

The Omicron variant is more transmissible than previous coronavirus variants, but early data suggests it causes a milder level of illness.

Analysts believe that the demand destruction everybody thought was going to happen might not occur and this has increased investors’ risks.

However, some governments are imposing tighter travel restrictions to slow the spread of the variant, which could hit demand even if Omicron causes a lower level of hospitalization, particularly among the vaccinated.

Early evidence out of the United Kingdom and South Africa suggests Omicron doesn’t make as many people as seriously sick as Delta but based on how fast it has been spreading, health officials are still warning about overwhelmed hospitals and a breakdown of public services.

The Chinese city of Xian ordered its 13 million residents to stay home, while Scotland imposed gathering limits from December 26 for up to three weeks, and two Australian states reimposed mask mandates.

In other European countries – Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands partial or full lockdowns or other social distancing measures have been reimposed in recent days.

Greece, Italy and Spain have reintroduced outdoor mask mandates. In Austria, people without proof of vaccination or covid-19 recovery can leave home only for essential reasons.

Europeans are being urged in some places required to keep holiday gatherings small to reduce spreading the virus.

The United States authorized separate antiviral COVID-19 pills manufactured by both Pfizer and Merck, and officials from the US Food and Drug Administration said the medications are both effective against the Omicron variant. read more

AstraZeneca said a three-dose course of its COVID-19 vaccine was effective against Omicron, citing data from an Oxford University lab study.

Meanwhile, four people were injured at a fire at Exxon Mobil’s Baytown refinery, one of the largest in the US. The fire is out, and the refinery is adjusting production at the facility, which has the ability to process up to 560,000 barrels per day, with minimal effect on prices.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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Economy

US, NACC Charge Local Businesses to Capitalize on Trade Initiatives

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Nigerian Businesses1

By Adedapo Adesanya

The United States Consulate and the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC) have urged local businesses to take advantage of the US mission’s trade initiatives for a greener economy.

This call was made during the NACC May Breakfast Meeting with themed US Mission’s Current Commercial-Focused Activities in Nigeria held in Lagos.

Mr David Russell, Head of Commercial Section, Lagos U.S. Consulate, said that the US mission has several initiatives aimed at engaging and providing Nigerian businesses and members of NACC with leverage and opportunities in the US market.

According to him, some of the initiatives include Prosper Africa, African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, Networking with USA (NUSA) and initiatives targeted at women-led businesses.

Mr Russell said the Biden administration was focused on two-way trade between Africa and the US, adding that he was committed to revitalising partnerships based on dialogue, respect and mutually shared values.

“This means working together with African partners to advance our shared vision of a better and greener future and creating jobs in our economy through two-way trade and investment,” he said.

Speaking on the benefits of Prosper Africa, one of the initiatives, Mr Russell said it was one of the most powerful initiatives that Nigerian businesses could access to reach the US market.

“Prosper Africa is an inter-agency initiative within the US Embassy that looks to build and develop the economies within Africa.

“Through Prosper Africa and other broader economic initiatives, the U.S. government is dedicated to increasing two-way trade and mobilising investment inside Africa’s fast-growing markets.

“We are delivering on the Biden administration’s agenda of strengthening the availability of capital, infrastructure and global partnerships,” he said.

Mr Russell added that since relaunching the initiative, the US government had supported over 800 deals and investment deals worth over $50 billion for both economies.

“We are focused on driving transformative investment in key sectors that will bring us closer to the greener, healthier future.

“The sectors include digital economy, climate-smart infrastructure, financial services and healthcare,” Mr Russell noted.

He said that the mission would also promote investment and capacity building among women-led businesses, especially since they were adversely affected by the COVID -19 pandemic.

Mr Russell added that the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub provided guidance, capacity-building resources, mentorships and opportunities for businesses seeking to enjoy the benefits of AGOA.

He advised Nigerian business owners and members of the NACC across various commercial sectors to engage with the commercial department of the U.S. trade mission by visiting its International Trade Administration (ITA) website (www.trade.gov)

Mr Russell added that investment and support would go beyond trade to include the entertainment sector, especially since the Afrobeats music genre and Nollywood were becoming globally recognized.

On her part, Mrs Adebola-Williams, the president of NACC, reiterated the chamber’s commitment to boosting the volume of Nigeria-US trade.

She added that the chamber would continue to engage the U.S. mission in Nigeria on all trade and development activities for the benefit of members.

“We, therefore, provide regular opportunities for our members to update themselves with key initiatives undertaken by the US mission in Nigeria,” she said.

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Economy

Awe Urges Corporate Firms to Adopt Sound Sustainability Reporting

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Sustainability Reporting

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Corporate organisations operating in the country have been charged by the chief executive of the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Regulation Limited, Ms Tinuade Awe, to adopt sound sustainability reporting as it would help investment decisions of investors.

At an event held on Tuesday themed Unlocking ESG for Boards from Strategy to Disclosure, Ms Awe said investors have the right to know the impact of businesses on the environment, especially at a time people are conscious of it.

She encouraged companies to adopt best practices in their disclosure on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues by ensuring that their sustainability reports capture relevant sustainability disclosures that are relevant to their stakeholders.

“Our world today is facing major sustainability challenges including inequality, overpopulation, climate change, and several environmental risks. By recognizing that capital allocation makes a real impact on the environment and society at large, investors can reap sustainable long-term investment decisions through investments in ESG-themed investments.

“Furthermore, adopting an ESG-lens in our approach to investment is critical for investors to identify businesses that implement a forward-looking approach to managing long-term risks and leveraging opportunities that ensure long-term ensure economic, environmental, and social responsibility,” the NGX Regulation CEO said at the webinar hosted by Corporate Secretaries International Association (CSIA).

The organisation put hosted the gathering to explore how businesses and organisations can carry a full 360 approach to ESG, from integrating into business strategies to complying with regulations and standards.

In recommending critical disclosures that should be included in a sustainability report, Ms Awe said, “historically, sustainability reports cover the address a company’s approach to managing the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) of people, profit and planet.”

“However, disclosures in sustainability reports have evolved over the years to address the needs of a wide array of stakeholders. In publishing their sustainability reports, companies should consider a number of relevant disclosures including materiality, sustainability risks, and opportunities as well as a detailed explanation of how companies are addressing the risks and levering the opportunities.

“In addition, a sustainability report should include disclosures on how sustainability is governed by the Board, Executive Management, and designated officers responsible for managing the organisation’s impact footprint,” she added.

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Economy

60 Startups to Share $4m Google’s Black Founders Fund

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Google Black Founders Fund

By Dipo Olowookere

The sum of $4 million will be distributed to 60 startups established by Africans in the second edition of the Google for Startup Black Founders Fund for Africa.

In the maiden edition, the tech giant shared $3 million to 50 eligible black-founded startups across Africa as part of efforts to support innovation in underserved areas.

This year, eligible entrepreneurs will receive between $50,000 and $100,000 non-dilutive cash awards and up to $200,000 per startup in Google Cloud credits, support in the form of training, and access to a network of mentors to assist in tackling the challenges unique to each startup.

Application for the initiative has opened via http://goo.gle/BFFAfrica and will close on May 31, 2022, with winners announced on July 29, 2022.

Google will select winners from 13 countries with active tech and startup ecosystems and they are Botswana, Cameroun, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. However, strong applications from other African countries will also be considered.

It was gathered that businesses eligible for selection for the cohort include early-stage startups with black founders or diverse founding teams, startups benefiting from the black community, operating and headquartered in Africa, startups with a diverse founding team with at least one black founding member; those having a legal presence on the continent and building technology solutions for Africa and the global market; and those who have the growth potential to raise more funding and create jobs.

The Head of Startup Ecosystem for sub-Saharan Africa for Google, Folarin Aiyegbusi, stated that, “The Black Founders Fund Africa demonstrates our commitment to supporting innovation in underserved areas.

“Black-led tech startups face an unfair venture capital funding environment and that is why we are committed to helping them thrive, grow to be better and ensure the success of communities and economies in our region.

“The fund will provide cash awards and hands-on support to 60 Black-led startups in Africa, which we hope will aid in developing affordable solutions to fundamental challenges affecting those at the base of the socio-economic pyramid in Africa.”

“We are hopeful that the support received by the black founders will enable them to grow their business and in turn drive economic growth in Africa as they create solutions and give back to their communities,” Aiyegusi added.

The Google for Startups Black Founders fund was launched in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement as part of the platform’s racial equality commitments.

The initiative is a pledge toward driving economic opportunity for Black business owners, providing support to startups in the region in the form of equity-free cash assistance that helps them take care of immediate needs such as paying staff, funding inventory, and maintaining software licenses.

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