By Adedapo Adesanya
The Financial Sector Deeping Africa (FSD) Africa with the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) on Wednesday launched the Risk, Resilience and Regulatory Laboratory (R3Lab) in Lagos.
The initiative, which was funded by the United Kingdom (UK) Aid, is aimed at mitigating the impact of specific challenges bedevilling the insurance regulatory environment in Nigeria.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Sunday Thomas, Commissioner for Insurance/CEO, NAICOM said that the R3Lab was set up to explore ways in which collaboration, technology and insurance supervisory capacity building can improve the regulatory effectiveness of Africa’s insurance industry.
“We are all aware of the evolving risks in the African economic space such as climate change, pandemics, digitalisation, inadequate understanding and lack of confidence in the insurance sector.
“Also, the need for new strategies to enhance the capabilities of African insurance supervisory authorities to effectively regulate and protect insurance policyholders.
“The R3Lab offers a three-tiered approach towards creating an enabling regulatory environment and equipping the regulator with sound, proportionate and fit-for-purpose practices.
“Risk, Resilience, and Regulation are the key entry points for the R3Lab to build the technical capacity and skills of the regulator on innovation and sustainable insurance,” he said.
According to him, R3Lab will facilitate the design of customised capacity-building programmes and set up peer-to-peer exchange platforms.
It will also set up comprehensive learning toolkits, a resource centre for data collection and reporting, topical task forces, and forums for insurance supervisors in Africa.
Mr Thomas said that the R3Lab platform is the third joint initiative that has been birthed through FSD Africa’s partnership with NAICOM.
He said the first was FSD Africa’s ongoing support in the review of existing regulations, including identifying and articulating the key steps, framework and tools required by NAICOM for Risk-Based Capital (RBC).
The commissioner stated that the support would enable NAICOM to fully implement a scalable RBC framework in Nigeria.
It would also help it develop an innovation framework to fulfil its dual objectives of market development and policyholders’ protection.
“FSD Africa in furtherance of its support to NAICOM and the Nigerian insurance industry officially launched the second project, tagged the BimaLab Insurtech Accelerator in February 2022.
“The platform selects coaches and mentors insurtech firms, granting these firms access to FSD Africa BimaLab Grant Fund in developing innovative business solutions focused on solving compelling economic or social problems.
“I understand 10 selected participants are already undergoing 10 weeks of intensive mentorship and coaching.
”It is my hope that through the commissioning of these projects and platforms, we create an enabling environment for the development of insurance products which address the day-to-day challenges experienced by Nigerians in the face of environmental-related risks,” he said.
He expressed gratitude to FSD Africa for its invaluable support, noting that the availability of better products is likely to result in better service delivery and increase financial returns to investors.
“In recognition of this, NAICOM aims to achieve greater public trust and confidence in the insurance sector through “Innovation, Distribution and Effective/Efficient Service Delivery” which has been the cornerstone of our strategic focus and action,” he said.
In a presentation, Mr Elias Omondi, Senior Manager, Risk Regulations, FSD Africa shed more light on the purpose of the R3Lab.
He said that it is to encourage and facilitate regulatory interactions between insurance regulators across the continent to strengthen their methodologies and develop solutions necessary to create an enabling regulatory environment.
Mr Omondi said that R3Lab was launched for all African countries, but eight within Sub -Sahara Africa were selected as the pioneer beneficiaries of the projects.
These are Nigeria, Ethiopia, Malawi, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda.
World Bank Approves $750m Loan for Better Business Environment in Nigeria
By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Bank has approved a $750 million loan to assist Nigeria in speeding up the implementation of critical actions that will improve the business environment in states of the federation.
The Bretton Woods institution disclosed this in a statement titled Improving the Business Enabling Environment in Nigeria to Create Jobs and Boost Inclusive Growth.
The loan is an International Development Association (IDA) credit to support the Nigeria State Action on Business Enabling Reforms (SABER) Program-for-Results.
The program is consistent with Nigeria’s National Development Plan (NDP), which establishes an ambitious strategy for sustainable private-sector-led economic growth targeted at creating 21 million full-time jobs and raising 35 million people out of poverty by 2025.
The approval of the credit by the multilateral institution came on the same day the federal government declared that it was considering further fiscal policy actions in support of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs), as work progresses in the preparation of the Finance Act 2022 for the 2023 fiscal year.
“The World Bank today approved the Nigeria State Action on Business Enabling Reforms (SABER) Program-for-Results. The $750 million International Development Association (IDA) credit will help Nigeria accelerate the implementation of critical actions that will improve the business enabling environment in states,” the bank said.
According to the bank, Nigeria has made headway in pushing changes to remove barriers in the business climate, particularly through efforts spearheaded by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).
However, the bank warned that, in comparison to its counterparts, Nigeria’s ability to attract local and foreign investment remains limited. Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are capable of catalyzing private investment, although their efforts and capacity to do so differ greatly.
“Given the importance of state-level reforms, the government developed a new program—SABER—to accelerate the implementation of critical actions that improve the business enabling environment in Nigeria’s states.”
“The government’s SABER program builds on the successes of PEBEC. It aims to strengthen the existing PEBEC-National Economic Council subnational interventions by adding incentives, namely results-based financing to the states, and the delivery of wholesale technical assistance–available to all states–to support gaps in reform implementation.,” the bank added.
The bank also stated that all states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are eligible for participation in the SABER program due to their capacity to implement significant reforms in areas such as land administration, public-private partnerships (PPP), frameworks and services for investment promotion, and the regulatory environment that supports business.
Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said, “following the significant progress made by states on fiscal reforms through the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability (SFTAS) program, the SABER program endeavours to offer similar support to the states to undertake critical business-enabling policy and institutional actions that will incentivize private sector development,”
“Private sector investments remain the major vehicle to create more jobs, increase revenues to the states and improve social and economic outcomes for citizens.”
SABER is anticipated to assist states in enhancing the effectiveness of their land administration, the legal framework for private investment in fibre optic infrastructure, the services offered by investment promotion organizations and PPP units, and the effectiveness and transparency of their government-to-business interactions.
“Overall, the SABER program looks to consolidate and deepen business enabling environment reforms across more states,” said Ms Bertine Kamphuis, task team leader for SABER.
“The use of the Program-for-Results model, which ensures disbursement of funds after achieving results, helps the government in strengthening its program by incentivizing institutional performance at the state level through results-based financing. States will be responsible for achieving the program results and thus will be leading the implementation of the program.”
Saudi Arabia Considers Lagos to Boost Non-Oil Exports
By Adedapo Adesanya
The world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, as part of efforts to diversify its export services, is looking to Nigeria to boost its non-oil exports.
Saudi Arabia’s oil exports rose 2.5 per cent to 7.38 million barrels per day in July, its highest since April 2020 – from 7.20 million barrels per day in June.
The kingdom, through the Saudi Export Development Authority (Saudi Exports), is looking to participate in The Big 5 Construct Nigeria, which will be held between September 27 and September 29, 2022, in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city and its commercial and industrial hub.
The annual exhibition will showcase the latest innovations and technical know-how, addressing sustainable solutions and providing opportunities for strategic partnerships, agreements, and deals to accelerate businesses and build and grow robust relationships with current clients as well as potential ones.
The Nigerian version of The Big 5 Construct global event will be a great platform for the Saudi construction products sector, as the exhibition will be dedicated to subsurface quarrying and sand mining.
Through its Made in Saudi initiative, Saudi Exports manifests its role in supporting exporters and enhancing their competitiveness in an attempt to achieve Saudi Vision 2030 objectives and raise the contribution of Saudi non-oil exports to non-oil GDP to 50 per cent.
In parallel, the event will focus on the development of quarrying and unclassified mining activities along with the nonmetallic mineral product industry.
This will provide an unparalleled opportunity for 15 Saudi construction materials companies to promote communication, cooperation, and experience exchange and leverage the competitive quality of Saudi products under the Made in Saudi programme which will reflect the Kingdom’s thriving commercial, industrial, and investment sectors.
Saudi Exports’ active participation in the event of such a global scale is part of its strategy to participate in local, regional, and international forums, including conferences and exhibitions.
In addition, Saudi Exports seeks to promote the overall export environment, enhance exporters’ capabilities and readiness to compete globally, and elevate the image and brand of Saudi Arabia’s exports to boost their positioning across global markets.
Explainer: What is Nigeria’s SEC New Rule on Shariah Advisory Services?
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has revealed new rules on Shariah Advisory Services for non-interest capital market products and services.
According to the SEC, Shariah governance is crucial, considering compliance with Shariah rules and principles is important in non-interest capital market operations/transactions.
“The provision of the rules is in line with local and international best practices. The regulatory organisation in the Nigerian Financial System, such as CBN and NAICOM, have issued such guidelines to provide clear and good Shariah governance in their respective sectors.
“Making the Shariah Advisory service a registrable function in the market will assist in effective implementation of the proposed consolidation of the Shariah governance rules and will also be an additional source of revenue to the commission,” the agency stated.
SEC stated that the non-interest capital market activities in recent times are exponentially increasing as the market is witnessing the entrance of more asset managers, the emergence of i-REIT, listing of sovereign Sukuk on the exchanges, issuance of corporate Sukuk, the emergence of shariah advisory function, among others.
“These developments, coupled with the necessity of Shariah services for the market, affirms the critical need for a framework/guideline to set a minimum standard for persons (corporate or individual) seeking to provide shariah advisory services for non-interest capital market activities.
“The guideline is essential for the development of this nascent sector, as it will promote transparency and confidence whilst creating a level playing field for all participants in the market.”
Further to the above, the commission stated that a review exercise on its existing rules on shariah governance undertaken by the Standing Committee of Deepening Non-interest Capital Market led to the recommendation that rules be drafted to provide for the registration and regulation of shariah advisory services in line with international best practices. Hence, the proposed Rules for Shariah Advisory Services for Non-Interest Capital Market Products and Services.
Going by the Rule, an issuer or fund manager, with the consent of the trustee (where applicable), shall appoint a Shariah Adviser to provide Shariah Advisory services for Shariah products, issuances, and schemes.
A capital market operator seeking to provide Shariah-compliant products and services shall appoint a registered Shariah Adviser for the firm and notify the Commission of such appointment within five (5) business days of the appointment.
The rule stipulates that the SEC may register a Shariah Adviser or renew the registration of a registered Shariah Adviser subject to the applicant satisfying some criteria.
This means that only an individual eligible to provide Shariah Advisory services under these rules shall satisfy the following requirements and this can only be done by a person that meets the following requirement: Possession of a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in Shariah, which includes study in Usul Fiqh (principles of Islamic jurisprudence) or Fiqh Muamalat (Islamic transaction/commercial law) or a person with vast knowledge in Usul Fiqh (principles of Islamic jurisprudence) or FiqhMuamalat (Islamic transaction/commercial law) acquired through Islamic system of education.
Others include the ability to read and write in Arabic and English Language respectively and possession of basic knowledge of business or finance, particularly in Islamic finance and capital market.
On experience, the applicant is expected to have at least two years of relevant experience in Islamic finance; or have at least one year of relevant experience in Islamic finance and have attended at least five relevant Islamic finance courses/workshops.
The rule also states that the roles and responsibilities of a Shariah adviser shall include: Advising on all aspects of the Non-Interest Capital Market Products and Services, including documentation and structuring;
Issuing Shariah certification, which outlines the basis and rationale of the structure and mechanism, the applicable Shariah principles used and relevant Shariah matters relating to the documentation of the Non-Interest Capital Market Products and Services; Providing Shariah expertise/guidance on all matters, particularly on investment instruments and Reviewing compliance reports of the Shariah product’s proceeds utilization (where applicable) to ensure that investment activities are Shariah compliant.
Other roles and responsibilities are: Providing a periodic report to the trustees certifying whether Sukuk proceeds, Islamic fund, or any other Non-Interest Capital Market products have been managed/administered in accordance with Shariah principles and rules; Ensuring that the applicable Shariah principles and any relevant resolutions and rulings endorsed are complied with; Applying ijtihad (where applicable) to ensure all aspects of the Non-Interest Capital Market products comply with Shariah principles; and accountability for the quality, accuracy, and soundness of his own decision or advice.
The Rule also places some restrictions as a Shariah adviser cannot accept any appointment in more than one registered Islamic Fund Management Company/Fund Management company offering Islamic products provided that the Shariah Adviser could serve in multiple Fund Management Companies with the consent of the Fund Managers, Trustees, and prior approval of the SEC.
Also, a Shariah Adviser is expected to immediately disclose to the Commission, Issuing House, or Fund Manager any circumstances that may affect his ability to meet any of the requirements of the rule.
Registered Shariah Advisers shall be exempted from appointing compliance officers as required under the Commission’s Rules and Regulation on Appointment of Compliance Officers.
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