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US Senate Impeachment Trial of Trump and Nigeria’s Legislative Conduct: An Assessment

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Trump trial and US-Nig. Senate assessment

By Omoshola Deji

In Athens, 510 BC, Cleisthenes instituted democracy to foster greater: accountability of institutions and leaders to citizens and the law. Today, the tenet is being flouted with impunity, especially in developing nations, where most of the heads of parliament are puppets of the president. Nigeria tops the list. While her legislature is failing in oversight and overlooking misconducts, that of the United States (US) prosecuted President Donald Trump and almost removed him from office.

This piece evaluates the two countries legislative conduct, based on the proceedings of Trump’s impeachment trial.

Process and History of US and Nigerian President Impeachment

Article II, section 4 of the US Constitution empowers Congress – comprising the House of Representatives and Senate – to remove the president from office for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours.

The House and Senate gets to remove the president in two separate trials. First, the House would deliberate and approve the articles of impeachment through a simple majority vote. The second trial occurs in the Senate, where conviction on any of the articles requires a two-third majority vote, which if gotten, results in the president’s removal from office. Trump’s impeachment succeeded in the House, but failed in the Senate, denoting he remains president.

Only three presidents have been impeached throughout US over 230-year-old democracy. First, Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for violating the Tenure of Office Act. Then, Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 for perjury, obstruction of justice and having an inappropriate relationship with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Lastly, Donald Trump was impeached December 2019. Each of the three – Johnson, Clinton and Trump – escaped removal from office through Senate’s acquittal.

Impeaching Nigeria’s president is a difficult, almost an impossible task. The lengthy, extremely cumbersome process is contained in Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution. No Nigerian president has been impeached, despite their gross incompetence and serial abuse of power.

Allegations against Trump and the Buhari Comparison

Trump’s impeachment trial was a straight confrontation between the ruling Republican, and opposition Democratic Party. The president was tried on two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The abuse of power bothers on alleged solicitation of foreign interference in the 2020 US presidential election. Trump allegedly withheld $391 million aid to Ukraine; upon which he secretly pressurized President Volodymyr Zelensky (of Ukraine) to start investigating former US vice-president Joe Biden for corruption. Trump only released the aid to Ukraine after a whistle-blower complaint.

Biden was ex-president Barrack Obama’s deputy and currently one of the Democratic Party’s presidential aspirants. Trump wants Biden and son, Hunter, investigated for alleged corrupt practices during the Obama presidency’s (2009-2017) aid supply to Ukraine. The US president allegedly pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Biden, despite being aware that the US Prosecutor General had cleared him and his son of corruption in May 2019.

To ensure Biden is investigated, Trump allegedly refused to allow Zelensky visit the White House at a time Ukraine urgently needs the meeting to send fears to its aggressors, particularly Russia, that it has US backing. The Democrats insisted Trump undermined US interests by his action, and must be removed for conditioning congressionally mandated aid on ‘quid pro quo’ – meaning ‘favour for favour.’

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is an adherent of ‘quid pro quo.’ His declaration that the Northern region, which gave him 95 percent votes would be favoured than the Southeast that gave him 5 percent is ‘quid pro quo’ – conditioning governance favouritism on votes; favour for favour. Presidents are expected to govern with equity and fairness, but Buhari promised sectionalism and delivered as pledged. The proscription of IPOB, while killer herdsmen are operating unchecked, apparently because they’re among the 95 percent is a dangerous ‘quid pro quo’ adherence that can lead Nigeria into another civil war.

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Aside Trump’s hold on aid, the second article of impeachment – obstruction of Congress – bothers on the president’s deliberate blockage of formal legislative inquiries. Trump allegedly instructed all government officials to ignore House subpoenas for testimonies and documents. He ensured no piece of paper or email was turned over to the House. Certainly, Trump would have done worse if he’s a Nigerian.

If Trump was a Nigerian president, he would have ordered the police to lay siege on US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi’s residence as President Buhari repeatedly did to former Senate President Bukola Saraki. Pelosi would have been distracted with false asset declaration charges till she’s acquitted by the Supreme Court. The Dino Melaye’s in her camp would have been hounded and arraigned on several trumped-up charges. If Trump was a Nigerian president, masked, heavily-armed State Security Service (SSS) operatives would have obstructed the legislators from entering the chambers to carry out impeachment.

The Democrats’ resolve to impeach Trump was perhaps comeuppance, but certainly an insult to Nigerians. The same legislators rebuking Trump supported Obama’s interference in Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election. The poll, as Obama desired, resulted in the first-in-history defeat of then incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan. It is at best surprising, and at worst annoying that the same Democrats who backed Obama’s action on Nigeria are scolding Trump for trying to aid his win through foreign interference. How miserable for them to live with their own nemesis?

Unlike the US, foreign interference in Nigerian elections attracts no legislative criticism, let alone impeachment. Nigerian legislators took no action when two state governors from Niger Republic crossed into Nigeria to join Buhari’s 2019 re-election campaign in Kano State.

The abuse of power charges against Trump can’t fly for impeachment in Nigeria. Successive presidents have committed greater offenses without reprimand. Ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo spent heavily on electricity provision without result and ordered the Odi massacre. The legislature never summoned him. President Buhari has more than once repressed free speech, disobeyed court orders and spent without legislative approval. Yet, the Senate has never cautioned him. Indeed, what the US lawmakers see as ‘abuse of office’ is what their Nigerian counterpart rank as ‘executive grace.’

US often punishes, but Nigeria rewards wrongdoing. The former’s first citizen, arguably the strongest man in the world, was made to face a tough trial for abuse of office. His record is tainted even though he’s acquitted. Nigeria works the other way round. In the 8th Senate, suspended Senator Ovie Omo-Agege allegedly invaded plenary with thugs, who took away the mace right before the cameras. Rather than prosecute him to serve as a deterrent, the ruling party rewarded him with the exalted position of deputy-senate president in the subsequent, current 9th Senate. Omo-Agege is currently leading the same chamber he once allegedly desecrated. Such can’t occur in the US.

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Trial Debate: Democrat vs. Republican

The US senate impeachment trial of Trump was a pure intellectual, thrilling and rigorous debate. The House Managers, comprising mainly the Democrats, argued that Trump deserves to be sacked for obstructing Congress investigation; promoting foreign interference in US election; and withholding economic, diplomatic and military aid to a strategic US ally (Ukraine) in need.

Defending the allegation, Trump’s defense team, comprising the Republicans, contended that the Democrats were trying to upturn Trump’s mandate in order to prevent him from contesting the next election. They argued that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine because 1) he wanted a burden sharing agreement with Europe; and 2) he was unsure of its efficient use, due to the high level of corruption in Ukraine.

Opposing the submission, the Democrats argued that Trump showed no interest in Ukraine’s corruption before Biden announced his presidential ambition. The Republicans disagreed, and accused the Democrat caucus of using impeachment to shield Biden from corruption investigation. They insisted Biden has a case to answer over his actions on Ukraine when he was vice-president.

Contesting the obstruction of Congress article, Trump’s team argued that the president has the power to assert immunity on his top aides, and he did so against Congress to protect the sensitive operations of government from getting to the public.

Citing former presidents that have used such privilege, the Republicans argued that the Democrat-sponsored articles of impeachment was wholly based on presumptions, assumptions and unsupported conclusions. The Democrats, however, refused to back down; they insisted they had a “mountain of evidence” to prove Trump was guilty.

To support their arguments, both the House Managers and Trump’s defense team went deep into the archives; they went as far as referencing what happened in 1796, during the administration of the first US President, George Washington.

Several Supreme Court judgments, dating back to 1893 were cited. Both parties showed resourcefulness as they used historical, legal and rational arguments to establish their case. Their knowledge of history, politics and law was astounding.

Sadly, majority of Nigerian legislators lack such proficiency. Their contributions to motions are often based on partisan, personal interests and their arguments are often shallow, uninformative and irrational. While watching the trial, I couldn’t help but crave for power to order Nigerian legislators into the US Senate to learn functional legislative practice.

Plenary Session: Nigeria-US Comparison

Both the US House and Senate displayed exceptional commitment to public involvement. Many nations won’t permit the live airing of a sensitive issue such as the impeachment trial of a president. But the US stands out. Every minute of the trial was aired live to the local and global population. Nigerian House and Senate are not doing badly in this regard. Most of their sessions are aired live, including the election of principal officers. However, as being done in the US, the Nigerian legislature needs to make public the details of her income, constituency projects and budgetary allocations.

US senators are more open than their Nigerian counterparts. They boldly reveal their planned vote and the reasons for their decision. Many disclosed that they would vote on the impeachment based on personal conviction and desired legacy. Nigerian senators understandably can’t be that outspoken out of the fear of being hounded. This doesn’t, however, rob off the fact majority of them vote ‘aye’ or ‘nay’ based on financial gain, ethnic and religious sentiments, party instruction, and ‘quid pro quo.’

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Public interest is not always primary to politicians, including the US senators. Most of the Republican senators were more interested in acquitting Trump than ensuring a fair trial. They denied the public access to crucial information by voting against the admission of additional witnesses and documents.

Voting in favour of the motion would have made the Senate evaluate the leaked indicting videos and testimonies of crucial anti-Trump witnesses such as John Bolton, the ex-national security adviser. Without a doubt, Nigerian progressive senators would have done same to save Buhari.

The US legislators conduct at plenary and commitment to national service need to be emulated by the Nigerian Senate. The US Senate leaders and the Chief Justice, John Roberts coordinated the sessions impartially.

They, unlike their Nigerian counterpart, acted neutral, even though they too (as humans) have their own viewpoints and desires. They set rules that would make everyone listen and participate such as prohibiting the use of phones.

Rather than deploy speech interjection, shout-match and walk-out as commonly done in Nigerian chambers, the US legislators acted responsibly. No one spoke without being recognized and they yielded back time promptly. More than once, they sat for about 12 hours on the impeachment and everyone stayed on strong. If the impeachment trial took place in Nigeria, the senate president would have hurriedly adjourn sitting or ‘dabaru’ the process in favour of his party. Moreover, the senators, many of whom are old and lazy, would have yelled for adjournment or slept off.

End Note

Trump’s acquittal by the US senate sets a bad precedence for succeeding presidents to solicit foreign interference in US election and obstruct the investigation of Congress. Conversely, conviction would have opened the door for future sharply partisan, malicious impeachments.

Both the United States and Nigeria need more executive-legislature synergy. The frosty relationship between Trump and Pelosi has worsened over the impeachment trial. They must be reconciled for the benefit of the American people. It’s difficult, but not impossible to have intergovernmental synergy and a vibrant legislature under the Buhari administration. Perhaps Senate President Ahmed Lawan and House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila need to attend classes on ‘how to function without being a puppet.’

US democracy is not perfect, but Nigeria has a lot to learn from it. The latter must adopt the former’s positive deeds and embrace attitudinal change.

One may blame the large efficiency gap between US and Nigeria’s democracy on the year of adoption. US democracy is over 230 years old, while Nigeria’s current democratic experiment is only 20 years old. But then, if Nigeria’s systemic failure is anything to go by, it will take us over a thousand years to achieve the progress US made in 230 years. The reason is not far-fetch. US has what Nigeria lacks: transparency, accountability and leadership commitment to growth and development.

Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via moshdeji@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are purely of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the position of Business Post Nigeria on the subject matter.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Agriculture, Key to Africa’s Quest for Continued Growth and Sustainability

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Agriculture in nigeria

Africa cannot achieve self-sufficiency in agriculture without engaging and building the capacity of its smallholder farmers.

This was the submission of Venkataramani Srivathsan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Olam Africa, the Middle East and North America regions, who spoke during a panel discussion on a BBC agro webinar event tagged ‘Agriculture – Africa’s Future’, held on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.

According to Venkataramani Srivathsan, providing training and financing opportunities for the 80 million small-scale farmers on the continent would boost food security, food safety and job creation in the agro value chain.

He said, “The COVID-19 outbreak was a setback for the African continent. The global health crisis took its toll on the continent’s food supply value chain thereby disrupting vital agro activities which led to the escalated level of food insecurity.”

He added that effective capacity-building efforts, access to revenue-boosting agro-technology, the assembly of robust irrigation infrastructure and the implementation of an effective micro-financing framework were necessary to help African smallholder farmers scale their operations, encourage massive youth participation in Agriculture and drive food security on the continent.

“Olam works with 2.5 million smallholder farmers in Africa and is investing to assist them in creating wealth for their communities and respective economies at large. We invest in research to make high yielding seed available to the farmers.

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“We are also tapping our global expertise in the agro value-chain to help the farmers adopt modern agro practices while extending loans to them through our participation in various anchor borrowers and out-growers initiatives across the continent”, Venkataramani Srivathsan said.

Olam is a leading agribusiness conglomerate which supplies crops, ingredients and packaged foods to the global market. It is actively involved in supporting the African continent build self-sufficiency in food production by investing extensively in various wheat, rice, dairy, maize, tomato, hatchery and poultry, and animal feed production development programmes on the continent.

The BBC regional agriculture development webinar, therefore, engaged the agribusiness firm as one of several key players on the continent’s agro value chain, to discuss how to stimulate growth and ensure sustainability in food production in Africa. This engagement aims to guarantee food security, employment generation and foster agro-based economies on the continent.

Besides Venkataramani Srivathsan, other panellists who featured on the webinar were Damian Ihedioha, Division Manager, Agribusiness Development Division, African Development Bank (ADB), Hon. Beauty Manake, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Agricultural Development & Food Security, Botswana; Dr Kulani Machaba, Regulatory Affairs Leader, Africa & Middle East, Corteva Agriscience and Amrote Abdella, Regional Director, Microsoft 4Afrika. Zeinab Badawi, BBC World News presenter moderated the panel.

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Damian Ihedioha, Division Manager, Agribusiness Development Division, African Development Bank (ADB) posited that a vibrant African SME ecosystem was germane to enhancing the continent’s food supply chain. He called on policymakers across the continent to invest in building capacity along the agro value chain by strengthening the SME ecosystem and incentivizing youth participation in agriculture.

Beauty Manake, Assistant Minister, Ministry of Agricultural Development & Food Security, Botswana, highlighted the importance of intra African trades in stimulating growth in the agro value chain and reducing the escalating levels of reliance on food importation from other continents.

She said, “Africa does not trade with itself. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, farm produce that couldn’t be transported to their destination market overseas got spoilt. Hence, by building a framework policy that encourages intra Africa trading and developing local infrastructure that ensures food is smoothly delivered to the last mile from the farms, the agro landscape in Africa will explode.”

She further advised governments on the continent to build agricultural villages and provide vital market linkages for smallholder farmers to sell their produce.

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Meanwhile, Dr Kulani Machaba, Regulatory Affairs Leader, Africa & Middle East, Corteva Agriscience, emphasized constant access to farming inputs and maximal utilization of high-yielding seed varieties by farmers as key to stimulating growth in the continent’s agro value chain.

He explained, “Rice seed varieties harvest yield in Africa is 2 tons per hectare, 4 tons per hectare in Asia and 10 tons per hectare in Latin America. While each continent has access to high-yielding seed varieties, the difference is how farmers in each clime maximize the cultivation of the seed varieties.”

He also mentioned that policymakers need to create a conducive operating environment for private investors to participate effectively in developing the agro value chain.

Amrote Abdella, Regional Director, Microsoft 4Afrika, advocated the wider adoption of science and technology to boost access to farming and market data.

According to her, “Lack of access to data impedes growth in the agro sector. Farmers and policymakers need constant access to information that highlights what is being produced on the farmlands and what the market demands are to understand development along the value chain and proffer solutions where necessary.”

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Small Business or Big Business: Straightforward Ways to Improve Profitability

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Timi Olubiyi Small Business Improve Profitability

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

As businesses grow, the chase is usually for profit maximization, they introduce new products or services, create new marketing plans, invest in human capital and technology, all for expansion, better returns, and to gain a competitive edge.

However, with all these efforts to maximize profits, the mechanism to survey and gauge customer feedback is most times missing. This is where customer experience comes in and it falls within the non-financial business performance indicator.

Customer experience is so important and yet business operators rarely pay attention to it, this is why I am giving my opinion on it for awakening. To me, understanding customer experience is as important as major efforts businesses consider to maximize profits.

Firstly, what do we mean by a non-financial business performance indicator? These are measures that cannot be expressed in monetary units, which are related to product or service quality, customer relationships, operations, and so on.

A good example is customer experience which a large body of knowledge sees as a significant determinant of business profitability and income.

Fundamentally, customer experience involves every aspect of business offering or operations— from the quality of customer care to patronage pattern, satisfaction, advertisement, the shopping environment, sales, ease to use or get products or services, and so on.

That said, one of the most significant elements in helping a business get to know its customers and to have a fair idea of patronage and customer experience is data. Invariably customer data can easily be used to gain different insights and in particular help, businesses to align with customer goals.

As important as customer experience measure is businesses hardly gather and process its data to improve business performance. Without doubts, if data on customer experience is well utilized it can improve the different aspects of business operations from sales performance to customer growth and even profitability.

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From context observation poor customer data management practices are not just a small business issue, it involves large firms as well in Nigeria and indeed Africa.

Businesses usually guess customers’ needs without asking and analyzing what their interests are, the crucial impact of customer data on businesses is rarely considered. The place of measuring customer experience with data is generally missing in the most developing business environment and huge challenges exist majorly in Africa.

In recent times we have seen businesses introduce new products and services, even have price changes without reaching out to customers to determine their preferences or what types of changes they would like to see, the level of product or service expectations, and if they would be willing to pay more for them.

In a market or environment where substitute demands are readily available, businesses must endeavour to do more and consider evaluating customer experience from time to time

In fact, studies have shown that there is a wide gap between the percentages of businesses that make use of customer experience data and those that do not.

Businesses incur billions of money each year on unnecessary costs and even make losses due to the inability to easily access the right information from customers to manage customer expectations, experiences which in turn can improve decision making, profitability, and performance.

Additional findings show that businesses rarely gather and evaluate customer data to improve business operations. This is where customer analytics comes into the picture, just like the financial metrics, customer experience can serve as a leading indicator to gauge business performance and data from it can provide valuable insights as to its business impact on stakeholders, customers, and society.

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Customer experience begins the moment customers visit a business website or physical location, and ends when they choose to no longer use the services of the business. Meanwhile, it is important to stress that a good customer experience leads to repeat purchases, patronage, brand loyalty, and positive word of mouth.

As a reminder, in any form of business, the customer is king, consequently, data from customers can be used to get insights and understand the performance of businesses and also make future trend predictions.

Customer analytics, also called customer data analysis, is the process of collecting and analyzing customer data to gain insights into customer behaviour. This can serve as a key indicator for understanding customer preferences, patronage patterns, customer profiles and it can allow businesses to understand customers better and make smart and well-informed business decisions. Simply put is helps to learn customer engagements and shopping experience, therefore businesses should strive to embrace it.

Customer valuable shopping behaviour insights, such as buying pattern, demand pattern, shopping trend, spending pattern, request data, time of shopping, time gaps between visits, repurchase pattern, preferences, peak shopping hours, and so on can be analyzed.

For business operators, particularly young entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, it is not sufficient to post an update on social media or WhatsApp status about your services or products, data gathering and simple analysis of feedbacks can help grow the small business.

For large firms, it can help make key business decisions, increase customer retention, predict customer behaviours, understand choices of customers per time, their product choices, and loyal customer tracking.

In fact, smarter decisions can be made by any form of business either large or small by adopting a data-driven approach to operations and customer experience. So, it is important to have a system that gathers data on customers to improve business performance.

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So, to succeed in an unpredictable environment like ours, businesses must seek opportunities to understand customer experiences and get feedback from time to time for a smooth competitive advantage. More so, businesses need to have a process to continually analyze trends concerning actions, reactions, and transactions in their businesses for ease of forecasting and predictions.

A few leading companies and as big as Google and Facebook Inc, are with billions of users, yet they adopt customer analytics for improved performance, so why will a business with a manageable size of customers not join the trend to keep customers and avoid them switching to competitors.

In conclusion, business software and customer data analysis tools with trend analysis are one major helpful way to analyze customer experience and behaviour over a defined period and can generate valuable insights. This can be gathered through multiple interaction channels such as website visits, social media engagements (comments, likes, and shares), visit patterns (buying, spending, and needs), and payment history.

A better customer analytic is good for businesses in both the short term and long term because it will improve customer experience and give valuable predictive insights, which can lead to more sales, more loyalty, and in the end a healthy and profitable business. Good luck!

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article? 

Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments

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Digital Payments and the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement

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Rural Digital Payments

Humans are built to trade. Across regions, trade has connected people and communities. It unlocks human productivity. It is the precursor of commerce and the harbinger of development. Payments drive trade.

In today’s information society, digital payment is an indispensable enabler of trade. This is precisely why experts have more or less hinged the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement on the success of digital payments.

“We need to put as much effort as we are putting into getting the operational blocks of the agreement and secretariat going into getting the African payments regulatory landscape similarly integrated. Payments across the continent could probably be made seamless today. The technology is there,” says Dr Augustina Odame of the Ghana Chamber of Technology.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which formally commenced operation in January 2021, has been in the works since 2018. AfCFTA was created essentially to boost trade within the African continent and among member states through the provision of comprehensive and mutually beneficial trading opportunities for both exporters and importers. The agreement covers everything from trading goods and services to investments and intellectual property rights. It equally includes competition policy between and within African countries, guidelines and framework to drive trade across the African continent.

Experts of various shades in analysing the emergence of AfCFTA see the promise of a truly connected single pan-African market. With a population tipping just over a billion people, Africa is ripe for trade.

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Cross border trade holds incredible potential. It can also be opportunities for the continent; an opportunity to build new and enduring infrastructure, boost e-commerce and fast-track digital payment. Existing players in this space would provide the requisite leadership to drive digital payments across Africa thereby boosting trade. Interswitch, for instance, is providing leadership here.

Interswitch is not just creating platforms and deploying digital technologies, more importantly, it is enabling others to ride on its wings and provide innovative solutions. It is actively involved in creating solutions that enable individuals and communities to prosper across Africa. For Interswitch, Africa is the continent where digital payments should be a seamless part of everyday life. “Over the last few years, we have invested extensively in building and continuously developing a variety of payment channels which facilitate a real-time transaction through any means desirable by all parties within the payment process. Our vision at Interswitch is an Africa where payment becomes a seamless part of our everyday life,” says Interswitch’s founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Mitchell Elegbe,

Security is a huge concern with digital payments. The rise in cybercrime is escalating apprehensions. Interswitch has shown that it adheres to best-in-class security solutions that align with global standards. According to the company, its solutions offer two-factor authentication; it is NDPR compliant with guaranteed transaction security and a secure cloud option.

Today, almost any bill payment is possible on Interswitch’s digital payment platform, Quickteller. It offers a digital banquet, in every sense of the word. Beyond payments, Quickteller users enjoy an easy connection to the activities that power their modern lifestyles, such as flights, events, and global shopping.

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The company’s widely accepted card scheme connects everyday people to easy payment options that are accessible within and beyond the continent. The Interswitch Verve card is now issued and or accepted in several countries across the continent. The Verve global card also ensures that Africans making payments beyond the continent have access to over 185 countries globally.

From massive industries to small businesses, Interswitch’s payment solutions are suitable for every business size or type. The company now provides much of the rails for Nigeria’s online banking system that serves Africa’s largest economy and population of about 200 million people.

Africa’s leading corporate organisations, small businesses and individuals depend on Interswitch to power their payments. Increasingly, Interswitch leverages partnerships to drive borderless trade across the continent, collaborating with countries’ switching systems to ensure seamless payment on the continent, across multiple platforms.

The firm’s creation and sustenance of a payment ecosystem is exactly the sort of initiative that would drive the free trade agreement.

The continent must yet deal with the perennial issues of ICT infrastructure deficit, the growing digital divide, regulatory inadequacy and gaps in the policy framework. For trade to thrive across borders, initiatives such as AfCFTA are invaluable. AfCFTA is not an end in itself. It would help to flip the switch to turn things around. But it is only a start. It would need plenty of support to remain sustainable.

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The often flaunted enabling environment, which actually is a euphemism for governments to step up and play their role of driving the establishment of essential facilities, including road connections, relevant policy frameworks and provision of necessary guarantees, is needed here. In relation to payments, enabling environment would include government policies that promote and encourage investment in relevant digital infrastructure. There must be deliberate actions for results to manifest.

In addressing the digital divide, the priority should be on the widespread provision of affordable high-speed broadband internet. The availability of broadband should be treated as a human right. Internet connection is needed to close the digital divide, improve access to digital services and enable electronic payments.

Experts insist that AfCFTA will drive e-commerce and digital payments across Africa. But it is equally true that e-commerce and digital payments would propel AfCFTA, ensuring its success. It is a win-win situation.

AfCFTA has massive potential. Technology would prove a major driver to enhance opportunities for cross border trade under the agreement. The availability of interoperable platforms would no doubt help to drive ease of doing business, improve effective electronic tracking systems and simplify the custom and exercise function.

The governments in the 54 countries across the continent must continue to stand behind the agreement and demonstrate good faith for AfCFTA to accomplish its set goals.

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