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UK Partners Nigeria to Expand Digital Access to Underserved Communities

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Rural Digital Payments

By Adedapo Adesanya

The United Kingdom has extended a helping hand to the federal government to collaborate on promoting and providing digital access to underprivileged communities in Nigeria.

This was made known in the Digital Access Programme, where representatives and stakeholders were hosted including the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Thursday.

Serving as the first Nigeria Technical Conference on the Right of Way (RoW), the event was held to further aggregate views from key stakeholders, towards the advancement of policy and regulatory reforms on ROW and issuance of planning permits for telecommunication masts and towers.

The virtual forum is one of the key deliverables of the UK’s Technical Assistance project on RoW, which was initiated in April 2020 to assess the existing strategy, charging regime and measure that against economic development indicators.

Funded and overseen by the Digital Access Programme, Greenfields Law, a leading telecom policy, law and regulation firm in Nigeria had engaged with key stakeholders and proposed effective solutions based on the evidence gathered, while taking into account international best practice.

Speaking at the event Ms Catriona Laing, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, said; “Nigeria has seen great progress in the effort to provide inclusive digital access to millions of its citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, made the world rely more heavily on internet connectivity for access to basic necessities – health, education, work, shopping, convenience and other services. As such, substantial digital inequities have been revealed.

“The UK is keen to support the promotion of affordable, inclusive, safe and secure digital access for underserved or excluded populations, and this conference is a significant step to discuss the technical findings of our preliminary study, outcomes, lingering challenges and the way forward,” she said.

On his part, during his address, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami said, “I want to thank the UK Government for supporting the Nigeria digital economy agenda. Earlier the UK Government supported us in the development of the new national broadband plan through the Digital Access Programme.”

“Nigeria has in the past one year of my time as minister, added 10 per cent to the broadband penetration level in the country. RoW reforms are the key to unlocking Nigeria’s digital economy for inclusive digital growth and we have worked with the Nigerian Governors Forum to achieve some important results already. We will continue to champion this reforms on RoW and work on the challenges identified by the technical study,” Mr Pantami said.

Mr Umar Danbatta, the executive vice-chairman of the NCC, represented by Mr Adeleke Adewolu, the Executive Commissioner Stakeholder Management (ECSM), thanked the UK Government’s Digital Access Programme for their support in championing reforms on RoW to deepen digital inclusion in Nigeria.

“The Technical Assistance on RoW reforms will assist in our quest for deepening broadband penetration in Nigeria. NCC is willing and ready to advance the reforms noted in the technical study and will collaborate with stakeholders to effect it in the short, medium and long term,” he said.

On the part of the convener, Mr Idongesit Udoh, the UK Government’s Digital Access Programme Adviser and country lead, commended state governments that have announced the reforms on ROW, saying that this project will help accelerate the roll-out of backbone connectivity infrastructure to underserved communities which is the key to unlocking Nigeria’s digital economy for inclusive, digitally-enabled growth, development and job creation for Nigerians.

“The Digital Access Programme is also working on other projects such as cybersecurity essentials upskilling for SMEs around the country and basic digital literacy to promote inclusive economic growth and development,” he said.

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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2,000 Youths to Access N100m for Software Development, Others

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N100 million Technology Fund

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

To nudge the emergence of world-class technology experts, the federal government has set aside the sum of N100 million for about 2,000 youths across the country.

The money, according to the Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, would be accessible to the beneficiaries in the next two years for training in different areas such as software development and design, amongst others.

The Minister said the N100 million Technology Fund is part of the government’s efforts to tap into the growing digital economy.

Speaking at the inauguration of a Digital Nigeria Centre (DNC) in Ilesa, Osun State, applauded the commitment and dedication of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) towards enhancing digital skills development among youths, through the implementation of various Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skill acquisition programmes.

He particularly lauded the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, and the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Mr Umar Garba Danbatta, for their efforts in promoting a digital economy.

“I would like to thank my very good friend and brother, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, for assenting to our request to have the first of this remodelled project in Osun State sited in Ilesa.

“I will also like to thank the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta and the entire management and staff of NCC and the USPF, as well as their technical partners for a timely and successful completion of this laudable project,” he said.

In his remarks, Mr Pantami, who was represented at the event by the Chairman, board of commissioners of NCC, Mr Adeolu Akande, stated that the federal government was focused on promoting the digital economy across the country.

He asserted that the DNC inaugurated at Ilesa was a concrete implementation of digital literacy and skills, the second pillar of NDEPS.

According to him, the overarching objective of the DNC project is to facilitate the adoption of digital lifestyle in the schools as well as in the school communities.

The Minister averred that the project’s significance cannot be under-estimated, considering its ability to improve digital skills for the youths and subsequently make them globally competitive.

Mr Pantami said the Nigerian government was determined to arm the youths with digital skills, strong literacy and numeracy skills, critical and innovative thinking skills, complex problem-solving aptitude, the ability to collaborate and deploy socio-emotional skills, which they require to transform their lives and build the economy.

“We have already made a number of giant strides in the development of our digital economy culture and the deployment of initiatives such as the Digital Nigeria Centre eloquently demonstrates the current administration’s commitment to connecting all Nigerians,” Mr Pantami said.

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Vault Hill Raises $2.1m Pre-Seed Fund

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Vault Hill

By Adedapo Adesanya

Vault Hill, the world’s first-ever human-centric blockchain-based metaverse has announced the completion of a $2.1 million pre-seed round.

The money was secured from the private sale of its native token, $VHC with proceeds from the transaction aimed to aid the development of the metaverse designed to enhance the human experience.

The rounds were led by Master Ventures with strategic investments from R-930 Capital, Unreal capital, Spring Dawn Ventures, Evan Luthra, Herd Ventures, Lithium ventures, Girnas Capital, Ferrum Network, Trustswap amongst other angel investors.

This will help the firm to humanise technology through the creation of a constructive metaverse that focuses on the basic human instincts which allow users, content creators and developers to explore their unrestricted creative freedom whilst monetising their creation in the secure ecosystem.

While the first fundraising round off its to-do list, the second round of fundraising, that is, the Initial Decentralised Offering (IDO) of the $VHC token is now ongoing from January 10-23, 2022 on eight major launchpads – MaticLaunch, Kommunitas, Lithium, Moonstarter, TrustSwap, SuperLauncher, Coinxpad and Trustpad.

Vault Hill already sold out the $VHC on MaticLaunch ($100,000 raised) and Kommunitas ($145,000 raised) and the IDO on Lithium has now ended. However, the $VHC can be bought on Moonstarter from Thursday, January 13, followed by the other four launchpads.

According to Vault Hill’s Founder and CEO, Jimi Daodu, “this is a testament of the uniqueness of our product offering in the vast competitive market we are playing in and also a reflection of the hard work of the talented and diverse team at Vault Hill.”

Although the metaverse is not yet up and running, Vault Hill has already secured six partnerships with global brands (especially for digital wearables and for improving health and wellbeing) who will be establishing their virtual office in the metaverse once it launches in Q1 2022.

In addition, the Vault Hill community is constantly growing with about 90,000 #VaultHillers currently across all social media platforms.

Considering the booming blockchain industry, and with many metaverse projects already existing, Vault Hill claims that it attracts an insane amount of attention from prominent blockchain venture capitalists, businesses, and individuals.

The first unique differentiator is the human-centric nature of the metaverse. The infusion of human elements in the metaverse means that Vault Hill is not offering a distant unrealistic concept, but rather, a platform that users can realistically engage with. This means that users will be able to do everything they currently do in the physical world and much more.

Users will be able to interact with others, build romantic connections, play games, improve health and wellbeing, curate art, buy virtual land, own NFTs, transact on the secure platform using $VHC token or other cryptocurrencies of choice, and also explore the seven Districts themed after basic human instincts and functions. The potential of the metaverse as a world where users get to explore different aspects of themselves and overall, feel more human with each visit, is absolutely exciting and undeniable.

Secondly, Vault Hill is the first virtual world with urban planning and development benefits to ensure users build on their Virtual Land (VLAND) respectfully.

Users who own virtual land in Vault Hill City will have total creative freedom to build anything they can imagine on their land. This could range from fitness centres, fashion studios, art galleries, museums, or even libraries and earn returns as other users interact with the projects on their land. Alternatively, landowners can choose to hold their VLAND to sell later at a higher price in the marketplace.

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Technology

Airtel Africa Gets $176.1m for Sale of Tower Assets in Tanzania

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Tower Assets

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The tower assets of Airtel Africa Plc in Tanzania have been sold by the company for $176.1 million, a notice to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited on Wednesday has confirmed.

A part of the money would be used to offset some of the debts of the organisation and about $60 million would be used to invest in network and sales infrastructure in Tanzania and for distribution to the government in line with what was agreed.

Airtel Africa disclosed that the full payment has not been made by the new owners as only $159 million has been received, with the expected upon the completion of the transfer of the remaining towers.

The notice stated that the tower assets were sold to a joint venture company owned by a wholly-owned subsidiary of SBA Communications Corporation, a leading global independent owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure, as majority owner, and by Paradigm Infrastructure Limited, a UK company focused on developing, owning and operating shared passive wireless infrastructure in selected growth markets.

“Airtel Africa, a leading provider of telecommunications and mobile money services, with a presence in 14 countries across Africa, today announces the first closing of the transaction to sell its telecommunications tower assets in Tanzania to a joint venture company owned by a wholly-owned subsidiary of SBA Communications Corporation, a leading global independent owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure, as majority owner, and by Paradigm Infrastructure Limited, a UK company focused on developing, owning and operating shared passive wireless infrastructure in selected growth markets.

“The gross consideration for the transaction will be $176.1 million.

“Under the terms of the transaction, Airtel Africa’s subsidiary in Tanzania will continue to develop, maintain and operate its equipment on the towers under separate lease arrangements, largely made in local currencies, with the purchaser.

“With first closing, approximately $159 million of the proceeds for the transaction has now been paid, with the balance payable in instalments upon the completion of the transfer of remaining towers to the purchaser.

“Around $60 million from the proceeds will be used to invest in network and sales infrastructure in Tanzania and for distribution to the Government of Tanzania, as per the settlement described in the Airtel Africa IPO Prospectus document published in June 2019. The balance of the proceeds will be used to reduce debt at group level,” the full statement read.

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