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African Free Trade: AU Hopeful Of Nigeria Signing Agreement

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The African Union (AU) says it is optimistic that Nigeria will sign the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which came into force on May 30.
The Head, AU Strategic Partnerships, Bureau of the Chairperson, Dr Levi Madueke, made this known in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Tide source reports that no fewer than 49 countries have endorsed AfCFTA, which aims to redefine trade relations within African states and beyond.
It proposes creating a single market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments across 55 countries.
The agreement also has a dispute settlement mechanism similar to the one set up by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
However, Nigeria, which is the most populous country with the largest economy in Africa, is yet to sign the deal.
Madueke said AfCFTA was conceived to remove trade barriers among African nations, in order to promote businesses within the continent.
He said: “We are hopeful that Nigeria will come on board. I don’t think there is any fear of Nigeria not signing it because we know every country has a process.
“I think Nigeria is taking its time and we are hoping that Nigeria will join us.
“A lot of African countries have endorsed the programme. It is going to help Africa to promote trade among ourselves.’’
Madueke explained that AfCFTA was part of the flagship programmes being initiated under the AU Agenda 2063, which is a 50-year plan from 2013 to 2063.
According to him, the programme is divided into five phases and a ten- year implementation plan, with the first phase being from 2013 to 2023.
He said: “Within the Agenda 2063, we have seven aspirations, 20 goals and 39 priority areas.
“We also have what we call the AU flagship programmes. These are the programmes we want to implement within a phase of 10 years.
“Those we cannot handle within 10 years, we will roll them over but these are projects we have designed to enable Africa become a developed and integrated continent.’’
Madueke said that the plan of the AU was to work with development partners to increase air, rail and road connectivity within the continent, adding that the move was critical to Africa’s future.
“We want to also ensure free movement of people, goods and services within the continent, which is being encouraged by the visa-on-arrival policy now adopted by many countries.
“We are also encouraging the regional blocs to promote free movement within the regions. ECOWAS has done very well in that regard. Other regional economic communities are also engaging in that.
“We believe that within the period of 10 years, we would have been able to achieve a lot.
“The most important thing is that we are poised to change the African narrative and make sure that Africa becomes the Africa we all want.’’

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Banking/ Finance

5 Tips for Getting Your Credit Utilization Rate in Check

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You may have heard the expression, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” These words of advice are definitely applicable when it comes to credit cards — just because an account’s upper limit is higher than its current balance doesn’t mean it’s wise for the cardholder to keep spending until they max it out.

 

Why? Because utilizing more than 30 percent of your available balance on any individual card — or across all of your cards — makes you appear riskier to lenders. It gives the impression you may be depending on credit cards to get by. This measure is called your credit utilization rate and having a high percentage of credit in play can start to drag down your credit score.

 

Here are five tips for getting your credit utilization rate in check if it starts to creep northward of 30 percent or so.

 

Make Payments More Than Once Per Month

Adjusting your credit card payment schedule from once per month to every two weeks can help. This simple action helps bring your balance down more quickly, and lower balances tend to lower utilization rates. As Experian notes, utilization rate is actually the second biggest factor lenders consider when calculating credit rating.

 

If you’re used to paying $300 once at the end of the month, try instead paying $175 or $200 twice per month. This may require jostling around your budget to come up with the extra funds, but this slight increase will slash your debt faster and help pull your utilization back into the safe zone, too.

 

Ask for a Credit Line Increase

Another way to go about optimizing your utilization rate is to ask for an increase on one or more credit lines. First, check to see whether your lender has already approved you for a higher limit. If no automatic increase has been granted to your account, you’ll have to put in a request. You’ll have a better chance of hearing a “yes” from lenders if you’ve made timely payments in the past.

 

It’s important to keep in mind this strategy only works if you avoid running up your balance, even with a higher limit in place.

 

Pay More Than the Minimum Due

Paying more than the minimum amount due is another way to chip away at balances more quickly, especially if most of your minimum payments are going toward interest fees rather than tackling the core balance.

 

However, as many Freedom Debt Relief reviews note, many cardholders are unable to pay more than the minimum — or may even fall behind on minimum payments — following financial hardship like divorce, medical bills or layoffs. If your credit utilization is high because you’re unable to keep up on credit card payments, it’s time to revisit your budget and speak with a credit counselor qualified to offer advice on how you can get back on track.

 

Avoid Closing Old Credit Accounts

While closing old credit accounts you haven’t used in a while may feel like cleaning house, it can adversely affect your credit utilization — and thus your score. Shrinking your available pool of credit means your utilization percentage will rise, even if your balances remain the same.

 

As long as there’s no annual fee on old accounts, it usually doesn’t hurt to keep them open. In fact, it’ll help your credit in terms of lengthening your history, too.

 

Open a New Credit Card

Last, but perhaps riskiest, is opening a new credit account. However, it’s only prudent to do so if you can keep spending very low on this card. This can do more harm than good if you’re tempted by the allure of an available balance.

 

It’s worth looking into what you can do to lower your credit utilization rate. Keeping it below 30 percent will help your credit score; while exceeding this cap can start to negatively affect it.

 

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COVID-19: Dockworkers/Seafarers Are Essential Workers, Exempted From Travel Restrictions, Says NIMASA

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? As Agency Unveils Guidelines for Terminals, Jetties.

 

In line with the newly endorsed protocols by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO] designed to lift barriers to crew changes, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA] has designated Seafarers and Dockworkers as essential workers who should be exempted from travel restrictions.

 

The exemptions are contained in a new guideline developed and published by the Agency to support essential services in Nigeria’s shipping sector. The guideline states that the jobs of dockworkers at the country’s seaports, terminals, and jetties are essential to the national economy and, therefore, dockworkers should be granted passage between their places of abode and the seaports/terminals and jetties to perform their duties.

 

The advice also declares that seafarers are on essential duty and as such exempted from the curfew and travel restrictions, which may hinder necessary movement for crew change. It directs companies employing the services of seafarers to provide special and dedicated means of transportation to convey the seafarers, adding that such transport system must be disinfected within the recommended minimum hours.

 

The guideline specifically provides for the mandatory use of facemasks within all terminals and jetties, mandatory temperature check on all staff before access to terminals, and denial of entry to persons who present temperature above 38°C. It makes it mandatory for all dock labour employers to develop risk assessments and safety intervention guidelines for all personnel and operations in the areas of vulnerability within their maritime operations that can be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including cargo handling, access control, and rostering procedures.

 

Dock labour employers are also to devise methods of ensuring that dockworkers absent from their duties for issues relating to COVlD-19 are quarantined and compensated for the suspension of earnings they suffer as a consequence. Furthermore, all dock labour employers are to ensure that buses deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic carry a 50 per cent maximum capacity in line with Federal Government directives, and all passengers wear facemasks. Such buses must have hand sanitisers for all drivers’ and passengers’ use and be frequently disinfected.

Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said the latest advice was meant to contain the coronavirus pandemic while also supporting the continuation of the economy. 

 

Jamoh stated, “Like President Muhammadu Buhari said, no economy can survive total lockdown. If you look at it critically, maritime is an essential duty, with the major actors being seafarers and dockworkers. This is why we continually come up with guidelines to ease their operations so that activities in our ports will not suffer.”

 

The DG emphasised the prohibition of loitering around port premises and charged dock labour employers to ensure social distancing of two meters is maintained between people in the workplace and other public spaces within and around port terminals.

 

The guideline is in sync with those issued by the United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO), as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

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Business

ICT Skills’ll Deliver Economic Independence To Nigerian Girls – NITDA

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The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said that if Nigerian girls are taught relevant Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills at a young age, they will be set up for economic independence in future.
The Agency who made this remark through a press release signed by its Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs Hadiza Umar, joined the global community to mark the “Girls in ICT Day.” The day which is marked annually on the fourth Thursday in April falls on the 23rd April this year.
In the statement, Mrs Umar said that the Agency is highlighting the need to promote technology career opportunities for girls and women in ICT, the world’s fastest growing sector.
She said, “During this year’s celebration, NITDA is drawing attention to the critical need for more girls and women to participate actively in the ICT sector of our economy. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) had estimated skills shortfall of over two million jobs in the ICT sector within the next few years. This opens a huge opportunity for girls and young women who have the ability to learn Coding, Apps Development, Computer Science and other ICT related courses.
“This will not only make them ready for a successful career in the ICT sector, but ICT skills are rapidly becoming a strong advantage for students in just about any other field they might choose to pursue. With technology playing vital role in all manner of careers, from Arts to Social Sciences, and from Law to History, to Graphic Design, learning ICT skills at a young age will set girls up for economic independence. Furthermore, the ICT sector needs more girls and women and celebrating a day like this reminds us that ICT helps to improve the lives of people everywhere.
“It contributes significantly towards better healthcare, better environmental management, better communication, and better educational systems that transform the way children and adults learn. NITDA, in its proactive manner and in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy as well as in furtherance of bridging the gender imbalance in ICT in Nigeria, has embarked on series of Capacity Building programmes for women and girls across the country. Girls with ICT skills can expect to earn good wages and enjoy huge career opportunities.

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