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Trade and Industry

Banks limit number of customers

By Anthony Areh

Commercial banks in Enugu in South East Nigeria have taken precautionary measures against corona virus infection by limiting the number of customers into the banking hall to five at a time to reduce human contact.

Many customers are kept outside the banking hall in a regulated order to enter the banking halls to transact business.

A bank staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that all banks had restructured their work spaces, which was in line with acceptable social distancing policy given by World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to him, aside from providing hand sanitisers, entrance into the bank had been regulated, thereby, limiting the number of customers into the bank at a time to five people.

“We allow five people to transact their business inside the bank, when the five customers are through with their transactions, another set of five will then be allowed in.

“We are taking this measure to prevent the spread of the virus and to avoid human contact,” he said.

Some banks’ customers expressed joy over the banks’ precautionary measures to save the lives of their customers.

Mrs Oguchukwu Okeke, a bank customer, said she was told to take a number at the gate of the bank and wait for her turn as only five customers were allowed into the bank.

Mr Jude Agu said that as the bank could not provide enough sanitisers, the customers were asked to remain outside as only five customers were allowed to come in.

“Customers are given numbers when they come to the bank, because the management calls only five numbers to go in.

“So, whenever your number is called, that is when you will go into the bank and no number will be called until the first five comes out.

“For me, it is a welcome development, it is a way of saving lives because prevention is better than cure especially in this particular situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Dan Uzo, a customer at one of the old generation banks, said that customers were compulsorily required to use hand sanitisers at the entrance of the bank as customers were allowed in, once they used the sanitiser.

Miss Oluchi Ijeoma, a bank customer in one of the old generation banks, said that customer were allowed to go into the banks in their numbers as long as they sanitised their hands properly at the entrance of the bank.

NITDA boss wants smart automation for African businesses

By Chris Ndibe

Mr Kashifu Inuwa, Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), says smart automation will unlock opportunities for African businesses during the COVID-I9 pandemic.

Inuwa made the assertion during his online Webinar presentation on Smart Automation for West Africa.

The presentation was entitled ”Smart Automation in Africa’’.

The webinar was hosted by Tradepass, a global agency focused on the benefits of automation for organisations across the continent.

It had  over 300 participants.

It focused on the benefits of automation for organisations in West Africa which could be channelled toward growth and development.

“This era consists of the fear, hope, crisis, impact and the silver lining as well as the recovery and digital strategy.

“Smart automation expedites processes and minimises human errors. It empowers industries to innovate and grow in size exponentially,’’ Inuwa said.

According to him, smart automation of businesses will be based on the pre-COVID-19 era, the crisis associated with it and the recovery process which required digital fast strategies.

Inuwa noted that in February, available global automation statistics showed that the market size was more than 186 billion U.S. dollars.

He added that it was predicted to rise to over 214.3 billion dollars by 2021, with process automation topping the market share with 71.2 billion dollars.

“This was followed by industrial software, factory automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and drum step technology,” he said.

Inuwa said that Nigeria’s banking system had achieved a high rate of automation, with customers transacting businesses on their mobile devices easily.

The NITDA boss said that people should disregard the fears of losing jobs to machines after the COVID-19 era.

He said that deploying smart automation could transform economies, enhance workforce for digital growth.

“The world is now faced with health, economic crisis through COVID-19 pandemic disrupting businesses, supply chains and creating possible loss of jobs, but this has opened opportunities for digital platforms.

“There are challenges such as inadequate funding, policies and enabling environments, over reliance on foreign goods and technologies faced by African countries, but COVID-19 pandemic presents the opportunity for African countries to leverage on local content,’’ he said.

He urged African countries to come up with the right policies, provide enabling environments and adopt best practices with adequate funding to achieve optimum goals and growth during the crisis.

Italy moves to reopen some businesses

By Reuters

Coronavirus hard hit Italy has resolved to allow some businesses to reopen this week to spark up the economy.

It is the first European country that has moved to to reopen manufacturing and construction from May 4.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced but has yet to give most detailed outline on the plans to reopen the economy.

He told the nation ahead of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, which he said would be released no later than early this week.

Italy, hit hard by the virus weeks before other major Western countries, has been forced to serve as a model for how to fight it.

It is being closely watched around the world as it takes its early steps to chart a path out of a strict lockdown it imposed in early March.

Conte described a phased process that would see much of manufacturing restarted in early May, although businesses frequented by the general public such as bars and restaurants would have to wait a bit longer.

Schools would remain shut until September.

“We are working in these hours to allow the reopening of a good part of businesses from manufacturing to construction for May 4,’’ Conte told Italian daily La Repubblica.

Some businesses deemed “strategic”, including activity that was mainly export-oriented, could reopen this week providing they get the go ahead from local prefects.

Exporting companies need to resume activity sooner to reduce the risk of being cut out of the production chain and losing business, he said.

“We can’t prolong any further this lockdown… we would risk seriously undermining the socio-economic fabric of the country,’’ Conte said.

Conte reiterated that any restart would have to be gradual and said companies would have to introduce strict health safety measures before opening their doors.

The lockdown has put a strain on the euro zone’s third largest economy and Italian business leaders have called for the restrictions to be eased to head off economic catastrophe.

Rome has introduced a series of measures including state-backed loans to help businesses stay afloat.

But some businessmen have complained about delays in implementing them.

Conte said the government was monitoring banks to make sure state-guaranteed liquidity arrived to companies in need.

He also said the government was working on a series of measures to help industry by cutting bureaucratic red tape.

Asked about schools, Conte said the plan was to reopen them in September.

But he added studies showed the risk of contagion was very high.

Teaching remotely is working well, he said.

U.S, states move to cut oil production


U.S. President Donald Trump says Texas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota are going to cut their oil production, without giving specifics on numbers, amid a glut in energy supplies and shortages of storage that led to massive drops in prices on the market.

“They gotta cut,” Trump said, speaking to reporters at the White House.

He also said Canada would make cuts.

“I want to help that industry,” Trump said, calling himself an “energy person.”

He described the cuts as a “natural” evolution, responding to the market.

The benchmark U.S. oil price, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), plummeted to an unprecedented minus 37 dollars at the end of Monday’s session.

Oil regained some of its losses, but prices remain suppressed, raising concerns for the U.S. industry, which may not be able to survive if the value of their products remains low for a sustained period of time.

The combination of a Saudi-Russian price war and the coronavirus pandemic-induced economic slowdown in the past two months led to a sharp decline in the cost of a barrel.

The storage issue is important for U.S. crude, as those contracts entail physical delivery.

Earlier this month, OPEC+ countries agreed to cut production by 9.7 million barrels per day for May and June.

The Texas Railroad Commission met this week but did not make any decision on production cuts, setting the next meeting of the regulator for May 5.

Merkel, politicians to discuss rescue package for Lufthansa


Germany is considering a rescue package between $9.7 billion and $10.8 billion for ailing Lufthansa airline, as discussed by top politicians.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to consider the possibility during talks with senior politicians and the troubled airline’s chief executive next week.

As the airline struggles with the fallout from cancellations caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Merkel plans to meet with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer and Lufthansa’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr.

The government is said to be mulling a rescue package worth between 9 billion and 10 billion euros (9.7 billion and 10.8 billion dollars) according to sources close to the government.

There is disagreement, however, about what form such assistance should take and about the degree of any temporary government nationalization of the airline.

Apparently some are reluctant to add additional yet more government oversight to the company, with some sources worrying that would add to the problems the company already faces.

The airline has been severely impacted by the pandemic and Spohr has already told employees to prepare for difficult times ahead.