LAGOS – Corruption watchdogs alleged on Monday that Shell executives knew that money earmarked for a controversial oil deal was being used to bribe senior Nigerian officials, a claim rebuffed by the petroleum giant.
The deal saw the Nigerian government act as an intermediary between the oil majors and Malabu Oil and Gas, a Nigerian company allegedly controlled by former petroleum minister Dan Etete.
Allegations of corruption and bribery have mounted in the years since the deal was signed, forcing Shell and Eni to repeatedly maintain that they acquired the rights to the lucrative block in line with Nigerian law.
But email exchanges between Shell management cited in the Global Witness report and seen by AFP suggest that Shell was aware that the OPL245 money was likely going to be funnelled to individuals, including Etete and then president Goodluck Jonathan.
“Shell executives knew the money would go to Malabu and Etete, and was then likely to flow to some of the most powerful people in the country,” the Global Witness report said.
“Senior Shell officials were also briefed that funds could flow on to then President Goodluck Jonathan.
No basis to prosecute
“The leaked emails come as Shell and Eni are facing intense scrutiny in connection with the deal.
They are charged with corruption in Nigeria and are being investigated by Italian prosecutors in connection with the deal.
“Etete can smell the money,” said one Shell executive in a 2010 email published in the Global Witness report. “I think he knows it’s his for the taking.”
In another email, a Shell advisor said “the president (Jonathan) is motivated to see 245 closed quickly driven by expectations about the proceeds that Malabu will receive and political contributions that will flow as a consequences”.
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency filed corruption charges against Shell and Eni in March, accusing 11 defendants, including Etete, of “official corruption” in connection with the oil block deal.
Jonathan has denied receiving kickbacks, saying in January that he has not been “accused, indicted or charged for corruptly collecting monies” linked to the deal.
A Shell spokesperson said the company believes there are no grounds for prosecution but said it was “fully co-operating” with the relevant authorities.
“We are not aware of any evidence to support a case against any former or current Shell employee,” the spokesperson said, adding that if any improper payments were made “none of those payments were made with its knowledge, authorisation or on its behalf.”
“Shell attaches the greatest importance to business integrity. It’s one of our core values,” the spokesperson concluded.
Years of legal wrangling
Eni Claudio Descalzi told the Financial Times in February that his company “did not do anything wrong”.
“At every stage, we have acted in compliance with all applicable law …. Eni and Shell paid the government of Nigeria, and were not involved with the government decision on how to use such money.”
The OPL245 oil block has been a source of contention for almost two decades.
In 1998, the block was awarded by then-petroleum minister Dan Etete to Malabu Oil and Gas.
Years of legal wrangling between Malabu, the Nigerian government and Shell ensued, with Shell ultimately winning rights to the block in a partnership with Eni.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to fight corruption in Nigeria’s oil sector.
He campaigned on a platform to target rampant graft and has said “mind-boggling” sums have been stolen from the public purse.
His government has arrested a series of high-ranking officials from Jonathan’s administration on corruption charges but few have been convicted.
iCE3X becomes first cryptocurrency exchange in South Africa to launch native token with Artificial Intelligence Coin (AIC)
Gareth Grobler, Founder iCE3X
iCE3X has become the first cryptocurrency exchange in South Africa to launch native token in the form of Artificial Intelligence Coin (AIC) – a token developed by iCE3X, one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchanges in South Africa and Nigeria. The token aims at reducing the cost of transactions on the platform provided the AIC token is used. AIC is an ERC-20 token created on the Ethereum blockchain.
Following in the footsteps of exchanges such as Binance with its BNB token, the AIC token by iCE3 is a cryptocurrency that allows users to pay for trading fees at a discounted rate on the exchange. Other exchanges worldwide who have native tokens include Huobi with its HT token, KuCoin with its KCS token , Bibox with its BIX token and OkEX with its OKB token. Although discounted trading fees is the first use case for AIC, there’s nothing stopping the token from expanding its utility to use cases such as earning in-game rewards for example, considering iCE3X developer team’s experience in creating software for the gaming industry.
Exchange token utility varies between platforms. Binance for example gives crypto projects discounts for paying their listing fees in BNB. iCE3X on the other hand has a different approach in that it does not charge token listing fees but rather has other governance mechanisms for determining which tokens to list on the exchange for example taking the more customer-centric approach of analysing which tokens are being requested by most users and other due diligence processes.
Exchange tokens are not the same as security tokens or even some other forms of utility tokens. There are potential benefits of owning exchange tokens but it is important for people to not view exchange tokens as an investment since they typically do not represent equity in the company. For example, simply owning AIC does not represent equity ownership of the iCE3X exchange. However, token holders can be included in exchange governance processes through being afforded rights to vote e.g. voting for which tokens are listed next on the exchange. Holding exchange tokens may allow users to pay for services offered within and outside of the iCE3X ecosystem.
Revenues made by exchanges come mostly from trading fees. The bigger the volume traded, the more fees generated and the bigger the profit. Some people see the growing interest in cryptocurrencies as a sign that trusted and secure exchange platforms such as iCE3X will grow as more people get involved in the digital asset ecosystem. There is potential upward growth trajectory when crypto goes mainstream for exchanges with a proven track record such as iCE3X which has a history dating back to the advent of crypto exchange service platforms such and is still the only Kaspersky security audited exchange in the world.
Google trends shows Nigeria and South Africa as the top countries in the world with the highest searches for terms such as Bitcoin and these are markets iCE3X has already been operating in for years. It’s not unreasonable to expect the cryptocurrency ecosystem to continue to grow and attract more people and with that more traders and larger volumes of digital asset trades taking place on platforms such as iCE3X. If this turns out to be the case, early adopters of exchange tokens such as AIC could potentially see the demand for such tokens rise as more and more people seek to get reduced fees on their trades.
Hypothetically, from a speculator’s perspective one could surmise that would create some direct correlation to the token price valuation in the future should that happen.
More people are starting to realise the potential opportunity of possessing a cryptocurrency exchange platform’s internal assets. Most exchange tokens can be seen as essential to crypto-infrastructure projects and the potential price rise in such tokens could be linked to several factors such as platform feature development which most exchanges are able to fund through these types of mechanisms. This promotes and enables continued internal development of the ecosystems of the native platforms which ultimately benefits the users.
As exchange tokens are made available on other exchanges some of the common use cases we typically see include transfer of value from exchange to exchange at almost no cost compared to sending other cryptos between exchanges since native token values have historically been less volatile than other cryptos. Essentially, one could argue exchange tokens have characteristics akin to stable coins in some cases.
Technically advanced exchanges such as iCE3X should have the capabilities of even integrating tokens like AIC in future payment mechanisms. It all comes down to the vision and roadmap of any one exchange but with founder Gareth Grobler consulting with the South African financial regulator since 2012 and the team at iCE3X working on making iCE3X one of the first licensed crypto-asset service provider (CASP) in Africa, the potential for further use cases to be tied to a native token like AIC is not unimaginable.
The team at iCE3X also includes COO, Eugene Etsebeth who was the inaugural Chairperson for the Intergovernmental Fintech Working Group back in 2016 during his tenure at the South African Reserve Bank. It’d be interesting to see which product and service offerings from the various exchanges will be rolled out as the local ecosystem continues to grow. At the moment iCE3X seems to be leading the pack in terms of advanced platform features and security.
As we all look forward to seeing how the market shapes up as momentum in the cryptocurrency space continues, it is not far-fetched to imagine that some exchanges may soon follow in the footsteps of global market dominators such as Binance in terms of rolling out things like ‘Exchange-as-a-Service’ features for developing decentralised finance applications or decentralised exchange (DEX) protocols.
If interested in earning regular dividends as passive income and holding crypto coins with real utility you can purchase some AIC tokens on the AIC-BTC pair on iCE3X. iCE3X exchange will mint a hard cap of 210 million Artificial Intelligence Coins. Currently the pre-sale offer on AIC tokens is live with up to 20% discount off the public sale price. Be one of the first 100 people to stake 10,000 AIC tokens and get zero % trading discount on all trades for the lifetime of your stake.
About the author: Heath Muchena is the founder of Proudly Associated which advises international blockchain companies developing technologies that have use cases focused on emerging economy development, particularly in Africa. He is the author of Blockchain Applied. He is also the brains behind Block Patrol – a technology adoption and business development startup that pushes the value of 4IR innovations upstream including Blockchain, AI, IoT, and Machine Learning to leverage new opportunities and foster growth.
African Union approves Adesina Akinwumi for second term
The Executive Council of the African Union has supported Dr. Akinwumi Adesina’s candidacy for a second term as President of the African Development Bank.
The decision was taken during the thirty-sixth Ordinary Session of the AU Executive Council, held during the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 6-7 February 2020.
Adesina was elected to his first term as President by the Bank’s Board of Governors at its Annual Meetings in Abidjan on 28 May 2015. He is the eighth President of the African Development Bank Group and the first Nigerian in the post.
During his first term, the Bank’s shareholders approved a landmark $115 billion capital increase in late October. The increase in the capital base, from $93 billion to $208 billion, signaled strong support from the Board of Governors in the continent’s foremost financial institution.
Adesina is a renowned development economist who has held a number of high-profile international positions, including with the Rockefeller Foundation, and as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2015.
The African Union Executive Council comprises 55 ministers of foreign affairs representing the member states of the African Union.
In December 2019, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also endorsed Adesina for a second term as Bank chief. The election will again take place at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in May in Abidjan.
Wake Up Call On Africans In The Blockchain Space
Blockchain(Image credit: Datafloq)
What is the long term plan for Africa & African businesses as far as the future of Blockchain/ Fintech businesses are concerned? Are we again thinking ‘what is in for me’ just as it has often been the case when African countries try to outsmart each other on economic agreements, instead of going on the table as a block with a common agenda? Some of us think we have to get our acts right this time with a long playbook to protect home grown startups with some deliberate plans.
Why should it all be about competition rather than collaboration and looking at each step from the perspective of how it will turn things around for the continent this time around? The influx of Chinese (blockchain) businesses being greeted with the kind of effusive praise-singing that could make a canary bird blush is indeed funny and absurd since we’ve conveniently forgotten that we can’t eat our eggs and have it.
The examples of Houbi, Binance, OkEX and all other Chinese based exchanges reveal that not one single African plays any C-Level roles including CFO, COO, Head of Product or even any key insider role for that matter. Instead we see them exploiting Africans, throwing a few dollars at them and giving them saccharine titles like Director of Innovation, Labs, Hubs, Ambassador etc., and using them to gather intels on how to optimize their businesses. When it’s all said and done, these companies leave the continent with nothing but capital flight.
Contrast this scenario with what’s obtainable in companies/startups like Coinpesa, BitFXT, Kudi Exchange, Kurepay, KuBitX and many others who have Africans as core key officers. Whether they recognize it or not, their success is for the continent as a whole and can help trigger a wave of advancements cutting through several spheres from business Incubation to financing and many more. It’s no different from the ascent of Silicon Valley, The Shark Tanks, and Dragon Den.
Let any African successful blockchain project with millions try the Chinese market, if you will not be forced to rather join an existing business in partnership or be whisked away with watertight rules; all to ensure they protect their business environment. So why do we gleefully allow ourselves to be used and dumped by destroying smart entrepreneurs who are doing everything on their own by fronting everyday for Chinese brands with the same services. when we could be advancing the interests of our people?
Homegrown companies like BitFXT, Kudi Exchange, Kurepay, KuBitX, etc. providing one smart solution or the other are being discouraged by industry players and stakeholders in the African market who have chosen to push the Chinese agenda rather than back theirs.
Africa needs blockchain more than any other continent. The joke is on us if we cannot devise a deliberate plan to force these so called big brands into partnering with local brands in each market they seek to enter rather than allowing them roam free and making it impossible for homegrown brands to stay competitive. Failure to regulate these foreign companies will leave us at the losing end because of limited funding problems prevalent in the local market.
We all need to pause and ask ourselves the tough questions and identify our WHY in 3,5,10 years time when this has become a major economic shift. The narrative needs to change with smart thinking on how we can reposition the continent by helping those (Africans) who have invested all their resources into making the market ready to scale with the right synergies local or foreign which can push our continent and help accelerate economic growth.
Yes there is poverty & scarcity which has pushed many into survival mode and its attendant self-sabotaging actions without any consideration of the long term effects. But if Africa is to achieve its destined greatness and earn a sit at the table in global economic affairs, we cannot continue to live with this scarcity & survival mentality that has continued to drag us down into oblivion and will continue to do so if we refuse to think beyond the present.
Some of us are very bullish about changing the narrative. We don’t care about how it will cost us and will never settle for less and sell our conscience for peanuts. It’s a simple but potent universal rule at play. Value yourself and others will be attracted to your value. When the foundation is weak, every other part is affected. Let these be a clarion call to these big groups and stakeholders who have in the past years created an attractive and congenial market environment, to come up with sane regulations to guide the influx of foreign brands and how we engage them.
We need to push an Africa agenda through regulatory framework. and stricter antitrust laws just as we have in other climes to protect startups in the blockchain space. SIBAN, Blockchain User Group, Kenya Blockchain Association etc. must act now or be left as white elephants with no influence.
No doubt we need the big players but it should be based purely on mutually beneficial partnerships that puts Africa first just as in top economies of the world like China. The African market needs to slow down the rate it adopts and buys into imported brands that have no regards for collaborative practices. We can’t keep up the pretense by allowing them to just come in with their financial war chest and crowd out indigenous ones, who are doing everything with no government or institutional support, lest we’ll be shooting ourselves in the foot. We need more collaboration for a win-win.
China supports their startups. If we decide to go the free market way especially in this fast growing revolution, there will not be any business for our continent as far as decentralization is concerned. Remember, the game of the future is all about who controls DATA and China has a long playbook to control data. Someone needs to rise up to the occasion and be the proverbial hummingbird.
The Chinese and everyone else are only interested in exploiting Africans. Everyone comes to Africa to milk; only Africans struggle to do anything meaningful in other foreign markets literally. Today we have ACFTA, and again, it will be a mistake, if we don’t have a playbook on how we seek to build the business sector with our smart ambitious minds scattered across the continent.
I have grown to see Africa lagging behind with glorious titles of consumers and laggards with almost all the major disruptive technologies from early days of TV, Internet,Email, E-Commerce, Mobile Phone, Social Media. All the above,there were some proprietary rights to use or own, we do not have any more excuse this time to take advantage of the 4IR, especially Blockchain.
In simple terms,Blockchain is not a proprietary asset to any particular race, it is, in my opinion first to be floated to the world for anyone to leverage and leapfrog in advancing the activities of life. Africa is over 100 years behind the pace of development as compared to Europe, America and most parts of Asia.
For us to triple our continent development, we need to be more deliberate and use technology and innovation as a tool to catch up. It is estimated that, Africa will have more population by 2050 with cities such as Lagos, Kinshasa, Addis, Delisalem etc being the most populous globally.
This can be a social misfit or economic strength for Africa, if we step up our game with a different approach to what we have been doing in the last 100 years.
I am an optimist who believe in our collective reawakening to build the next Africa, where the son of a nobody can rise through hard work, dedication, commitment, honesty, openness, being compassionate and empathetic to become the Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Jack Ma of this world. The simple truth is there is a need for a mindset shift from survival and scarcity instincts to an abundance mentality with focus based on value than the short gain route.
This Time is Africa and only Africans truly have the ultimate interest of Africa.
By Eric Annan – Pan African Entrepreneur on a mission; changing the narrative.
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