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News Roundup: Youth Employment Action Plan, Okonjo-Iweala makes Time’s 100, Buhari seeks approval for over $4 billion foreign loans…

Okonjo-Iweala makes Time’s 100 Most Influential People

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the only Nigerian on Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the world. Okonjo-Iweala, who became the first woman and first African to lead the WTO in March 2021, was included in the “leaders” category. Speaking on Okonjo-Iweala’s efforts, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, said the former Nigerian finance minister “knows how to get things done”, and praised her work at the helm of the WTO. Okonjo-Iweala was the first Nigerian woman to serve two terms as finance minister – first under President Olusegun Obasanjo from 2003 to 2006 – and later, under President Goodluck Jonathan from 2011 to 2015. Subsequently, from June to August 2006, she served as foreign affairs minister of Nigeria. Other key African names on the list included are South African Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo, Cameroonian Dr. John Nkengasong, who is heading the AU’s Covid response, and Kenyan environmental activist Phyllis Omido. Senegalese writer and musician Felwine Sarr and Ethiopian entrepreneur and food policy specialist Sara Menker were also on the list. In addition, there were household names from the African diaspora including Ugandan-British actor Daniel Kaluuya and French actor Omar Sy.

Britain begins world’s largest trial of blood test for 50 types of cancer

NHS England will pilot a blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer before clinical signs or symptoms emerge. This includes ovarian, pancreatic, oesophageal, bowel and lung cancers. Developed by US-based medtech company GRAIL, the Galleri test uses a machine learning algorithm to examine cell-free DNA (cfDNA) that leaks from tumours into the bloodstream. It detects chemical changes, known as methylation patterns, with a false positive rate of only 0.5%. Initial studies used patients whose cancer had already been diagnosed through other means and correctly identified cancers in over 50% of cases and correctly located the tissues affected in 88.7% of cases. NHS England will pilot Galleri from mid-2021 with 165,000 people. Participants will predominantly be 50–79-year-olds with no symptoms who will take annual blood tests. If the pilot proves successful, it will be expanded to one million participants across 2024 and 2025. Nearly 200,000 people die from cancer in the UK each year and over a thousand people are diagnosed every day.

Over 1 million children afraid of returning to school in Nigeria
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says at least one million children will likely stay away from school because of the threat of violence, following a series of mass kidnappings and attacks targeting learners in 2021 alone. More than 1,000 learners have been taken for ransom by criminal gangs in Nigeria’s northwest and central states since December 2020. Most have been released after ransom negotiations, but only after weeks or months in captivity, often in appalling conditions in rural camps. According to UNICEF, more than 37 million Nigerian children will start the new school year in September 2021 but many are being cut off from their education and other vital benefits schools provide, as families and communities remain fearful of sending their children back. Some state governments have temporarily closed schools to protect learners.

Investors offer $1.6bn for Access Bank’s $500m Eurobond

Access Bank on Wednesday announced that it has successfully issued a $500 million Senior Unsecured Eurobond from the international debt capital market, as part of its Global Medium-Term Note Programme. Investors were willing to subscribe to the $500 million Access Bank sought to raise with $1.6 billion, more than three times the value issued by the lender. As a result, investors’ confidence in lender’s ability to pay at maturity earned the bank a record as the first to attract the largest order book ever for a Nigerian bank Eurobond transaction. “The success of our $500 million senior unsecured Eurobond is yet another stride towards the realisation of that vision and underscores our investors’ confidence in the Access Bank story,” the Group Managing Director of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, said. The senior Eurobond 5-year unsecured note (144A/RegS), which was sold under the bank’s $1.5 billion global medium-term note programme, was issued with a yield and coupon of 6.125 (approximately 6.13) per cent with interest payable semi-annually in arrears. Listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, the 5-year unsecured bond will mature in September 2026. According to Access Bank’s disclosure, “The transaction saw a significant demand from top-quality investors globally including the United States, Europe (including the United Kingdom), Middle East, Asia and Africa, anchored by a number of large tickers.”

Read also: FG, KONGA to train 500,000 Nigerian youths on digital technology

FG Launches Youth Employment Action Plan for Job Creation

The Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to mobilising the full energies and capacities of the youth in the country towards minimising the risks to national security posed by rising youth unemployment and underemployment, in line with global realities. The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Akin Dare disclosed this today in Abuja at the occasion of the launching of the Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan (NIYEAP 2009-2011). According to him, the launching of the Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan today is an expression of the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration to continue to facilitate an enabling environment that will create about 3.7 million jobs annually so as to achieve national development goals, particularly, sustainable economic growth in the country.The plan is aimed at mobilising the energies and capacities of the youth to minimise the risks to national security posed by rising unemployment. In March, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that Nigeria’s unemployment rate climbed to 33.3 percent in the fourth quarter (Q4) 2020 from 27.1 recorded in the second quarter (Q2) 2020. The minister said that the plan would emphasise the 4Es, which are: employability, entrepreneurship development, employment creation, and equality and rights, with detailed actions required in support of employment creation for youths in critical economic and social sectors.

Nigeria’s Buhari seeks approval for over $4 billion foreign loans

President Muhammadu Buhari has requested Senate approval for a plan to borrow more than $4 billion from international lenders for infrastructure projects, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday. Sovereign loans, including one of 710 million euros and a grant of $125 million, are to be sourced from the World Bank, French Development Agency, China-Exim Bank and International Fund for Agricultural Development. Private lenders include Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chartered Bank, according to the letter. The latest request adds to a series of borrowings that the government intends to use to try to jump-start an economy disrupted by COVID-19 and dollar shortages. In May, Buhari asked the Senate to approve borrowing of $3 billion or more via the Eurobonds market, which the government plans to launch in October. Nigeria emerged from its second recession since 2016 in the fourth quarter, but growth is fragile. The government expects a 2021 budget deficit of 5.6 trillion naira to be financed largely from foreign and local borrowings. A Senate committee has said it was aware of concerns over the country’s debt sustainability and that debt service accounted for more than 30% of expenditure. Buhari had asked the Senate to approve a $30 billion borrowing plan for infrastructure projects in 2016 and to fund the budget until 2018, a request the then-Senate threw out without debate

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