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WhatsApp to allow users search for businesses

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WhatsApp has launched a new feature in select countries that will let users search for businesses, contact them, and make purchases without ever having to leave the app.

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The features are still in testing and are limited to select countries. The new ‘Business Search’ feature will let users find a brand on the platform. This is being rolled out in Brazil, the UK, Indonesia, Mexico, and Colombia for now.

According to The Indian Express, the new Directory feature will let users discover a local merchant on WhatsApp and it is limited to Brazil only for now. The company plans to expand it to the entire country after testing in Sao Paulo.

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“We want to make it easier for people to get more done on WhatsApp. Part of that is building better ways to engage with businesses. And while millions of businesses in Brazil use it for chat, we haven’t made it easy to discover businesses or buy from them, so people end up having to use workarounds,” states Meta Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg, in a press statement.

The new P2M or Pay to Merchant feature will let users directly pay a merchant in the app. This is being tested in Brazil only and will expand to other markets as well.

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With this addition, WhatsApp is turning into yet another Meta-owned social platform that also doubles up as a full-fledged online storefront.

Back in 2020, Facebook and Instagram gained shopping features that let businesses easily create online stores on the platforms allowing them to sell their merchandise directly – and WhatsApp’s now joining them.

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Businesses will obviously benefit from this feature too since people will be able to find, contact, and purchase from them – all from a WhatsApp chat. Mark Zuckerberg has also promised privacy with Business Search, stating that what you search for is processed in such a way that it cannot be traced back to you.

Do note that the feature is not available in India right now, with the launch only in Brazil, the UK, Indonesia, Mexico, and Colombia so far. From these, only users in Brazil can look up SMBs (small and midsize businesses) in their own neighbourhood, as the search capabilities in the other countries are limited to bigger brands.

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WhatsApp has yet to provide any date for when Indian WhatsApp users will be treated to the Business Search feature, but the platform does state that it’s working to bring the experience to more countries “in the coming months.”

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Subsidy: Nigerians Indict NNPC, Accuse Successive Govts Of Complicity

,Subsidy:, Downstream
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Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to be more decisive with the issue of subsidy for petroleum products in the overall interest of the masses.

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Participants at a weekly discussion programme of the African Media Hangout, a platform made up of a group of diverse media professionals made the call weekend.

Discussants at the weekly programme included Professor Tony Afejuku of the University of Benin, Benin City; Pa Patrick Omhonriawho; a Publisher, Oray Osawe, and a retired News Agency Nigeria Editor, Mr. Celsius Ohain, among others.

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In his contribution, Prof Tony Afejuku of the University of Benin identified Nigeria’s major problem as that of leadership, which according to him is the cause of the “subsidy woes.”

While calling on journalists to carry out their watch dog role by doing more investigation in the mystery behind fuel subsidy in Nigeria, Prof. Afejuku urged citizens to protest against fuel problem (scarcity) which he said has become a source of trauma, pains to Nigerians.

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He said: “Nigeria has only one huge problem. What is this huge problem? The huge problem of leadership. It is the cause of our subsidy woes.

With or without subsidy Nigeria will be the progressive country we want it to be if we have the right leadership; if our political leaders are political leaders and not political rulers.”

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Another contributor with the username Mr Oyo said fuel subsidy is not the problem but “issue of greed and pursuit of wanton wealth at the expense of Nigerians by the country’s petroleum company, the NNPC and its management.”

Questioning Why the NNPC should be the sole importer of fuel since Nigeria fails to refine her crude, Mr. Oyo said: “Until Nigeria refines her crude locally, the solution lies in deregulation of the market so that importers can set up an independent monitoring body.”

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On his part, ORay Osawe, Publisher, Navigator Newspapers, also accused the NNPC of defrauding the nation’s treasury with the payment of subsidy.

He added that since successful governments have failed to stop the payment of subsidy, it means the government itself is complicit in the fraud.

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He asserted: “The NNPC has feasted on the governments’ magnanimity and is defrauding the Nigerian people in the subsidy payment.

“The problem is that top government officials are colluding with the NNPC to rape the Nigerian masses in the name of subsidy.

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“This explains why successive governments lack the political will to stop the subsidy by not breaking the NNPC’s monopoly. In essence governments has been complicit, especially with a President overseeing the Petroleum Ministry.”

Also contributing to the discussion, Elder Patrick Omhonriawho popularly called PGO viewed the problem of subsidy from multiple perspectives, saying “leaders slow pace of decision making with a bicameral legislature; lack of leadership and corruption in every facets of government are a major banes.”

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He added: “Our leaders slow pace of decision making with a bicameral legislature has not helped matters. This is visible in contract awards for building roads, bridges, fuel depots and rail lines.

“Lack of leadership and corruption in every facets of government is a major issue.” (Sic)

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On his part, Elder Celsius Ohain, a retired Editor of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) posited that “Fuel subsidy has become somewhat of a mysterious phenomenon in Nigeria because of the aura of secrecy and controversy that surrounds it over the years.”

According to him, “as a nation, our ‘subsidy’ does not seem to meet that acceptable universal stand but has instead become a means to bleed the nation financially.”

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While noting that many persons who condemned subsidy while seeking power do the same thing when they get to power, the media practitioner urged government to fix the nation’s refineries so as to stop the importation of fuel cum subsidy.

He added: “Successive governments have done exactly the same thing they condemned on their journey to power, thus making ‘subsidy’ a jinx the nation has found it difficult to extricate itself from.

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“Few years ago, there was a subsidy probe and cans or rather, drums of worms were exposed about people getting paid for importing ‘fuel’ with non-existent vessels on high seas.

“The critical question is: Why continue to import finished products when our refineries which remain in comatose could be fixed to enable local refining and export of finished product?

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“Why can’t the Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries come to life? These are begging questions. Suffice it to say that successive governments have shown lack of political will to do the needful as the lure of ‘free monies’ flowing therefrom is too attractive to ignore.”

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Nigeria’s infrastructure quality low, says World Bank

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The World Bank has described the level and quality of infrastructure in Nigeria as low despite the Federal Government’s claim of borrowing to finance infrastructure.

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In its Nigeria public finance review report, the World Bank said that Nigeria’s physical infrastructure gap would likely reach $3tn in the next 30 years.

The report read, “The level and quality of Nigeria’s infrastructure quality is low, with the country ranked 132 out of 137 countries for infrastructure in the 2018 Global Competitive Index. Nigeria’s physical infrastructure gap is estimated to reach $3tn over the next 30 years.”

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It added that Nigeria’s development outcomes were among the lowest globally, which indicated high public spending needs.

The Washington-based bank also noted that it would take Nigeria 300 years to close infrastructure gap, which would cost the country 4 per cent of its GDP yearly.

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The report read, “At the current rate of expenditure allocation, it would take 300 years to close the country’s current infrastructure gap. Closing Nigeria’s infrastructure gap would cost at least four per cent of GDP growth per year.”

In September 2021, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the Federal Government was borrowing to build world-class infrastructure and not for recurrent expenditure.

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The minister said this at the town hall meeting organised by his ministry on the destruction of telecommunications and power infrastructure in Borno State

Recently in October, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), defended his government’s borrowing, describing it as a necessary step to provide the infrastructure that would expand opportunities for the growth of the Nigerian economy.

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Buhari said, “We have also continued to accelerate our infrastructure development through serviceable and transparent borrowing, improved capital inflow and increased revenue generation by expanding the tax bases and prudent management of investment proceeds in the Sovereign Wealth Fund.”

Nigeria currently has a debt burden of about N66.61tn, which includes N23.77tn from the CBN and N42.84tn from domestic and foreign creditors.

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The PUNCH recently reported that the country’s debt rose by N30.72tn between July 2015 and June 2022, according to data released by the Debt Management Office.

According to the DMO statistics, Nigeria’s total debt as of June 30, 2015, stood at N12.12tn. By June 30, 2022, the figure had risen to N42.84tn, which showed an increase of 253.47 per cent. Despite the high increase in debt over the years, the government still plans to borrow N8.4tn in 2023.

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The PUNCH also reported that the Federal Government had borrowed N6.31tn from the Central Bank of Nigeria through Ways and Means Advances in 10 months.

This pushed the Federal Government’s borrowing from the CBN from N17.46tn in December 2021 to N23.77tn in October 2022.

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Ways and Means Advances is a loan facility through which the CBN finances the shortfalls in the government’s budget.

The N23.77tn owed to the apex bank by the Federal Government is not part of the country’s total public debt stock, which stood at N42.84tn as of June 2022.

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The World Bank had, in November 2021, warned the Nigerian government against financing deficits by borrowing from the CBN through the Ways and Means Advances, saying this put fiscal pressures on the country’s expenditures.

Despite warnings from experts and organisations, the Federal Government had kept borrowing from the CBN to fund budget deficits.

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A development economist, Dr Aliyu Ilias, criticised the government for its constant reliance on borrowing, which was unhealthy for the economy.

He urged the government to seek better ways of generating revenue rather than persistently borrowing from the apex bank.

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EU strikes oil price cap deal to starve Russia war machine of funds

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The EU on Friday joined the G7 in agreeing a cap on the price of Russian oil to starve the Kremlin of resources for its Ukraine war, as President Vladimir Putin said strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure were “inevitable”.

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The price cap of $60 per barrel, previously agreed on a political level with the United States and the G7 group of wealthy democracies, will come into effect with an EU embargo on Russian crude oil from Monday.

The embargo will prevent shipments of Russian crude by tanker vessel to the EU, which account for two thirds of imports, potentially depriving Russia’s war chest of billions of euros.

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Poland had refused to back the price cap plan over concerns the ceiling was too high, before its ambassador to the bloc confirmed Warsaw’s agreement on Friday evening, allowing the measure to be made official this weekend.

The price cap is designed to make it harder to bypass the sanctions by selling beyond the EU.

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Poland’s ambassador to the bloc, Andrzej Sados, also said Brussels would take into account Polish and Baltic state suggestions for a “painful and expensive” ninth round of sanctions against Moscow.

The White House described the deal as “welcome news”, saying a price cap will help limit Putin’s ability to fund the Kremlin’s “war machine”.

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– Infrastructure strikes ‘inevitable’ –

After suffering humiliating defeats during what has become the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II, Russia began targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure in October, causing sweeping blackouts.

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Putin said Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure were “inevitable”, in his first conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz since mid-September.

“Such measures have become a forced and inevitable response to Kyiv’s provocative attacks on Russia’s civilian infrastructure,” Putin told Scholz, according to a Kremlin readout of the telephone talks.

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The Kremlin leader referred in particular to the October attack on a bridge linking Moscow-annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland.

Scholz “urged the Russian president to come as quickly as possible to a diplomatic solution including the withdrawal of Russian troops”, according to the German leader’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

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Putin called on Berlin to “reconsider its approaches” and accused the West of carrying out “destructive” policies in Ukraine, the Kremlin said, stressing that its political and financial aid meant Kyiv “completely rejects the idea of any negotiations”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had ruled out any talks with Russia while Putin is in power shortly after the Kremlin claimed to have annexed several Ukrainian regions.

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– Talks off the table –

The Kremlin also indicated Moscow was in no mood for talks over Ukraine, after US President Joe Biden said he would be willing to sit down with Putin if the Russian leader truly wanted to end the fighting.

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“What did President Biden say in fact? He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding Moscow was “certainly” not ready to accept those conditions.

The White House sought to pour water on the idea of talks as well on Friday, saying Biden has “no intention” of sitting down with Putin at present.

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But Washington did say it was ready to meet on a different issue, expressing disappointment that Russia had postponed talks on nuclear arms control.

Russia’s strikes have destroyed close to half of the Ukrainian energy system and left millions in the cold and dark at the onset of winter.

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In the latest estimates from Kyiv, Mykhaylo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, said as many as 13,000 Ukrainian troops have died in the fighting.

Both Moscow and Kyiv are suspected of minimising their losses to avoid damaging morale.

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Top US general Mark Milley last month said more than 100,000 Russian military personnel have been killed or wounded in Ukraine, with Kyiv’s forces likely suffering similar casualties.

– ‘We are not defeated’ –

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The fighting in Ukraine has also claimed the lives of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and forced millions to flee their homes.

Those who remain in the country have had to cope with emergency blackouts as authorities sought to relieve the pressure on the energy infrastructure.

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In an attempt to boost the mood in the capital Kyiv, musicians played a classical music concert on Thursday with hundreds of LED candles lighting up the stage.

“We thought it was a good idea to save energy,” Irina Mikolaenko, one of the concert’s organisers, told AFP.

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She said they wanted to spread “inspiration, light and love” and “tell people that we are not defeated”.

Ukrainian officials have said they are expecting a new wave of Russian attacks shortly.

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