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Why we’re unveiling Africa’s biggest solar panel factory in Borno

Engineer Ibrahim Ali is a one time Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and once served as Managing Director of the Nigerian Housing Authority (NHA) credited with supervising the construction of the famous Gwarimpa Housing Estate in Abuja. In this interview, Ali who is executing Governor Kashim Shettima’s industrialisation policy speaks on the kick-off of the Borno Solar Panel Factory.

 

What is the motive behind plans to unveil the Solar Power Panel Factory in Maiduguri?

It is Africa’s biggest and is fully automated. The idea is wholly that of Governor Kashim Shettima, and his intention is to set the stage for the industrialisation of Borno State in line with his desire to kick-start the economy of the state in response to the dislocation wrought on the state by a decade-long insurgency. In this district where all the nine industries are located, one can see an unprecedented level of activity to redefine our targets and objectives in a way that will change the narratives and build a future of prosperity and growth.

 

What are your targets for the power sector?

We have all seen the implication of the Obasanjo/Jonathan kind of privatisation of the power sector, how he sold the assets and how the sector has been bastardised leading to very serious power crisis. We are supposed to look inward in order to identify how best to respond to the crisis in the power sector in relation to getting our priorities right.

In Borno and in the North, we have abundant sunshine, and I wonder why we cannot invest in solar energy to provide realistic and affordable power to our people in order to fast track growth. It is the global trend because 20 per cent of power generated globally is from solar. In April, we will roll out.

Our target is to produce certified quality solar panels and each panel will have capacity for 300 watts. As you know 1,000 watts equals to one kilowatt and 1,000 of that is one megawatt.

Each year, we would have an aggregate of 40MW. Borno requires not more than 120 to 150MW to power its industrial drive, lubricate the economy, give access to small scale entrepreneurs and propel growth. It means in just three years, we can achieve self-sufficiency in power generation.

Have you identified the market for the solar power panels?

We are a business and as such we are a global brand. But my eyes are set on providing cheap and affordable electricity to the very people that are in critical and dire need of it to have access to power to improve their performances and businesses and to push them out of poverty. In this category we have boreholes, clinics, hospitals, schools, kiosks and other small businesses, street lights, market places, villages and even Tsangayas.

In fact, we believe that we will change the way we do irrigation in the North, Nigeria and the whole of Africa. It is very difficult for farmers to make profit in tandem with the sweat they put in because getting the energy to power their water generating sets is very costly due to fluctuating oil prices. We will provide access to energy through less costly but highly effective and affordable solar power to make it profitable and less strenuous for farmers to power their sets.

 

It is said that solar power is not fully solving electricity needs due to its low voltage. Do you consider this?

Before I come to that question, I will like to re-emphasise the endowment God Almighty has given us in virtually all of Africa. There is just no reason whatsoever for African countries to shy away from investing in solar energy. I am aware that the sub-standard power panels most people have access to have proved to be problematic and as such, there is apparently a kind of lack of confidence in them.

We have addressed all those fears by establishing a world class solar panel factory, the best and biggest in Africa and it is fully automated. We produce highly qualitative panels through a well-thought out and meticulous engineering process that will stand the test of time. We know the challenges and there was no stone that was left unturned in the process of actualising this dream.

Our first priority is Borno, and because of our peculiar circumstances and situation, our objective is to address those peculiarities in order to provide a way out of our economic dislocation.

Germany’s 20 per cent electricity is solar generated even when they are not as endowed as we are, sun wise. It is all about believing in yourself and your ability to identify your shortcomings and needs and which best is the way to go about solving them.

Source: By Fidelis MacLeva & Simon Echewofun Sunday

AfDB report expresses concern over African countries rising external debt

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has expressed worry over the rising external debt profile of African countries as it is increasing the burden of debt servicing.

The bank raised the alarm during the launch of the AfDB Group’s 2019 African Economic Outlook and West Africa Regional Economic Outlook in Abuja, yesterday.

Mr. Ebrima Faal, Senior Director, AfDB in his remarks noted that “the issue of external debt is back on the radar in many countries. Average external debt is rising in the region and has nearly doubled over the past six years to 23.6 percent of GDP at end February 2019 compared with 13.5 percent in 2013. This has increased the burden of servicing external debt.”

AfDB thus advised African countries to watch their debts commitments going forward.

Mr. Faal also expressed worry over rising insecurity across Africa and the impact on unemployment as investments in the region dwindle.

“The delicate security situation in some parts of the region also continues to impede economic performance and social stability in the West African region,” he said.

Source: Chris Agabi

Science & tech to boost Nigeria’s GDP – Minister

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said Nigeria aims to be among the countries with the largest GDP in the world through efficient use of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Dr. Onu disclosed this during the inauguration of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the review of Science Technology and Innovation Policy in Abuja yesterday.

He said the Federal Government through Science, Technology and Innovation will effectively and efficiently utilise all the natural resources in the land to create sustainable wealth for the country, create more jobs and effectively fight poverty.

He said Science, Technology and Innovation cuts across all aspects of national life and contributes to the progress of the nation.

Nigeria, he added, should produce products which are of high quality and globally competitive.

“We should remain competitive and maintain high standards comparable to the best anywhere in the world”, he added.

He disclosed that Science, Technology and Innovation will be the centrepiece of the nation’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

Earlier, the Committee chairman of the inter-ministerial Committee on the review of Science Technology and Innovation Policy, Prof. Ukwuoma Okechukwu assured that the committee will deliver on its mandate within the time frame and develop a report that will make Nigerians proud.

Source: Zakariyya Adaramola

FG seeks alternative revenue sources to fund 2019 budget

The federal government has evolved a strategic agenda to augment its sources of revenue to fund the 2019 budget.

This is according to submissions by heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to the Joint House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriation Bill, in Abuja yesterday.

The 2019 budget defence, and consideration of the bases on which it is based, namely the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) featured the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma and his Finance counterpart, Zaynab Ahmed.

Others included Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze; Director-General, Debt Management Office (DMO), Patience Oniha; Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; and Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs, Hameed Ali.

There were also Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler; Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru; and Head of the Department of Petroleum Resources, Mordecai Ladan.

Defending the 2018 budget performance, as well as the proposed appropriation for 2019 fiscal year, Udoma told the lawmakers that both the MTEF and ERGP aimed to diversify the economy, reduce unemployment and achieve sustainable economic growth.

According to him, there was need to intensify the implementation of ERGP with regard to enhanced revenue generation to effectively fund the 2019 budget, hence the strategic agenda.

He said although the economy recently emerged from recession, and thus requires time to fully recuperate, “all major economic indices are currently trending positively.”

As at 31 December, 2018, Udoma said given N3.96 trillion aggregate revenue, the government had incurred expenditure of N6 trillion, out of which N1.266 trillion was spent on capital projects.

The Minister attributed the rise of recurrent spending above capital expenditure in the 2019 budget to allocations for new minimum wage, as well as government’s commitment to offsetting all pension arrears.

Source: By Ozibo Ozibo

Nigeria to construct its largest rural solar mini grid

Nigeria is set to construct its largest rural mini grid aimed at electrifying more than 634 households, seven schools, three hospitals, eight religious organizations, and more than 90 businesses in Ode Omi Community.

The announcement comes after Solar Nigeria for the People Limited (Solar Nigeria FTP), the Nigerian subsidiary of Solar Philippines signed a Community Agreement with Ode Omi Community to invest about half a million dollars towards the development.

Largest solar mini grids

Speaking during the signing ceremony, Country Director of Solar Nigeria FTP, Tobi Oluwatola, said the project is due to be commissioned in September 2019. It will supply a peak load of 99kW to the community in its first phase, and up to 500kW in its second phase.

“This is the first of many. We think that with solar today being cheaper than diesel and gas in some countries, it is unconscionable that Nigerians continue to endure power cuts when we can aggressively deploy solar to solve the problem at scale. Our aim is to end energy poverty everywhere it exists,” said Tobi Oluwatola.

 

Mr Oluwatola explained that the company plans to train and employ more than 50 youth from Ode Omi Community in the construction phase and also employ security personnel from the village as well as empower existing recharge card vendors to make additional revenue from selling prepaid meter credits for the mini-grid in the operations phase.

Oluwatola added that the company will also build 100 mini-grids in the first year and to also work with Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to build interconnected mini-grids that will supply previously undeserved urban areas. Nigerians continues to endure power cuts which can aggressively deploy solar to solve the problem at scale. “Our aim is to end energy poverty everywhere it exists”

The solar project will also include installation of free street lighting and better health and education outcomes as hospitals can have necessary cooling, heating and lighting solutions.

“Women also would not have to travel long distances to fetch water and wood as electric stoves and water pumps will replace firewood and stream water and children will have light to study at night,” said Mr Oluwatola.

The signing of the community solar agreement was witnessed by the Chairman of the Ogun Waterside Local Government, Abajo Olabode; the Chairman of the Ode Omi Community Solar Power Committee, Ahmed Surakatu; and Solar Philippines officials, Terence Dy Echo and Carlos Fernandez.

Solar Nigeria FTP

In only five years of its founding, Solar Nigeria FTP is already the largest vertically integrated solar developer-manufacturer-EPC-IPP in South East Asia, with 800 MW manufacturing capacity, 500 MW projects operating and under construction and multiple GW in development in seven countries.

Source: By Teresia Njoroge, ConstructionReviewOnline

TSA to cover foreign account soon

Federal Government on Tuesday has disclosed that it was working towards implementing the Treasury Single Account (TSA) to cover foreign accounts.

The Minister for Finance, Hajia Zainab Amed, made this disclosure on Tuesday at a budget defence session with key revenue generating ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) organised by the House of Representatives joint committee on finance, appropriation, aids, loans and debt management under the Chairmanship of Hon. Babangida Ibrahim.

According to her, “we are working now to implement the TSA to cover foreign accounts operated by government agencies in order to broaden the net and minimise leakages.”

The Minister in the company of top officials of the Ministry explained that the federal government had evolved a new revenue strategic growth agenda developed by her ministry to ensure a sustainable revenue flow system.

According to the Minister, “we have identified new revenue streams and we’re working to tap into them, especially the identification of new taxes for which we are working with the FIRS to bring that to fruition, of course with an amendment to relevant tax laws.”

She assured that her Ministry was doing everything possible to ensure that all revenues due for the Federal government were adequately captured and remitted accordingly.

Source: By Jacob Segun Olatunji

Investors expect lower rates as CBN conducts first Q2 T-Bills auction

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will on Thursday auction Treasury Bills worth N95.68 billion in its first Primary Market Auction (PMA) for the second quarter of 2019, with investors anticipating a lower stop rate.

Investors expect a stop rate bid range of between 10.00 percent and 10.20 percent compared with the last stop rate of 10.30 percent for a 91-day tenor instrument, according to details of this week’s T-Bills auction made available

For the 182-day tenor, they expect a stop rate of between 11.70 percent and 12 percent from the last rate of 12.20 percent.

In the same vein, the investors are looking at bidding at a range of between 11.90 percent and 12.20 percent compared with 12.34 percent for 364-day tenor.

Meanwhile, the CBN plans to sell N10 billion for 90-day tenor, N17.6 billion for 182-day tenor and N68.08 billion for 364-day tenor.

Consequently, Afrinvest Securities Limited has advised investors to take advantage of the long-term Primary Market Auction offer (yield around 13.9 percent) as well as selected secondary market bills with attractive yields.

“We do not rule out the possibility of a further moderation in the discount rate on T-Bills and Open Market Operation (OMO) bills instruments following the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) cut and the absence of CBN’s OMO auction,” said Afrinvest analysts.

On Tuesday, March 26, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBN surprised analysts, economists and investors with a 50 basis point or 0.5 percent reduction in its benchmark interest rate to 13.5 percent, from 14 percent since July 2016. This triggered more buying interest as investors took positions across the yield curve. The regulator, however, retained asymmetric corridor around the MPR at +2 percent/-5 percent; Cash Reserve Requirement (CRR) at 22.5 percent and Liquidity Ratio at 30 percent.

The regulator of banks and other financial institutions sells Treasury Bills twice a month to help government fund its budget deficit.

“It is possible that the yields on the Nigerian Treasury Bills (NTBs) remain around the current levels if there is still sustained demand,” says Ayodele Akinwunmi, head of research, FSDH Merchant Bank Limited.

A report by Afrinvest revealed that the bearish sentiments in the Treasury Bills secondary market were reversed last week as average yields across all tenors declined 11bps week-on-week to settle at 13.6 percent on Friday.

The uptick in investor sentiment was largely supported by the inflow of liquidity from matured OMO bills amidst the surprising absence of the CBN’s OMO auction all through the week. As a result, most investors took positions in the secondary market, particularly along the medium and long ends of the curve with the 18-Jun-19 (-120 bps), 20-Jun-19 (-106 bps) and 23-Jan-20 (-48bps) maturities enjoying significant buying interests.

The overnight inter-bank rate, which is the rate at which banks borrow and lend to each other, has been on a steady decline since Tuesday last week, dropping to 5.57 percent on Monday, April 1, from 17.29 on March 26, 2019.

Also, the Open-Buy-Back (OBB), a money market instrument used to raise short-term capital, declined to 5.00 percent on Monday, April 1, compared to 16.43 on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.
Nigeria’s external reserves have increased to $44.34 billion as at March 28, 2019, compared to $42 29 billion it stood on February 28, 2019.

Naira appreciated marginally by 0.02 percent to close at N360.60k per dollar on Monday, as against N360.80k/$ at the investors and exporters foreign exchange window.

Source: By Hopes Moses Ashike

Buhari’s second term to prioritise power, transport infrastructure

Improving power distribution and transport infrastructure will be the key focus areas of the second term of President Muhammadu Buhari, we learnt through notes from high-level meetings with senior government officials, the Central Bank and the Debt Management Office.

Consequently, the Federal Government has agreed to raise electricity tariffs to make them more cost-reflective. It hopes this will attract more investments and make the sector efficient. Apart from tariffs, the Federal Government wants to tackle challenges power distribution companies (DisCos) face monetising their services and recapitalise them by selling down its stakes to private investors.

According to analysts at Renaissance Capital who had meetings with some Nigerian government officials including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, policymakers and regulators including the CBN governor and the Debt Management Office, the Federal Government wants a new power sector reform programme that will make it easier for private companies to thrive.

The current Power Sector Recovery Programme (PSRP) ran aground due to non-review of tariffs. The tariff methodology, called the Multi Year Tariff Order (MYTO), should have been reviewed five times in the past 15 years, but was only done in 2012. With elections over, the Federal Government will remove the brakes on tariff review and allow NERC to assert a modicum of independence at regulating electricity pricing.

The Federal Government will also continue to resuscitate rail tracks and ports around the country, we learnt. Osinbajo had previously said the government was investing over N2 trillion on private sector-led agriculture and transport infrastructure projects.
To fund these projects, the FG will raise excise duties, tariffs and taxes. The government plans to cut its stake in joint venture agreements with offshore oil companies to boost revenues in the near term.

“However, there seems to be some unwillingness on the part of the government to completely remove the de facto subsidies at this time,” analysts at RenCap said. Rather, they added, “the intention will be to progressively deal with the subsidies by ensuring a better subsidy regime in a bid to ultimately reduce them over time”.

Buhari’s government has spent N7.9 trillion in the past four years importing petrol to augment supply from the country’s rickety refineries, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). This is more than Nigeria’s entire 2017 budget of N7.2 trillion and 5 percent of the country’s current gross domestic product. This could persist for the next four years.

“It is a big shame that we are one of the world’s biggest producers of crude oil and still the world’s biggest importer of petrol. This has to change,” said Adeola Adenikinju, director, Centre for Petroleum and Energy Economics and Law and member, CBN Monetary Policy Committee.
But RenCap said it “seems unlikely that market-based reforms in the downstream petroleum sector and power sector will materialise this year”.

“Hence, the upside risks to our current inflation forecasts that we have highlighted may not crystallize,” RenCap analysts said.

The analysts added that in keeping with its core mandate of price and monetary stability, the CBN will continue to tighten monetary policy.

“The recent cut in the MPR was merely to signal to the government to enter a pro-growth phase. The apex bank will only consider substantive monetary policy easing when the headline inflation moderates to single digits,” they said.

The analysts said the CBN will continue its ‘managed float’ foreign exchange policy and support the currency around the $1/N360 levels particularly with foreign reserves in the region of $45 billion, adding that the Federal Government could review its foreign exchange policy if oil prices fell below $50 per barrel and foreign reserves below $30 billion.

Apparently, the DMO did not get the memo on Nigeria’s debt crisis. It does not think that Nigeria is close to debt distress because debt-to-GDP ratio remains very low at 19 percent. Current debt service-to-FGN revenue ratio stood at 63 percent in the nine months ending September 2018, according to RenCap calculations.

The Federal Government plans to cut back borrowing, seek more concessionary foreign loans, as opposed to Eurobonds and other commercial loans, whose rates could be potentially lower and increase Nigeria’s revenue base. By year end, the DMO wants to get a 60:40 split between local and foreign borrowing against the current split of 70:30.

“Overall, we didn’t get the sense that there are significant reforms on the way that will potentially spur growth to be faster than we have already forecast. We still expect the Nigerian economy to grow by 2.5 percent y/y in 2019,” analysts at RenCap said.

“Sure, we expect the government to continue on its current infrastructural drive but we believe that creating an environment for public private partnerships to thrive will be key to further unlocking growth in the economy,” they said.

Source: By Isaac Anyaogu

Here are the 5 key themes dictating the direction of digital mortgages

The mortgage industry aims at technology to streamline processes and tackle workflow inefficiencies, financial burdens and better borrower experiences.

Housing activity is down, costs to close are up, and lenders being forced to get creative hope digital advancements help combat these tough conditions, while also simplifying the process for consumers.

But going digital is no easy feat. Technology investments push up closing costs, at least in the short term, and lenders targeting quicker closing times can only shave off so many days in such a fragmented industry. Evolving cyber security risks also need to be addressed.

Nonetheless, lenders are certainly making progress with tech and embracing things like artificial intelligence, with 2019 set to be an important year for innovation in the mortgage world, according to FormFree CEO and Founder Brent Chandler.

From rising closing costs to implementation strategies, here’s a look at five themes shaping the direction of digital mortgages in 2019, according to topics discussed at the Mortgage Bankers Association Technology Conference on March 24-27 in Dallas.


Money well spent?

Mortgage lenders utilize technology to make the process better for borrowers, but they’re also trying to drill down costs in a climate where housing activity lags on higher home prices and previous growth in rates.

But digital advancements are doing the opposite for closing costs. While this could be a result of upfront tech investments and implementation, it’s taking a toll on an already financially constrained industry.

The average total expenses to close a mortgage spiked, going to $8,405 in 2018 from $5,958 in 2013. Digitizing the process may not be the sole reason, but it’s a contributor, and is certainly putting the pressure on lenders to get creative to keep costs low.


Ingredients for success

Lenders are moving past optical character recognition and embracing artificial intelligence to streamline processes, but they’re not getting the whole picture.

At a time when institutions are extracting rich, comprehensive data, they’re then just converting that data to a PDF and shipping it off; efforts are being made to digitize the process, but the initiatives are not carried across the lifecycle of the loan.

Part of the problem is companies aren’t tackling issues piece-by-piece, and instead rely on one model to solve multiple issues. While one tool may be responsible for extracting data, another is likely required to facilitate it through an additional piece of the mortgage value chain.

The following formula can help institutions reach a successful technology implementation: identify a problem, determine whether they have the necessary data to settle the issue and then decide which machine learning model to use, according to David Frost, director of commercial mortgage servicing technology at Wells Fargo.


Holding back progress

In its pursuit of a better customer experience, the mortgage industry targets a quicker process, but its fragmented nature limits its efforts.

The average loan closing time fluctuated between 2012 to 2018, reaching a low within the range of 40.3 days in 2014 and a high of 48.2 days in 2012, according to Ellie Mae.

Though days to close did drop over the past couple of years, lenders are working to reduce it further, but they aren’t really addressing how compartmentalized the industry is.

“Everywhere you look its fragmentation upon fragmentation,” Aaron King, Snapdocs CEO, said in an interview. “Lenders have multiple technology components to stitch together, all these settlement agents, all these investors, all these underwriters. If you look at webcam notarization, if you look at e-notes, if you look at the adoption of all these really good technologies, none of them are getting traction because nobody is solving this network challenge.”

With technology quickened closing times are inevitable, though the amount of days that can be shaved off is up for debate.


The great debate

The conversation around mortgage technology is as much about the “what” as it is the “how.”

In taking tech steps forward, mortgage lenders evaluate whether building or buying a product is best for their business.

Purchasing a product is typically the quicker and most cost-effective option in the short run, as a tool is already in place for institutions to evaluate, and it’ll be more readily available for integration. But companies developing their own technology, though a hefty and potentially expensive task, have the advantage of customization, and may wind up spending less money down the line.

Companies tapping a vendor for tech should ensure a product will properly integrate, and those opting to develop their own must have adequate resources, manpower and a solid understanding of regulatory standards.

But whether built or bought, staying mindful of business objectives sits at the core of tech implementation, requiring heavy attention from business leaders and stakeholders over a tech department.


Privacy at a price

Mortgage lenders racing to adopt technology and streamline processes are also forced to battle increased data-privacy regulation and evolving cybersecurity risks extending beyond their own operations.

From securing their own data, to that of vendor partners, and even protecting borrowers from wire fraud, lenders are gearing up to battle a sea of potential risks, and all at a price.

If borrowers lose their down payment money to a scam artist who intercepts loan information and sends false wiring information for a down payment, they can no longer purchase that house and the lender loses a loan.

Wire fraud alone generated more than $1.4 billion in losses from over 300,000 cases in 2017, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. The dollar volume and incidence of wire fraud has generally trended upward since 2013.

Source: By Elina Tarkazikis, National Mortgage News

32 most corrupt countries in the world

The countries seen as most corrupt tend to be in Africa, Central America, and the Middle East, in societies with weak legal and governmental systems and widespread poverty.

The World Economic Forum on Tuesday released its annual corruption index as part of its “Global Competitiveness Report.”

Using a methodology linked to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, the WEF ranked 140 countries’ level of corruption within their society on a scale of one to 100.

A score of 100 means a country is without corruption, while zero is the most corrupt possible. All the countries featured on this list scored 30 or less.

The countries the WEF views as most corrupt tend to be in Africa, Central America, and the Middle East, in societies with weak legal and governmental systems and widespread poverty.

For instance, the WEF ranked Yemen, which is in the middle of a brutal civil war, as the most corrupt nation. But a handful of the world’s 20 largest economies also made it onto the list.

Check out the world’s most corrupt nations below.

T29. Sierra Leone — 30

T29. Iran — 30

T29. Ukraine — 30

T29. Gambia — 30

T22. Russia — 29

T22. Paraguay — 29

T22. Mexico — 29

T22. Laos — 29

T22. Kyrgyzstan — 29

T22. Dominican Republic — 29

T22. Honduras — 29

T19. Guatemala — 28

T19. Bangladesh — 28

T19. Mauritania — 28

T17. Lebanon — 28

T17. Kenya — 28

T15. Guinea — 27

T15. Nigeria — 27

T13. Uganda — 26

T13. Nicaragua — 26

T11. Cameroon — 25

 

T11. Mozambique — 25

T8. Haiti — 22

T8. Burundi — 22

T8. Zimbabwe — 22

T5. Democratic Republic of Congo — 21

T5. Cambodia — 21

T5. Tajikistan — 21

4. Chad — 20

3. Angola — 19

2. Venezuela — 18

1. Yemen — 16

Source: By Will Martin, Business Insider

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