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Nexford University lands $10.8M pre-Series A to scale its flexible remote learning platform

Two profound problems face the higher education sector globally — affordability and relevance. Whether you live in Africa, Europe, or the U.S., a major reason why people don’t go to university or college or even drop out because they cannot afford…

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Two profound problems face the higher education sector globally — affordability and relevance. Whether you live in Africa, Europe, or the U.S., a major reason why people don’t go to university or college or even drop out because they cannot afford tuition fees. On the other hand, relevance shows the huge gap between what traditional universities teach and what global employers actually look for. It’s not a secret that universities focus a bit too much on theory.

Over the past few years, there has been the emergence of a number of alternative credential providers trying to provide students with the necessary skills to earn and make a living. Nexford University is one of such platforms, and today, it has a closed $10.8 million pre-Series A funding round.

Dubai-based VC Global Ventures led the new round. Other investors include Future Africa’s new thematic fund (focused on education), angel investors, and family offices. Unnamed VCs from 10 countries, including the U.S., U.K., France, Dubai, Switzerland, Qatar, Nigeria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, also took part.

To date, Nexford has raised $15.3 million, following the first tranche of $4.5 million in seed funding raised two years ago.

Fadl Al Tarzi launched Nexford University in 2019. The tech-enabled university is filling affordability and relevance gaps by providing access to quality and affordable education.

“That way, you get the best of both worlds,” CEO Al Tarzi said to TechCrunch. “You get practical skills that you can put to work immediately or for your future career while actively keeping a job. So the whole experience is designed as a learning as a service model.”

Nexford Unversity lets students study at their own pace. Once they apply and get admitted into either a degree program or a course program, they choose how fast or slow they want the program to be.

Fadl Al Tarzi (CEO, Nexford University)

The CEO says whatever students learn on the platform is directly applicable to their jobs. Currently, Nexford offers undergraduate degrees in business administration; 360° marketing; AI & automation; building a tech startup; business analytics; business in emerging markets; digital transformation; e-commerce; and product management. Its graduate degrees are business administration, advanced AI, e-commerce, hyperconnectivity, sustainability, and world business.

Nexford’s tuition structure is very different from traditional universities because it’s modelled monthly. Its accredited degrees cost between $3,000 to $4,000 paid in monthly instalments. In Nigeria, for instance, an MBA costs about $160 a month, while a bachelor degree costs $80 a month. But the catch for the monthly instalment structure means the faster a learner graduates, the less they pay.

What’s it like learning with Nexford University?

Nexford University doesn’t offer standardized and theoretical tests or assignments as most traditional universities do. Al Tarzi says the company employs what he calls a competency-based education model where students prove mastery by working on practical projects.

For instance, a student working on an accounting course will most likely need to create a P&L statement, analyze balance sheets and identify where the error is to correct it. The platform then gives the student different scenarios showing companies with different revenues and expense levels. The task? To analyse and extract certain ratios to help make sense of which company is profitable and the other unit economics involved.

Though Nexford plays in the edtech space, Al Tarzi doesn’t think the company is an edtech company. As a licensed and accredited online university, Nexford has a huge amount of automation across the organization and provides students with support from faculty and career advisors.

After offering degrees, Nexford puts on its placement hats by fixing its graduates with partner employers.

There’s a big shortage of jobs in Nigeria, and despite the high unemployment, it’s actually difficult to find extremely qualified entry-level graduates. So Nexford has carried out several partnerships where employers sponsor their employees or soon-to-be employees for upskilling and rescaling purposes.

An illustration is with Sterling Bank, a local bank in the country. Most Nigerian banks have yearly routines where they hire graduates and put them on weeks-long training programs. Sterling Bank employs any candidate it feels did great after the capital intensive (eight weeks in most cases) programs.

So what Nexford has done is to partner with Sterling to fund the tuition for high school leavers. When these students go through Nexford’s programs for the first year, they begin to get part-time placements at Sterling. Upon graduation, they get a job in the bank.

“That saves Sterling the training cost and our tuition fee is almost equal to the training that they provided for students. Also, students start paying back once they get placed, so it’s a win-win.”

Nexford University has learners from 70 countries, with Nigeria its biggest market yet. Nexford also has blue-chip partnerships with Microsoft, LinkedIn Learning, and IBM to provide access to tools, courses and programmes to improve the learning experience.

One of the major gains of this learning experience is how it prepares people for remote jobs. Nexford is bullish on its virtual skills grid, where people will get jobs remotely regardless of their location on the platform.

“Across Sub Saharan Africa by the year 2026, there’s gonna be a shortage of about 100 million university seats as a result of huge growth in youth population not met by growth and supply. Even if you want to build universities fast, you wouldn’t be able to meet the demand. And that spirals down to the job market. We don’t think the local economy will produce enough jobs in Nigeria, for instance. But we want to enable people to get remote jobs across the world and not necessarily have to migrate.” 

Last year, Nexford’s revenues grew by 300%. This year, the company hopes to triple the size of its enrollment from last year, the CEO said.

Nexford is big on designing students’ curriculum based on analysis of what their employer needs. Al Tarzi tells me that the company always follow the Big Data approach, asking themselves, “how do we find out what employers worldwide are looking for and keep our curriculum alive and relevant?”

“We develop proprietary technology that enables us to analyze job vacancies as well as several other data sources; use AI to understand how those data sets and build a curriculum based on those findings. So, in short, we start with the end in mind,” he answers.

The company is keen on improving its technology regardless. It wants to analyse skills more accurately and automate more functions to enhance user experience. That’s what the funding will be used for in addition to fuelling its regional expansion plans (particularly in Asia) and investing in growth and product development. Per the latter, the online university says it will be launching partner programs with more employers globally to facilitate both placement and upskilling and rescaling. 

Merging both worlds of tech and the traditional university model is no easy feat. The former is about efficiency, user-centricity, product, among others. The latter embodies rigidity and continues to lag behind fast-paced innovation. And while there’s been a boom in edtech, most startups try to circumvent the industry’s bureaucracy by launching an app or a MOOC. Nexford’s model of running a degree-granting, licensed, accredited, and regulated university is more challenging but in it lies so much opportunity.

Iyin Aboyeji, Future Africa general partner CEO, understands this. It’s one reason why the company is the first investment out of Future Africa’s soon-to-be-launched fund focused on the future of learning and why he believes the company is a game-changer for higher education in Africa.

“During the pandemic, while many universities in Nigeria were shut down due to labour disputes, Nexford was already delivering an innovative and affordable new model of online higher education designed for a skills-based economy.”  

For general partner at Global Ventures Noor Sweid, Nexford University is redressing the mismatch between the supply of talent and the demands of today’s digital economy. “We are thrilled to partner with Fadl and the Nexford team on their journey toward expanding access to universal quality higher education in emerging markets,” she said.

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VIDEO — Frank Holmes: Bullish on Gold, “Perfect Storm of Inflation” Ahead

"I think it’s quite easy this year (for gold) to take out last year’s high. It’s very easy to do that," said Frank Holmes of US Global Investors.
The post VIDEO — Frank Holmes: Bullish on Gold, “Perfect Storm of Inflation” Ahead appeared first on…

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The gold price reached a new all-time high nearly 12 months ago, and as the summer months set in again investors are wondering whether it may do the same thing this year. 

Speaking to the Investing News Network, Frank Holmes, CEO and chief investment officer of US Global Investors (NASDAQ:GROW), said he thinks it’s possible for the yellow metal to set a new record in 2021.

“I think it’s quite easy this year to take out last year’s high. It’s very easy to do that,” he said.

 

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“And once people start believing that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) number is (an) inaccurate forecast of inflation — that there have to be other factors, which has happened in previous cycles — then all of a sudden gold will get a brand new element to it.”

Holmes explained that the CPI is understated because it doesn’t track food and energy. In his view, rising inflation is “baked in” for the next couple of years given the amount of pent-up demand related to COVID-19, as well as continued money-printing efforts around the world.

The US Federal Reserve remains seemingly unconcerned about inflation, and has repeatedly described inflationary activity as “transitory.” When asked if he expects any meaningful changes at this week’s Fed meeting, which runs from Tuesday (June 15) to Wednesday (June 16), Homes said he does not.

“I don’t see any changes. The stock market is acting still pretty resilient,” he explained. “I think it’s full throttle of printing money around the world — we’re talking about trillions and trillions of dollars. And you still have this pent-up demand, so therefore you’re going to have the perfect storm of inflation, and if you can borrow inexpensively you’ll be ahead of the curve.”

Holme also has a positive outlook on bitcoin, and he noted that enthusiasm and acceptance for the cryptocurrency are on the rise. However, he still believes investors should allocate a larger amount of their portfolios to the yellow metal, which he views as more stable.

“(Bitcoin is) very volatile; it’s much more volatile than gold — it’s six times more volatile. So I’d advocate 10 percent into gold and gold-related quality stocks and 2 percent into crypto.”

Watch the interview above for more from Holmes on gold and bitcoin, as well as the potential he sees for the US Global Jets ETF (ARCA:JETS).

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time updates! 

Securities Disclosure: I, Charlotte McLeod, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

 

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Stocks

10 Top Copper-producing Companies

Codelco is in first place, and it’s followed by Glencore and BHP. Read on to find out the rest of the top copper-producing companies.
The post 10 Top Copper-producing Companies appeared first on Investing News Network.

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Copper prices have made moves in 2021, rallying to record-high levels on expected demand growth amid a supply deficit.

While construction and electrical grids have long been big markets for copper, today the rise in demand for electric vehicles, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and energy storage applications are considered some of the biggest drivers of copper consumption.

CIBC analysts have forecast that copper prices will rise to US$5.25 per pound in Q4 2021 and into the first quarter of 2022. Prices are expected to average US$4.62 in 2021 and US$4.75 in 2022.

 

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Given those factors, investors may want to keep an eye on the world’s top copper-producing companies. According to the latest stats from financial market data provider Refinitiv, the following top copper-producing companies produced the most copper in 2020.

1. Codelco

Production: 1.76 million tonnes

The first top copper-producing company on the list is state-owned Codelco. As the world’s biggest copper producer, the company put out 1.76 million tonnes in 2020. Although there were concerns early in the year that operation curtailments due to the coronavirus pandemic would knock Codelco from its top spot, the Chilean company defied those expectations to meet its production guidance for the year.

In May 2021, Codelco announced the start of a US$1.4 billion project aimed at extending the life of its Salvador mine through 2068 by converting the underground mine to an open-pit operation. The project is a part of the company’s 10 year, US$40 billion plan to upgrade its many aging mines.

2. Glencore (LSE:GLEN,OTC Pink:GLCNF)

Production: 1.26 million tonnes

Major diversified miner Glencore produced 1.26 million tonnes of copper in 2020. After suffering an 11 percent drop in copper production for the first half of the year versus the same period in 2019, the company cut its annual production guidance for the full year to 1.23 million tonnes.

Rather than COVID-19 disruptions, Glencore attributed its production decline to its Mutanda mine being placed on care and maintenance in 2019. Operations at Mutanda, the world’s biggest cobalt mine, are set to resume sometime in 2022. In addition to cobalt, the mine has five copper production lines.

3. BHP (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BHP)

Production: 1.21 million tonnes

In 2020, BHP produced 1.21 million tonnes of the red metal. The Australian mining giant managed to keep its copper production numbers high despite the year’s COVID-19 disruptions and strikes at Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine.

Labor strife has continued for BHP into 2021 at the Escondida and Spence copper mines in Chile, although the company claims the current strikes have not impacted production.

 

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4. Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX)

Production: 1.08 million tonnes

Freeport-McMoRan recorded 1.08 million tonnes of copper production for 2020. Despite coronavirus-related production setbacks, strong copper prices helped to buoy profits for the company.

One of the company’s biggest copper assets is the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, the 10th largest copper mine in the world. The company continues to make significant investments in Grasberg to increase both its copper and its gold production.

5. Grupo Mexico

Production: 975,898 tonnes

Grupo Mexico’s mining division is the largest copper producer in the country. 2020 marked a year of record copper production for the company despite the global coronavirus crisis.

On its website, Grupo Mexico says expansion work at its Buenavista del Cobre mine in Mexico and Toquepala mine in Peru will make the company the world’s third largest copper producer.

6. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM,OTC Pink:FQVLF)

Production: 715,762 tonnes

Canada’s First Quantum Minerals produced more than 715,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The company was able to increase its production guidance for the year despite temporary coronavirus shutdowns at its Cobre Panama mining operation.

In 2021, output is expected to be strong from Cobre Panama, as well as First Quantum’s other two key copper mines, Kansanshi and Sentinel in Zambia.

7. Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO,NYSE:RIO,LSE:RIO)

Production: 548,074 tonnes

Rio Tinto’s copper production in 2020 totaled 548,074 tonnes. The company is one of the largest diversified mining companies in the world behind BHP — and like BHP, Rio Tinto was also negatively impacted by strikes at Chile’s Escondida mine. Rio Tinto holds a 30 percent interest in the project.

 

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8. KGHM Polska Miedz (FWB:KGHA.F)

Production: 543,672 tonnes

Poland’s KGHM Polska Miedz has operations in Europe, North America and South America, and says that it holds over 38 million tonnes of copper ore resources worldwide. In 2020, the company produced more than 543,000 tonnes of copper.

KGHM recently announced it’s cutting a few small assets from its portfolio, including the Carlotta copper mine in the US. In the first quarter of 2021, the company achieved its best operating and financial results in nearly a decade.

9. Antofagasta (LSE:ANTO,OTC Pink:ANFGF)

Production: 503,577.6 tonnes

Chilean copper miner Antofagasta operates four mines in Chile and produced more than 503,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The company’s output was impacted by having to place its flagship Los Pelambres mine on care and maintenance, as well as by lower grades at its Antucoya operations.

Antofagasta recently pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2025 by using renewable energy sources. By the end of 2020, the company reported that it was already powering 19 percent of its operations with renewable sources.

10. Norilsk Nickel (FWB:NNIC)

Production: 456,240 tonnes

Russia’s Norilsk Nickel produced more than 456,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The company is also the world’s largest producer of nickel and palladium.

Moving forward, by 2030 Norilsk Nickel is looking to increase its copper production by 20 percent from its current level. The company is upgrading its production capacity at the Ruchey copper-nickel mine, replacing its obsolete Kola copper refinery with a state-of-the-art plant.

This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2016.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

 

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Slowly At First… Then All At Once

Slowly At First… Then All At Once

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

Bull markets always seem to end the same – slowly at first, then all at once.

My recent discussion on why March 2020 was a “correction” and…

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Slowly At First... Then All At Once

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

Bull markets always seem to end the same – slowly at first, then all at once.

My recent discussion on why March 2020 was a “correction” and not a “bear market” sparked much debate over the somewhat arbitrary 20% rule.

“Price is nothing more than a reflection of the ‘psychology’ of market participants. A potential mistake in evaluating ‘bull’ or ‘bear’ markets is using a ‘20% advance or decline’ to distinguish between them.”

Wall Street loves to label stuff.  When markets are rising, it’s a “bull market.” Conversely, falling prices are a “bear market.” 

Interestingly, while there are some “rules of thumb” for falling prices such as:

  • A “correction” gets defined as a decline of more than 10% in the market.

  • A “bear market” is a decline of more than 20%.

There are no such definitions for rising prices. Instead, rising prices are always “bullish.”

It’s all a bit arbitrary and rather pointless.

The Reason We Invest

It is essential to understand what a “bull” or “bear” market is as investors.

  • “bull market” is when prices are generally rising over an extended period.

  • “bear market” is when prices are generally falling over an extended period.

Here is another significant definition for you.

Investing is the process of placing “savings” at “risk” with the expectation of a future return greater than the rate of inflation over a given time frame.

Read that again.

Investing is NOT about beating some random benchmark index that requires taking on an excessive amount of capital risk to achieve. Instead, our goal should be to grow our hard-earned savings at a rate sufficient to protect the purchasing power of those savings in the future as “safely” as possible.

As pension funds have found out, counting on 7% annualized returns to make up for a shortfall in savings leaves individuals in a vastly underfunded retirement situation. Moreover, making up lost savings is not the same as increasing savings towards a future required goal.

Nonetheless, when it comes to investing, Bob Farrell’s Rule #10 is the most relevant:

“Bull markets are more fun than bear markets.” 

Of this, there is no argument.

However, understanding the difference between a “bull” and a “bear” market is critical to capital preservation and appreciation when the change occurs.

Defining Bull & Bear Markets

So, what defines a “bull” versus a “bear” market.

Let’s start by looking at the S&P 500.

Bull and bear markets are evident with the benefit of hindsight.

The problem, for individuals, always comes back to “psychology” concerning our investing practices. During rising or “bullish,” markets, the psychology of “greed” keeps individuals invested longer and entices them into taking on substantially more risk than realized. “Bearish,” or declining, markets do precisely the opposite as “fear” overtakes the investment process.

Most importantly, it is difficult to know “when” the markets have changed from bullish to bearish. Over the last decade, several significant corrections have certainly looked like the beginning of turning from a “bull” to a “bear” market. Yet, after a short-term corrective process, the upward trend of the market resumed.

So, while it is evident that missing a bear market is incredibly important to long-term investing success, it is impossible to know when the markets have changed.

Or is it?

The next couple of charts will build off of the weekly price chart above.

Identifying The Trend

“In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run it is a weighing machine” – Benjamin Graham

In the short term, which is from a few weeks to a couple of years, the market is simply a “voting machine” as investors scramble to chase what is “popular.” Then, as prices rise, they “panic buy” everything due to the “Fear Of Missing Out or F.O.M.O.” Then, they “panic sell” everything when prices fall. However, these are just the wiggles along the longer-term path.

In the long-term, the markets “weigh” the substance of the underlying cash flows and value. Thus, during bull market trends, investors become overly optimistic about the future bid-up prices beyond the practical aspects of the underlying value. The opposite is also true, as “nothing has value” during bear markets. Such is why markets “trend” over time. Eventually, excesses in valuations, in both directions, get reverted to, and beyond, the long-term means.

While the long-term picture is relatively straightforward, valuations still don’t do much in terms of telling us “when” the change is occurring.

Change Starts Slowly, Then All At Once

“Tops are a process and bottoms are an event” – Doug Kass

During a bull market, prices trade above the long-term moving average. However, when the trend changes to a bear market, prices trade below that moving average.

The keyword is TREND. 

The chart below which compares the market to the 75-week moving average. During “bullish trends,” the market tends to trade above the long-term moving average and below it during “bearish trends.”

Since 2009, there are four occasions where the long-term moving average was violated but did not lead to a longer-term change in the trend.

  • The first was in 2011, as the U.S. was dealing with a potential debt-ceiling default and a downgrade of the U.S. debt rating. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke started the second round of quantitative easing (QE), flooding the markets with liquidity.

  • The second came in late-2015 and early-2016 as the Federal Reserve started lifting interest rates combined with the threat of Britain leaving the European Union (Brexit). Given the U.S. Federal Reserve had already committed to tightening monetary policy, the ECB stepped in with their version of QE.

  • The third came at the end of 2018 as the Fed again tapered its balance sheet and hiked rates. The market decline quickly reversed the Fed’s stance.

  • Finally, the “pandemic shut-down” of the economy led to a price reversion in the market. The Fed intervened with massive liquidity injections and the start of QE-4.

Each of these declines only gets classified as “corrections.” The market did not sustain the break of the long-term trend, valuations did not revert, and psychology remained bullish.

Still A Bull Market

Today, Central Banks globally continue their monetary injection programs, rate policies remain at zero, and global economic growth is weak. Moreover, with stock valuations at historically extreme levels, the value currently ascribed to future earnings growth almost guarantees low future returns.

As discussed previously:

Like a rubber band stretched too far – it must get relaxed in order to stretch again. The same applies to stock prices that are anchored to their moving averages. Trends that get overextended in one direction, or the other, always return to their long-term average. Even during a strong uptrend or strong downtrend, prices often move back (revert) to a long-term moving average.”

The chart below shows the deviation in the market price above and below the 75-week moving average. Historically, as prices approach 200-points above the long-term moving average, corrections ensued. Thus, the difference between a “bull market” and a “bear market” is when the deviations occur BELOW the long-term moving average consistently. 

Since 2017, with the globally coordinated interventions of Central Banks, those deviations have started exceeding levels not seen previously. As of the end of May, the index was nearly 800 points above the long-term average or 4x the normal warning level. 

We can see the magnitude of the current deviation by switching to percentage deviations. Historically, 10% deviations have preceded corrections and bear markets. Currently, that deviation is 22.5% above the long-term mean.

Notably, the decline below the long-term average reversed quickly, keeping the “bull market” trend intact.

Conclusion

Understanding that change is occurring is what is essential. But, unfortunately, the reason investors “get trapped” in bear markets is that when they realize what is happening, it is far too late to do anything about it.

Bull markets are lure investors into believing “this time is different.” When the topping process begins, that slow, arduous affair gets met with continued reasons why the “bull market will continue.”  The problem comes when it eventually doesn’t. As noted, “bear markets” are swift and brutal attacks on investor capital.

As Ben Graham wrote in 1959:

“‘The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.’ I have always thought this motto applied to the stock market better than anywhere else. Now the really important part of the proverb is the phrase, ‘the more it changes.’

The economic world has changed radically and will change even more. Most people think now that the essential nature of the stock market has been undergoing a corresponding change. But if my cliché is sound, then the stock market will continue to be essentially what it always was in the past, a place where a big bull market is inevitably followed by a big bear market.

In other words, a place where today’s free lunches are paid for doubly tomorrow. In the light of recent experience, I think the present level of the stock market is an extremely dangerous one.”

Pay attention to the market. The action this year is very reminiscent of previous market topping processes. Tops are hard to identify during the process as “change happens slowly.” The mainstream media, economists, and Wall Street will dismiss pickup in volatility as simply a corrective process. But when the topping process completes, it will seem as if the change occurred “all at once.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/15/2021 - 10:10

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