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Nigeria drives frontiers of $70bn telecoms industry

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Nigeria drives frontiers of $70bn telecoms industry

With Nigeria’s outstanding participation and strategic engagement with global investment community at this year’s just-concluded International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Telecoms World held in South Korea, more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) inflow is expected to boost the growth of Nigeria’s $70 billion telecoms market. KUNLE AZEEZ reports

Liberalisation of Nigeria’s telecoms industry in 2001 has been described by stakeholders as a ‘magic wand’ that has propelled the sector into witnessing tremendous growth to date.
From a $500 million industry, the industry has grown in leaps and bounds in the last 16 years into becoming a $70 billion industry, a development that is easily traceable to the unhindered inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) and some local investment into the sector.
Over the last years, the attention has been given to deepening access to telephony across the nooks and cranny of the country.
Already, official data obtained from the telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) show that active subscribers grew from 400,000 to over 155 million in January this year with teledensity jumping from less than 1 per cent to over 110 per cent in the last 16 years, though this notwithstanding the recent decline in subscriber base to 139 and teledensity to 99 per cent.

However, with telephony becoming saturated and technology convergence giving way to increasing use of over the top (OTT) platforms by subscribers to access general telecoms services including voice, video , text and, most especially data, Nigeria’s regulator is now paying greater attention to creating a more enabling environment for players to develop the broadband segment of the market.
In 2015, over $10 billion was estimated by KPMG to be needed over the next 10 five years for Nigeria to build a robust national broadband network.

Crux of Nigeria’s participation at ITU
It is, therefore, instructive that the Nigerian delegation led by the NCC to this year’s ITU Telecoms World held at the Republic of South Korea between August 26 and 28 has also raised its voice calling on global investment community to come to Nigeria to invest at a Global Investment Forum held by the NCC for the country.
Speaking at the conference, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, provided the foundation for Nigeria’s participation at the conference.
According to him, “in 16 years since the Digital Mobile Licences (DML) were issued, investment in the sector has hit about $70 billion from a mere $50 million in 2001. Most of these investments are Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs).

“Although, we have made very modest progress in the sector, we still need to deepen investments to make broadband pervasive in the country. We are at 21 percent now and our target is to hit 30 percent by 2018, consistent with the National Broadband Plan (NBP).”
He noted that Nigeria comes to the ITU Telecom World every year to tell her story, share her experiences and borrow a leaf from global best practices to address her concerns, engage and collaborate with the global community to strengthen the growth and impact of the Nigerian telecoms industry.
“We, therefore, come to enlist the support of other players, governments, regulators and the global community from whom there is always a basket of ideas to take back home to Nigeria,” Danbatta said stressing that the implementation of these ideas will ensure a better regulatory environment, even though ours has been seen as a very robust and consultative regulatory agency right from 2001.

Investment potentials/telecoms initiatives
NCC, as a foremost regulator, has put in place measures and guidelines to licence wholesale broadband service providers consistent with the Open Access Model for broadband deployment.

According to him, “of the seven infrastructure companies (Infracos) earmarked for licensing, only two have so far been licensed for Lagos, which is commercial hub of Nigeria and Abuja including the North Central zone of the country leaving five more licences for the South West, South East, South South, North East and North West zones of the country. The process of licensing of infracos for these five remaining zones is about to be concluded.”
He also told the investment community that in the country’s firm resolve to strengthen institutions of corporate governance for telcos, woo investors and guarantee returns on their investments, the NCC, in consultation with industry stakeholders introduced a mandatory Code of Corporate Governance as guide to managers and boards of telecommunications companies.

The code, he said, outlines minimum global best practices covering processes, procedures and general corporate behaviour for telecommunications industry players.
Also, Dambatta said when the NCC rolled out the 8-point agenda in 2016, it was predicated on the change mantra of the new democratic government in Nigeria, which is premised on facilitating broadband penetration, improving quality of service, optimising usage and benefits of spectrum, promoting ICT investment and innovation, facilitating strategic partnership, promoting fair and inclusive growth and ensuring regulatory excellence and operational efficiency.
According to him, because “we recognise the importance of ICT to national development that is why growing this sector has been top on our agenda and despite our modest achievements, Nigeria ICT sector is work in progress.”

He noted that in the current era of Internet of Things (IoTs), where every sector of any nation’s economy will depend on telecoms infrastructure to maximally operate, “all sectors of every national economy have become dependent on the telecommunications sector and failure on the sector would have far reaching negative ramifications to other sectors hence the need to build capacity in the sector.”

Investors’ engagement at the forum
At the Nigerian Investment Forum with Broadband Nigeria as the theme, where experts and knowledgeable people about the Nigerian investment environment talked on the abundant investment opportunities in Africa’s largest economy, Dambatta expressly invite potentials investors to come to Nigeria to invest.
As usual, members of the Nigerian delegation were also on ground at the Nigerian Pavilion and investment forum to network with, give firsthand information about Nigeria to potential investors and held strategic engagement with global investors, who expressed their desire to come to Nigeria to invest, since they have been assured of better Return on Investment (RoI) and protection of their investment.

Those who spoke at the investment forum included, former Minister of Communications, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) Ms Yewande Sadiku and the ITU scribe, Mr. Houlin Zhao.

Accolades on sound regulatory regime, others
The sound regulatory environment engendered by the NCC, which has led to building a $70 billion industry, has been globally recognised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
At the just-concluded ITU Telecom World 2017 in Busan, South Korea, the regulatory finesses of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Nigerian youths received recognition.
During the event, NCC, which was the toast of the global telecommunications umbrella body, was named the most Valuable Partner by the ITU for its commitment and participation in ITU Telecom World events over the years.

The NCC was also awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for the ITU Telecom World 2017 National Pavilion and thematic Pavilion as well as Loyal Participation and supporters of the yearly ITU Telecom World in a number of years.
Nigeria also won the ITU Telecom World Government Award for being the government with the most innovative Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) included in the nation’s pavilion.
Aside these, five Nigerian SMEs and start-ups qualified for the ITU Telecom World 2017 pitch for the Global SMEs Awards. Three of the SMEs, Miss Temitope Awosika of Medsaf, Mr. Valentine Ubalua of Ubenwa and Mr. Chizaram Ucheaga of Mavis Computel joined the ITU Global SME honours lists.

Last line
With Nigeria’s outstanding showcase at this year’s ITU Telecom World and given the impacts of previous years’ attendance by NCC on the nation’s telecoms growth to the tune of $70 billion having attracted significant FDIs, stakeholders under the auspices of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS) have urged government to join in facilitating efforts at passing into law a bill pending in the National Assembly aimed at according National Economic and Security Infrastructure to telecoms.

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