Investment is critical to development of any sector of an economy. Massive investment in a sector is an ingredient of how vibrant, and competitiveness of that sector which result in good quality of service delivery to consumers in that sector. Against this backdrop that stakeholders in the telecommunications sector of the country’s economy are craving for an increased investment in the sector. However, the high growth rate recorded in the sector is premised on the investment and vibrancy of telecommunications as a sector in the economy.
Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, chief executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission, has said that telecoms investment in Nigeria in the last eight years has exceeded USD18 billion.
The current investment figure is made up of about US$12 billon from foreign direct investment while the balance is from investments made within the country since 2001.
He said government’s invitation to the private sector for participation in the industry has paid handsomely and led to the current success indices in the sector.
The NCC boss said that the decision by Nigeria to implement a technologically neutral regulation has resulted in investments in both the GSM and CDMA based services and made diverse services available in Nigeria with investors attacking services from different points thereby providing choices for the Nigerian consumer.
Aside the $2.6 billion generated through licensing fees from the GSM, notable investment witnessed in the sector especially through acquisition of local operators by foreign ones include, Telkom of South Africa’s 100% acquisition of Multi-Links for $350 million, MTN acquisition of VGC Communications at $65 million, MTN acquisition of XS Broadband for $32.1 million and Zain acquisition of over 60% stake in Vmobile for $1billion. Also, Sudatel has acquired 70% stake of Intercellular at $60 million. On the local front Visafone acquired some CDMA operators to become the largest operator in that space. The acquired CDMA operators are Independent Telephone Networks (ITN), Bourdex and Cell Communications although the company refused to disclose the cost of these acquisitions but industry watches believed the deals worth over N3 billion.
In fact, the eight year of telecom sector reform has brought about substantial private sector investment, increase in the number of market players, unprecedented growth in the network, expanded geographic coverage, empowerment of citizenry, employment creation and economic stimulus.
The role of a regulator and government in developing telecommunications sector is demanding and encompasses far-reaching and multi-disciplinary issues. To be successful, the functions should be based upon a well defined set of objective which typically includes attracting investment, infrastructure planning and development, sector efficiency, encouragement of competition among others.
As the economy of the nation continues to look up and with pressures from global financial markets, and the position of Nigeria as a major commercial centre in the West Africa region, the demand for reliable and modern telecommunication infrastructural facilities is heavy.
Nigeria must therefore be viewed as a major market for telecommunications equipment and services in technology areas such as: digital transmission system (including microwave, satellite and optic fibre), submarine communications, digital exchanges (wired and wireless), billing systems and data communications networks including primary rate ISDN and Broadband ISDN services. The Federal Government of Nigeria should be interested in attracting local and international operators to come and participate, in the urgently needed expansion of her telecommunications infrastructure by providing the enabling environment for the intending investors to play in.
Obstacle to investment
There are challenges in the telecom sector that are inimical to investment which need to be addressed if the country will attract the desired massive investment she is looking for to sustain growth as well as bring development in the sector.
Some of these challenges according to Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (Alton), could hinder the sustenance of the growth, if they are not nipped in the bud. He listed some of the challenges as multiple regulation, government interference in telecom matters, multiple taxations, insufficient broadband rollout in the industry, security of infrastructure, quality of service, inadequate power supply, and state of access roads, among others.
He advocates the independence of industry regulator such that the regulator must be free from political interference which was witnessed in the licensing of 2.3 GHz spectrum. Multiple regulation he said is a bane of growth and government must continue to provide the right regulatory and policy environment without crisscross between various arms of government.
Adebayo called for the scrapping of all forms of levies and fees charges by various agencies of government on right of way approvals, insisting that they are all inimical to a true regulatory framework in any society.
He also explained that capacity building is critical for the sustenance of telecom development and that more effort is needed from government to ensure that the technical manpower requirements for the information and communications technology (ICT) industry were met. This, he said, was traceable to challenge in the socio-economic environment and the guaranteed minimum quality of lives and that the industry was loosing a number of highly trained personnel to other countries with less potential, but with better social security and standard of living and economic values, better healthcare, better education guarantees for their children, better security of lives and properties and quality of living.
He reiterated the fact that telecommunications in Nigeria remained the most functional and reliable public social infrastructure, while calling on stakeholders to continue to do the needful to sustain the growth and stability of the telecom sector of the economy through the provision of enabling environment for investors both local and foreign.
In order to optimize and accelerate development in telecoms sector in the country, attention must continue to be paid to these key issues that affect investment.
The sector today requires massive inflow of private investment for infrastructure upgrade and expansion. Half-hearted liberalization measures have denied many African countries access to investment that could have been available to the sector both from within and outside such countries. Governments must therefore resist pressures to protect incumbent operators to the detriment of truly competitive markets.
The need for government to provide the right environment that will attract serious investors and for market forces to thrive cannot be overemphasized. All policies must of necessity be aimed at attracting new sources of capital, accelerating network expansion, improving pricing, enhancing quality of service, introducing of new technologies and providing access to ICT resources to all citizens at affordable prices.
The expansion of telecommunications facilities must go side by side with the development of human resource capacity that will support the industry. We must develop knowledge, skills and competencies to understand, plan and deploy the complex networks of wireless systems, fibre optics, satellite systems, and a host of other information and communications technologies.
Industry watches that spoke to Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believed that attracting massive investment in the telecom industry goes beyond providing a good regulatory framework which NCC has done, and that environmental as well as operational challenges are very key to achieving it.
They cited instances of bureaucratic bottleneck in securing approval for deployment of telecom infrastructure which state and local governments give. They also decried unending demand by government agencies for one levy or the other, for example, MTN disclosed that an environmental agency demanded that it pays N1million every year on its mast. Recently, some manufacturing companies in the country have started relocating their production factories to neighbouring countries that have improved social infrastructure especially power which accounts for over 60 per cent of cost of production in the country. Telecommunications sector is not different, imagine where an operators do not have to provide generators and its rising maintenance cost on its so 5,000 base station what such operator would be saving.
Such an operator will be saving the cost of 10,000 generators at a cost of N2million each as well as cost of fueling such generators where it runs on it for 17 hours in a day. Operators will not face the problem of theft of these generators that is now target to armed robbers.
All these challenges make nonsense of most business projections and speculation of foreign investors into the country, which has resulted in scaring them away from investing in the country. The earlier these issues are addressed the sooner the realization of the much needed massive investment in telecommunications space that will bring about development in the sector.
Danbatta Inaugurates Evaluation Committee for 2020 Research Proposals
Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman and chief executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has inaugurated a 15-member Evaluation Committee for the assessment of the 2020 Telecommunications based research from Academics in the Nigerian tertiary institutions.
The Committee, chaired by Prof. Mu’azu Bashir, a professor of Computer and Control Engineering and Head of Computer Engineering Department at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria was inaugurated at the Commission’s Head Office in Abuja on Wednesday, September 24, 2020.
Speaking during the inauguration, Danbatta said that the initiative speaks to the Commission’s commitment towards encouraging the development of indigenous innovative solutions that impact not only the Telecom industry/ICT sector positively but also the nation as a whole.
“We want to continuously support research projects that can lead to the development of new products and services in the industry as the key enabler of the nation’s digital economy.
“We are all aware of the appreciable contributions of the Nigerian Telecommunication sector to the growth of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) over the years, which peaked at 14.53 per cent in second quarter of 2020,” he said.
Danbatta, stated that the Commission understands that funding Research and Development (R&D) is fundamental to ensuring that the needs of consumers are properly anticipated and met while enabling sustainable economic growth, adding that the Digital Economy-based Research Innovations project underlines the importance of funding R&D.
According to the EVC, for the year 2020, the request for proposals was tailored to providing innovations and solving challenges in five emerging areas of technology.
“These include innovative clean energy technology; 5G deployment in Nigeria; Internet of Things (IoT), low power Wide Area Network (WAN) technology; advanced methods of Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE) management and test mechanism as well as monitoring and localisation of drones.
“While emphasising the importance of telecommunication/ICT industry to innovative developments and transformations within the economy, Danbatta tasked members of the Committee to thoroughly evaluate all submissions in order to sieve, identify and select the best from the proposals submitted.
“Members of this Committee have been carefully selected from the Academia, related government institutions and the industry based on their pedigree.
“I have no doubt in my mind that you will carry out the assignment to the highest acceptable standards,” the EVC said.
The Committee is expected to carry out the assignment and submit its report within four (4) weeks from the day of inauguration.
FG Awards Cash Prizes Worth N16.5m to Winners 0f Nigeria @ 60 Challenge
The Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, has awarded prizes worth N16.5million to nine Nigerians who emerged winners of the Nigeria @60 Independence Challenge.
It could be recalled that the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR approved an inclusive National Independence Day Celebration programme with the theme: “Together at 60,” where it called on creative Nigerians to choose brand and come up with elements that will beautify the anniversary.
The Sub-Committee, chaired by Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), minister of Communications and Digital Economy, launched the challenge Portal on Friday, 4th September, 2020, with the aim of providing opportunity for talented, critical thinking and creative individuals or teams to produce the event slogan, photograph, and a poem.
The Jury, made up of Directors from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), evaluated the submissions based on the relevance to the theme, originality, creativity, impact and mode of presentation.
During the evaluation, a total of 3,258 entries were received, out of which 1,931 Slogan, 638 Poetry, and 689 Photography entries were submitted.
While presenting the Awards and Prizes, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and Chairman of the 60th Independence Celebration Sub-Committee, Dr Pantami said that the competition was meant to create a platform for all Nigerians to participate in the diamond jubilee anniversary.
He said “Federal Government provided this opportunity for Nigerians to choose their brand and harness the power of creative minds to create other elements that will form the brand of the anniversary.
Dr Pantami congratulated the winners and charged those that participated to continue utilising their skills for the betterment of themselves and Nigeria at large, adding that “the nation will be proud of them”.
He said the Diamond Anniversary which is will last till September 30, 2021 is a period for Nigeria to celebrate its unity.
He also commended the jury that worked day and night to ensure fairness during the selection of nine winners from each category of the competition.
Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), while delivering the welcome address, described the process as first of its kind, where citizens are engaged virtually to plan the celebration.
Abdullahi said that COVID-19 pandemic has brought another opportunity for Nigerians to celebrate 60 years anniversary in style.
The Chairman of the Independence Competition Judging Committee, Director, IT Infrastructure Solution, NITDA, Dr Usman Gambo Abdullahi said the competition was meant to tap into the creative and innovative potential of the youths.
The Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folashade Yemi- Esan represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mr Tope Fashedemi commended the efforts of all participants, describing every Nigerian as a winner.
The outcome of the assessment saw the emergence of the following as second runners up: Sani Ibrahim (Slogan), Samson Mayor Emeka (Photography) and Umoru Patrick Eghiegbai (Poetry); first runners up Yusuf Muhammad Ahmad (Slogan), Leke Adebule and Team (Photography), and Mustapha Dauda Gwary (Poetry). The winners of the challenge are: Nwakuba Ezinne (Slogan), Amao Daniel Oluwadarisimi (Photography) and Kalu Rejoice Chioma (Poetry).
The winners were presented with awards and cash prizes in each category, with the second runners up getting One Million Naira each, first runners up One Million and Five Hundred Thousand Naira each, and the winners, Three Million Naira each, for their creativity and innovative contribution to the Diamond Jubilee Celebration.
The Diamond/Innovation/Change Sub-Committee is made up of Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy as Chairman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Mallam Adamu Adamu, Honourable Minister Education and Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, Head of Civil Service of the Federation as members, while DG NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, was later co-opted as member.
Ekeh, Zinox Boss, Says Tech Experience Centre Perfect 60th Anniversary Gift to Nigeria
Leo Stan Ekeh, serial digital entrepreneur has described the Tech Experience Centre, an ambitious technology project that is widely expected to bridge the gap to cutting-edge technology for millions of Nigerians, as the perfect birthday gift to Nigeria as it turns 60.
The revolutionary Tech Experience Centre, the first of its kind in Africa, is set to be formally unveiled on Thursday, October 1st 2020, incidentally the occasion of Nigeria’s 60thIndependence Anniversary.
Equally important, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, minister of Communications and Digital Economy, is expected to commission the auspicious project located within the high-rise Yudala Heights on 13 Idowu Martins Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Also expected to attend the launch are stakeholders from the technology sector, corporate egg-heads and other dignitaries.
The event, which is scheduled for 5pm on Thursday, will be streamed live to millions across the world via digital channels.
Ekeh, who has remained in the forefront of digital evangelisation and promoting knowledge democracy in Nigeria and beyond, has expressed excitement with the birthing of the Tech Experience Centre.
The tech guru affirms that the formal unveiling of the Centre on the occasion of Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary makes it a fitting present to the country and to all Nigerians.
‘‘Nigeria’s journey as a sovereign independent nation is one that is filled with so many memorable milestones. Although we still face some peculiar challenges, there is much to be proud of as Nigeria clocks 60.
“In the same vein, the launch of the Tech Experience Centre represents a major milestone in Nigeria’s march to technology independence.
‘‘Indeed, the unveiling of this unprecedented project right here in Nigeria is a powerful statement of intent and a positive development that every Nigerian should be proud of.
“It is, in my opinion, the perfect birthday to Nigeria as we celebrate 60 years of our independence,’’ he said.
Ekeh, who had called on the Federal Government to consider declaring October 1st Nigeria’s technology independence day, restated the landmark strides that Nigeria had recorded in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
The Zinox helmsman affirmed that the multiple collaborations, increased local participation and access to the latest technologies that would become a right of every Nigerian with the establishment of the Tech Experience Centre is a bold step forward in Nigeria’s march to technological emancipation.
‘‘On a number of occasions, I have reiterated that no country achieves true independence without a level of technological independence.
“The set-up of the Tech Experience Centre is one of such bold investments Nigeria requires to confidently stake a claim for relevance as a technology force to be reckoned with, not only in Africa, but on the global stage.
“The current administration also deserves commendation for its greater emphasis on technology – a critical sector that is being championed professionally by the Honourable Minister, Dr. Pantami.’’
In addition, Ekeh heaped praises on the various tech giants that have partnered with TD Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa’s technology, lifestyle and solutions distributor, to bring the idea of the Tech Experience Centre to life.
‘‘We must also not fail to recognize and appreciate the global OEMs that have identified with this project.
“Having renowned tech brands such as Cisco, Microsoft, Dell Technologies, HP, Schneider Electric, Zinox, Philips, Samsung, Apple and Bosch, among others, come together under one roof to build local capacity and place the latest technologies at the fingertips of every Nigerian is a huge development that will come with a number of positive multiplier effects for the country,’’ he concluded.
The Tech Experience Centre will officially open its impressive doors to Nigerians on Thursday, October 1st by 5pm.
For the first time, Nigeria will play host to the latest global technologies including those not normally available in Africa, offering all classes of visitors a first-hand experience of new gadgets, solutions and infrastructure that would have previously required a visit abroad, thereby saving corporate organizations, government establishments and individuals money or scarce foreign exchange expended on these trips.
The Centre will house global technology giants under one roof, with the aim of making cutting-edge technology easily accessible to Nigerians and other nationals at entry costs that make sense.
Experts and economic watchers have hailed the expected launch of the centre as a major development that will shore up Nigeria’s relevance in the global technology space, while also boosting the nation’s economy.
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