The fact that the country’s telecommunications sector has witnessed tremendous growth over the past eight years of its liberalization is no longer celebrating news, but how to sustain and develop the sector is now the paramount concern of stakeholders in the industry.
One likely area of emphasis in a bid to develop as well as sustain the growth is adoption of local content to replace dominant foreign content in the sector. Local content in telecommunications industry is the use or adoption of locally manufactured material and initiatives in the operation processes of telecommunications service delivery. To many, there are little or nothing that local initiatives can contribute in the telecommunications industry going by the capital intensive nature of the business, they cite instance of mobile handsets which are predominately imported and where there are no known initiative of capacity to develop it locally. More so, core network equipment such as intelligent switches and microwave equipments which are sensitive high technological equipment that will take the country decades to come to terms with, let a lone manufacturing them.
But, unknown to these school of thought, that there are other areas where telecommunications operators are spending huge of the country’s hard earned foreign exchange in import that Nigerians can effective play role in substituting with local initiatives.
Among them are billing software, cyber cables, mast, connectors, switches as well as equipment racks.
Local content policies
Local firms are ultimately and probably the most important driver of economic incomes and growth in developing countries. It has been found that local technology is spreading faster in emerging economies than in rich nations, even though the technology gap remains wide. It also found that technological progress has helped raise incomes in the developing world and reduced the share of people living in poverty from 29 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2004.
It has long been recognized that investment in science and technology makes a vital contribution to economic growth in terms of higher growth rate of the economy’s productivity under such conditions; the neglect of R&D in developing countries will have serious repercussion on firms’ ability to absorb and evolve new technologies and participate in their development. This may have long-term implication for the developmental efforts of these countries. But two critical questions arise: one, what were the weaknesses that resulted in the poor performance of technology policies in these countries? And two, what measures should be adopted to plug in the loopholes in these policies to make them more effective in the globalize era?
Local content means the development of local skills, technology transfer, use of local manpower and local manufacturing. It has become an increasingly important issue that could support the federal government to upgrade her manpower capacity, with results that benefit the government, private companies, and the Nigeria’s economy. However, the performance of this mission over the past decade has been a mix of successes and failures. Research performed to improve this performance by identifying the characteristics of successful public to private sector technology transfers identified several critical success factors. These include a "transfer culture" in the government laboratory and Nigerianized organization, shared personnel of the federal and local organizations throughout the transfer project life cycle; the local workforce services could be the major source of employment inside Nigeria economies, accounting for over 50 percent of jobs. Local technology services account for a much larger share of total economic output than either manufacturing or agriculture in this country. Home-grown services are the future of this country, as it is the fastest-growing component of the total GDP, particularly low-income Nigeria.
Nigeria, though embarked to the periodic development planning exercise as early as 1964, failed to realize the importance of private sector and market oriented policy in the process of overall development of the country till late eighties and this resulted to several economic distortions.
Since then, the private sector development policy has been reoriented to identifying and removing the barriers for private investments, and creating private sector friendly economic environment so that the private sector would play pivotal role in the economy. Thus shift in the role of the government from active participant to facilitator not only brought positive psychological change in the private sectors, but also added economic dynamism through the active participation of private sectors in all sectors.
Nigeria provides a classic case of a developing country where despite the presence of a wide institutional infrastructure for producing trained manpower, generating new knowledge and providing science and technology (S&T) services, the industry became increasingly dependent on foreign technologies ever since the economy became liberalized under ex-president Obasanjo’s regime.
In the early 1999’s new democratic government initiated a series of market oriented policy reforms to integrate the economy towards globalization and economic growth. A remarkable progress in terms of growth, investment and employment has been achieved. Private sector led growth was the main thrust of the policy reform initiatives taken during the millennium.
In the field of science and technology, Nigeria presents two completely contradictory faces. On the one hand, foreign observers look upon Nigeria as a bottomless container of S&T talent which in due course of time will, along with China, dominates the global scene in the second half of the 21st century. This perception is based on the success Nigeria has registered in the field of information technology in Nigeria and the achievement of African Americans in the United States. The opposite face is registered at Nigeria’s inability to solve problems of infrastructure, namely roads, power, water supply and sanitation and at the poor state of its schools and colleges. In a bid to meet this target, Nigeria joined other countries in jumpstarting the services negotiation in the local content policy implementation. The Collective Services Requests are aimed at promoting this country’s economic growth, particularly in developing economies, by improving productivity, creating jobs and improving the quality and availability of goods, agriculture and services through oil and gas root-up.
Since the country’s own technological capabilities were limited, the dual trade policy placed a continuous pressure on firms for acquiring foreign technologies. To meet the industry demand, the government encouraged the transfer of foreign technology embodied in capital goods and turnkey plants by assigning low protection to the capital goods industry. Highly restrictive policies were adopted towards FDI and technology licensing. Technical agreements were allowed only in the cases where technical assistance was needed to run the turnkey projects. Capital goods imports were given preference over the alternative modes of technology acquisition for two reasons. Light industries required simple and standardized technologies that could easily be transferred through capital goods imports. It was felt that given the training and entrepreneurship of Koreans, it would be easy to assimilate and adapt foreign technologies embodied in capital goods through reverse engineering at the production end. Though the policy led to massive imports of foreign capital goods and owing to low protection retarded the growth of the local capital goods industries, it did facilitate a rapid acquisition of technology during this phase.
Local content in telecommunications is not all about equipments, human resource is another area of local content. This requires telecommunications companies to employ greater number of Nigerians in their work force. However, trained manpower is not readily available in the industry; this is evident in the high rate of pouching in the industry, where skilled personnel move among organizations that pay high.
Engr. Lanre Ajayi, managing director, Pinet Informatics, acknowledged that there is acute shortage of trained human resources in ICT industry. According to him, any policy that requires a company to use local human resource such policy should ensure that there is enough trained human capacity available in the country. He cited instance of problem of poor quality of service in the GSM space, which he attributed lack of skilled manpower as part of the causes.
This could also be explained as responsible for Nigerian Communications Commission conception of the establishment of ICT training institute in the name of Digital Bridge institute to provide the needed skilled manpower requirement to develop the industry.
Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, president, Association Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (Atcon) said that the industry requires an effective policy framework as well as enforcement to encourage local content in telecommunications development. He urged NCC and National Information Technology Development Agency (Nitda) to ensure that policies are formulated to encourage operators in the industry to use locally made equipment where necessary in the sector. This he said would go a long in solving the problem of unemployment and save the country’s foreign exchange that are used in the importation of those goods with local alternatives.
Obstacles to adoption
Nigerian psyche has been steeped in the notion that foreign made products are preferable even when there local alternatives are of higher quality and cheaper. Government officials expected to set example for private sector to follow are also cut in the web of this act as most government officials uses foreign made goods against the locally produce ones. This accounts for lack of vigor required in the enforcement local content policies in the different sectors of the economy.
Liberalization is not an end in itself; however it could enhance the capability of the local content to the asses of capital, technology and knowledge by which the overall objective of economic development could be achieved. Local workforce and home-grown technology as the main actor in the process of liberalization of telecom can inject more capital, acquire new and modern technology, generates additional resources for telecom development. The process of integration possesses various opportunities and challenges and such challenges which are complex as well as need competitiveness have to be dealt with joint effort of the regulatory authorities and local input inside the telecom space through appropriate institutional mechanism.
Satellite Operators Push New Signal across Africa, Indian Ocean Regions
The Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), has started to broadcast a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) signal over Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI), providing its first open service in the region via NIGCOMSAT-1R Satellite managed and operated the by Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd., under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
This early open service is provided as part of the programme, which pursues the autonomous provision SBAS services in Africa, to augment the performances of the satellite navigation constellations GPS and Galileo.
With improved accuracy to within a meter, and boosted integrity, availability, and continuity of safety-related applications, these SBAS services will improve flight safety and efficiency in Africa, and also benefit the economy in many areas as land, sea, and rail transport, as well as mass-market applications, supporting user safety, cost-effectiveness, and sustainable development.
The launched open service essentially aims to carry-out technical trials, and to undertake partner airlines field demonstrations for aircraft and rotorcraft, to demonstrate the benefits of the future operational safety-of-life SBAS services, expected from 2024. It will also include early Precise Point Positioning (PPP), and emergency warning service to populations, which performance will be proven through other demonstrations.
The signal-in-space is generated by a dedicated system tested, developed as part of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” preliminary design phase, financed by the European Union, and awarded to Thales Alenia Space, Joint Venture between Thales (67 per cent), and Leonardo (33 per cent).
The “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” is based on the European EGNOS (1) developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), acting under the delegation of the European Commission and operated by the European GNSS Agency GSA.
The system prototype uses as reference stations the SAGAIE network deployed by CNES and ASECNA with the support of Thales Alenia Space.
The signal is broadcasted via the SBAS payload on NigComSat 1R GEO satellite of the Nigerian Communications Satellite, and an uplink station deployed in Abuja, Nigeria.
It is compliant to the standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and the minimum operational performance standard developed by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) organisation.
It will be visible in the whole of Africa and the Indian Ocean, up to the West Australian coast, and also in Europe.
Dr. Abimbola Alale, managing director/chief executive officer of NIGCOMSAT, said: “we are proud to be part of this ambitious program to provide satellite navigation services in the Africa and Indian Ocean region. The use of our geostationary communication satellite NIGCOMSAT-1R navigation payload to broadcast the first signal will be Africa’s premier contribution to SBAS as a regional satellite-based augmentation system for the continent.”
On his part, Benoit Broudy, vice president, Navigation Business at Thales Alenia Space in France, said the longstanding expertise acquired with the development of EGNOS1 SBAS in Europe, and KASS SBAS in Korea, combined with the new leading-edge satellite positioning technologies make Thales Alenia the ideal partner to best support countries to implement their own SBAS efficiently.
“The equatorial region represents also a key engineering challenge for such a system due to difficult ionosphere conditions, for which Thales Alenia Space has developed a proven solution,” he stated.
Mohamed Moussa, director-general of ASECNA, said the provision of the first African SBAS early service is a crucial major step forward in the development of satellite navigation in the AFI region, and in the deployment of the “SBAS for Africa and Indian Ocean” system, the navigation solution for Africa by Africa.
He said: “It demonstrates the ambition and commitment of ASECNA to enhance air navigation safety for the benefit of the whole continent, in line with my vision for the unification of the African Sky.”
ipNX, USTDA Ink Partnership Deal to Develop Nigeria’s ICT Infrastructure
ipNX, Nigeria’s pioneering and leading information, communications and technology (ICT) company and the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have signed a partnership deal that will further support the development of Nigeria’s ICT and broadband infrastructure and help ipNX expand its fibre-optic network to more than 200,000 residences in Lagos and other locations, including Abuja and Port Harcourt.
A virtual signing ceremony that signalled the beginning of this far reaching relationship between the two parties was held on Thursday, September 17, 2020.
Through this innovative initiative, the USTDA is supporting ipNX to promote inclusive, secure and sustainable connectivity across the nation.
The agreements were made possible as a result of several engagements between the USTDA delegation to Nigeria and the leadership of ipNX; and will advance the goals of the recently updated Nigerian Broadband Plan.
At the Signing Ceremony, Ejovi Aror, group managing director of ipNX, said: “We believe that world-class connectivity and broadband internet access will be pivotal to the digital transformation and socio-economic development of Nigeria.
‘We are very positive that this project will play a crucial role in making our belief a reality.”
Aror added that with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the case for a vibrant ICT sector has never been stronger and the new partnership will bring ipNX a step closer to achieving its mission to continually leverage technology to create innovative solutions that help mankind thrive, while making a crucial impact to the lives of Nigerians across the country.
Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, said’ “These projects will support the development of Nigeria’s telecoms infrastructure and help to achieve the goals of the National Broadband Plan.
“The U.S. Government has committed significant resources to improving telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria and this support is crucial as we believe that investment in critical ICT projects will strengthen the resiliency outlined in Nigeria’s economic sustainability plan.”
Also present at the virtual event, the Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Bako Wakil, who spoke on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, said: “The support this grant will provide to the telecommunications sector, in particular broadband, is in line with the National Digital Strategy and the National Broadband Plan.
“The NCC would like to congratulate ipNX as it shows the company’s integrity and commitment to be selected for this grant”.
ipNX also revealed that it intends to continue to work with USTDA beyond the preliminary stage, to execute many more projects into the future that will bring about the digital transformation and socio-economic development of major cities in Nigeria in alignment with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.
With their partnership, both parties fully agree that further development of the nation’s broadband infrastructure is key to unlocking the potential promised by Nigeria’s digital economy.
According to the World Bank’s ‘Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic Report’ released in 2019, Broadband is a key enabler to harness the digital economy transformation and high-speed broadband has the potential to accelerate Nigeria’s socio-economic development.
Manfa, ANSICTA Boss Pledges to Collaborate with NITDA for Establishment of Zonal Office in Anambra State
Mr Theo Manfa, managing director/chief executive officer, Anambra State Information and Communication Technology Agency, (ANSICTA) has hinted that they are ready to collaborate with National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) for the establishment of the agency’s South-East Zonal office in the State.
He stated this when he led ANSICTA delegation to NITDA’s head office in Abuja recently.
Mr Manfa explained that the call for special requests by the state is necessitated by the fact that the state “has long been known as a home of innovation and entrepreneurship, through the various markets like Onitsha and Nnewi and the plethora of locally produced goods they spawned over time.”
He said that innovation and entrepreneurship are important elements to drive the digital economy which the nation is striving to create adding that the state has been watching with keen interest the activities of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NITDA which necessitated the intended partnership.
He requested NITDA’s partnership with ANSICTA in building an ICT Hub in Anambra State; hosting a NITDA regional office; hosting NITDA events and programs as a State and region; trainings and Skills development programs of NITDA where the State hopes to train 40,000 residents in the next 2 years in Digital skills; establishment of cooperation on the Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture (NGEA) and the provision of the Unity Board where 150 units were requested for a program for secondary schools in Anambra.
ANSICTA also presented an award to the Director General for his “Outstanding Achievements in Driving theDigital Economy” which was received by Dr. Vincent Olatunji on behalf of the DG.
Dr. Olatunji responded along with comments from some of the Directors and said NITDA would be glad to cooperate with the State.
He said it was gratifying to note that Anambra State now has an ICT Agency as Gov Willie Obiano had visited NITDA 6 years ago and the agency had worked with the State in developing an ICT policy for Anambra.
The success of that exercise is the take off of the agency (ANSICTA) which is the execution arm of the policy developed by NITDA.
He further said ANSICTA was by the speech of its MD really in tune with the affairs and mandates of NITDA and stated that ANSICTA should make a formal application for the things requested at this meeting will be looked into by Management for approval by the Director General.
He also thanked ANSICTA for recognizing the hard work of the DG through the award they presented, which he said was most encouraging.
Michael Orekyeh; chief operating officer of ANSICTA was part of the delegation from Anambra State. while the Director General of NITDA, Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi was represented by the Director E-Government and Regulation, Dr. Vincent Olatunji; Director Office of ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship – OIIE, Dr. (Mrs.) Amina Sambo Magaji; Deputy Director of IT Infrastructure, Dr. Saidu Kumo; SA Technical to the DG, Dr. Mohammed Yahaya; Corporate Strategy Department, Dr. Taofik Yekini and other Directors and Key Management Staff.
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