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Gwandu Urges Ethiopia to Learn from Nigeria’s Telecom Deregulation

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Dr. Bashir Gwandu, non-executive chair of the Commonwealth ITU Group (CIG) and the former commissioner of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC),  has advised Ethiopia to learn from Nigeria as it moves ahead to liberalize its telecommunications industry for private sector investment.

Dr. Gwandu stated this while delivering his lead keynote speech at the opening of the Innovation Africa Digital Summit (IAD) 2019 in Addis Ababa last week graced by telecoms executives and governments from Africa and around the world.

Senior executives from Vodacom Group, MTN Group, Etisalat, Safaricom, France Orange, Vodafone, ZTE, Huawei, Ericsson, Cisco, Airbus, Helios Towers, OneWeb, Mastercard, Intelsat, Thuraya, IBM, IFC, and several others attended the summit which also attracted Ministers from Africa, most especially the West and East Africa sub-regions.

The summit was opened by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accompanied by some of his Ministers. It was anchored by Extensia of the UK -co-organiser of the IAD Summit. The period of the conference coincided with the time a proclamation is being tabled before the Ethiopian Parliament for debate and consideration to liberalise the country’s telecom sector.

According to Reuters, Ethiopia’s telecoms market is considered to be ‘the big price’ and the last greenfield site in a push to liberalise, and end a state monopoly as well as open-up one of the world’s last major closed telecoms markets.

In his speech at the conference, Dr. Gwandu dissected the telecoms market privatisation and liberalisation processes breaking the issues logically from the point of producing succinct legal frameworks for both the privatisation, and that of the telecoms regulation, right down to the market design and to the choices available to the government when it comes to competition planning up to the spectrum management and eventually service providers regulation.

He stated the need for strong and good regulatory framework, encompassing sensible set of rules that encourages investment and protects the consumer and requiring, effective, professionally competent and sufficiently empowered as well as sufficiently financed regulatory institution.

He emphasize that “Good enable laws are not just sufficient but government support must be total and not half-hearted, coupled with adequate funding that would attract good manpower to the regulator.”

Dr. Gwandu, a former acting executive vice chairman at NCC opined that government role should be restricted to policy formulation whilst a strong, independent regulatory authority should provide stable, transparent, fair, and non-discriminatory access to telecommunications resources in a timely manner.

He said the legal framework apart from guaranteeing independence of the regulator, must enable flexibility of the regulator whist remaining predictable, efficient, effective and accountable. “It should be the role of the regulator to ensure the existence of competition in all segments of the market devoid of market abuse or the exercise of significant market power by the participants” he said.

Gwandu emphasized that, “Liberalization of telecom market is essential for rapid network growth as experienced by other countries and private sector participation is essential for attracting investment. Innovation and new technologies in the telecoms sector is fast moving, it cannot wait for slow government bureaucracy to be approving investment funding and yet compete effectively.”

Bashir Gwandu stated that in looking holistically at the telecoms market, international segment should be examined where the complimentary options of international optical fibre and satellite links can be made available in a competitive manner.

According to him, international gateway liberalization and national backbone planning should ensure ubiquitous availability, open access, and finally on the last mile the spectrum remains key in view of the lack of sufficient last-mile fixed infrastructure.

He further stated that “Mobile is the largest technology platform in human history and mobile broadband is the most dynamic segment of the last mile market. Spectrum is a critical resource for mobile broadband but is only valuable if it is effectively deployed to enable appropriate networks and services for socio-economic benefits to citizens.”

Gwandu emphasised further that as wired infrastructure is limited in Africa except perhaps in South Africa, it is expensive to install. Wireless technology on the other hand is easier and faster to deploy and remains critical to expanding broadband access, and spectrum access is critical for wireless broadband deployment, and capacity.

“Robust wireless broadband requires various bands and appropriate slots size for assignment, the slot size determines how many towers an operator will need to cover the area, or re-use pattern or indeed how soon break-even will happen, how sustainable or profitable the telco will be etc” he said. He cited the mistake made by Nigeria in providing just over three megahertz (MHz) to Code Division Mobile Access (CDMA) operators and expected them to perform.

At the international level, he encourage Ethiopia to participate actively in the  International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and African Telecommunications Union (ATU) activities to enhance regulatory harmonisation, thereby promoting economies of scale and enhancing cooperation on roaming, interoperability, Internet exchange points, and development of backhaul infrastructure.

He posited that Ethiopia should align spectrum release and technology neutrality roadmap to enable flexibility in investment, and in spectrum auction process, he advised the government to set objectives properly and to balance pricing of spectrum with rollout obligations.

“For rapid expansion of networks, Ethiopian government which controls land across the country should streamlined approval for Right of Way (RoW) and site acquisition, and to make the process a simple and one-stop shop activity” he admonished.

He also stated that tax holiday has proven to be useful in some markets but even more importantly, multiplicity of sector specific taxes should be avoided and that the multiplier effect of deferred-taxation will lead to more tax revenue from the sectors that are supported by the telecoms.

Furthermore, Gwandu stated that competition planning should be examined carefully so that resulting companies should remain sustainable –and in selling spectrum, the regulator should ensure appropriate sizes, and also not to sell out all available spectrum at once, which will reduce chances of corrective measures in respect of future competition corrective-intervention.

The Ethiopian government thought it wise to invite telecoms experts from around the world, potential Investors and other market players to partake in the unique forum that examined the best practices that the country can learn from, in its quest to restructure and open its telecoms market for foreign participation.


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CSCS Sensitizes Financial Market Stakeholders on Cyber-Security

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Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) Plc, Nigeria’s capital market infrastructure, sustains cyber-security advocacy as it sensitizes financial market participants on rising rate of cybercrime.

In a webinar organized by CSCS, financial market stakeholders, including bankers and capital market operators dialogued on innovative measures for preventing cybercrimes, dire need for increased campaign and exigency of collaborative investments to reign the rising rate of cybercrime.

The online event themed “Cyber Security and Information During the Pandemic” was lauded for its timeliness, as COVID-19 pandemic and attendant remote connections may have increased cyber-security risks in many organizations, particularly as the crime rate surges globally, with rising exposure of financial services institutions in Nigeria and the broader African continent.

The event which was widely attended with participants from the banking sector, capital market and public service, had Mr. Tobe Nnadozie (Divisional Head, Technology and Innovations, CSCS Plc), Mr. Bharat Soni (Chief Information Security Officer, GTBank Plc) and Mr. Ikechukwu Ugoji (Chief Information Security Officer, Interswitch Limited) as panelists.

Speaking on the event, Mr. Haruna Jalo-Waziri, the Chief Executive Officer, CSCS Plc, noted that “cybersecurity is a collective effort and everyone must play their role to preserve the integrity and sanctity of the financial market.

The pandemic and its attendant remote connections occasioned by business continuity and work-from-home protocols have increased exposures to cyber-security risks and some businesses may have suffered colossal losses due to cyberattacks since the pandemic.

More than ever, cyberattacks are like a double whammy at this challenging time when businesses are re-strategizing to adapt to the new normal and ensure sustainability.”

Mr. Femi Onifade, the Chief Strategy Officer, CSCS Plc reiterated the CEO’s perspective, noting that “a breach on any market participant’s network may inadvertently expose the entire system, thus reinforcing why we must collaborate to prevent any vulnerabilities in the financial system and why all participants and stakeholders must take active and effective measures in ensuring and sustaining cyber-resilience.”

While speaking at the event, Mr. Bharat Soni said, “new work culture has expanded remote activities and cloud capabilities to an unprecedented level, thereby making businesses more vulnerable to cyber-attacks such as online scams and phishing, disruptive malware, malicious domains amongst others.

Hence, the use of strong authentication for accessing networks would no longer be an option but a necessity.” He concluded that “Awareness of the new realities of safe cyber practices need to be communicated to employees, partners and customers so that they can remain aware of the evolving cyber threat and how to best protect themselves and their organizations”.

In the same vein, Mr. Ikechukwu Ugoji said, “over 90% of cyber breaches are facilitated by phishing email or social engineering attack and that every employee is a first-line of defence against incoming threats and employees must be made to understand their vital roles and responsibility in protecting the organization.”

On his part, Mr. Tobe Nnadozie, posited that “the pattern of spend on cybersecurity shows clearly that organizations are making relevant investments to protect their systems and broader market, albeit sadly, lack of vigilance is the leading cause of breaches”.


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Muoghalu, Kukah Headline ARCAN Lectures

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Association of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria (ARCAN) has lined up a two-week long, five-lecture series to commemorate the 60th Independence Anniversary of Nigeria.

Muoghalu, Kukah Headline ARCAN Lectures

Ambassador Joe Keshi

The lecture series scheduled to commence from Tuesday September, 22 through to Tuesday, October 6 2020 is themed Nigeria @ 60- The Journey So Far.

Dr. Kingsley Muoghalu, former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and a presidential candidate during the 2019 presidential election is expected to kick off the lecture series on Tuesday. He speaks on the topic: Nationhood, Development and Democracy in Nigeria.

Other speakers include the highly revered Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah who would be speaking on Thursday, September 24 on the topic: 60 years of Nigeria’s Journey to Democracy: Hopes and Impediments.

Dr Vanessa Iwowo, an award-winning management scholar takes the stage on Monday 28 September, 2020 and she would dwell on the topic: [email protected]: Leadership, Democracy and the Politics of Identity.

Tuesday, 29th September, 2020  would be the turn of political activist and scholar Dr. Usman Bugaje to explore the topic: 60 years of Nation-Building: The Management of Our Diversity, Resources and Nation-Building.

Erudite scholar and specialist in International Relations, Prof W. Alade Fawole, is billed to speak on Tuesday 6th October, 2020 on the topic: Nigeria in International Affairs: Prognosis for the next Sixty Years.

The host, Ambassador Joe Keshi, said remarks would be made by an array of eminent Nigerians including ARCAN President, Amb J.K Shinkaiye, ARCAN’s Doyen , Amb Ignatius C. Olisemeka and other eminent Nigerians and diplomats.

According to Keshi, “the series will review the state of our nation in the last 60 years and how the lofty dreams of our founding fathers of building a just and equitable nation where no man is oppressed can be truly attained.

“Additionally, it will review the impact of domestic policies on our foreign policy pursuits and engagement, and above all, offer a futuristic vision of what our foreign policy priorities in the next 60 years should be like,” he said.


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Ene-Obong, CEO of 54gene Selected as Endeavor Entrepreneur

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Endeavor has welcomed a new entrepreneur into its global network; Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong of 54gene, was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur on September 17, 2020.

54gene is a health technology company whose mission is to advance precision medicine capabilities in Africa through research, advanced molecular diagnostics and clinical programs. 54gene joins 10 other Endeavor Entrepreneur-led companies in Nigeria, and over 1,300 in Endeavor’s 37 markets across Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America.

Endeavor is a mission-driven organisation that is leading the global movement for high-impact entrepreneurs and their companies. Endeavor Nigeria selects, mentors and accelerates the best high-impact entrepreneurs in the region, supporting them to scale their companies and drive economic growth.

As well as 54gene, this year, Endeavor has welcomed the founders of Daystar Power, Migo and Kobo360 into its local and global network.

Africa is home to the most genetically diverse population in the world. However, less than 3% of the continent’s genomic data is available for research purposes making it a potentially rich source of new genetic information used for medical discoveries.

54gene is solving this challenge and equalising the access to precision medicine through the advancement of the state of healthcare in Nigeria and on the continent. This is being achieved through local clinical research programs and advanced molecular diagnostics.

“54gene is a critical part of the continent’s push to equalize access to precision medicine for millions of Africans. The rapid pace at which the company has scaled over the past year is testament to Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong’s leadership, his drive and talented team.

He is an inspiration to other high-impact entrepreneurs in Nigeria and we are thrilled to welcome him into the Endeavor network.” Says Eloho Omame, Managing Director & CEO of Endeavor in Nigeria.

Since launching in 2019, 54gene has scaled its operations in generating novel insights in human genetics research that will lead to high impact health discoveries. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, 54gene raised funds to increase the country’s testing capacity and launched mobile laboratories across 5 Nigerian states.

The company has raised $21 million in investment and also launched the African Centre for Translational Genomics (ACTG) to fund the study of Non-Communicable Diseases in 100,000 Nigerians.

In September of this year, the company announced a partnership with Illumina to establish a world class genomics facility in Lagos, Nigeria, which will help expand its sequencing-based research and molecular diagnostics offering.

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong, CEO and Founder of 54gene, says, “It is an absolute honour to be selected as an Endeavor entrepreneur. We started 54gene to significantly improve the inclusion of African populations in global genomics research and I am glad to see our work is being recognised.

“Our mission is to continue driving innovation and change in research and I look forward to the opportunities that arise as a result of being supported by the global Endeavor network in expanding 54gene’s impact globally.”

Dr. Abasi Ene-Obong was successfully selected as part of a cohort of 9 entrepreneurs from 6 markets. With the recent addition of 54gene, Endeavor Nigeria now supports 17 entrepreneurs who lead 11 scale-up stage companies in Nigeria, spanning lifesciences, fintech, renewable energy, entertainment, logistics and retail.


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