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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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Tinubu Has Surrendered Nigeria’s Sovereignty to IMF, World Bank – HURIWA

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Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has condemned President Bola Tinubu’s recent economic policies, saying they have undermined Nigeria’s sovereignty.

Tinubu Has Surrendered Nigeria’s Sovereignty to IMF, World Bank – HURIWA

Bola Tinubu

HURIWA noted that the condemnation comes in the wake of Tinubu’s dramatic policy shift, which starkly contrasts with his previous stance against similar policies under former President Goodluck Jonathan.

In a press statement, HURIWA recalled that before ascending to the Presidency, Tinubu was a vocal critic of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank’s economic prescriptions.

According to the group, during Jonathan’s administration, Tinubu, and other prominent figures, including then-opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari, fiercely opposed the IMF and World Bank’s recommendations such as the removal of subsidies and the devaluation of the Naira, arguing that these policies would harm Nigeria’s economic stability and undermine the nation’s sovereignty.

“However, since taking office, Tinubu has adopted and intensified these very policies, leading to accusations of hypocrisy from various quarters.

“Critics have criticized Tinubu for this reversal, labeling it a betrayal of his earlier principles. According to them, Tinubu’s current endorsement of the IMF and World Bank measures, which he previously opposed, represents a significant departure from his earlier stance and effectively compromises Nigeria’s economic independence,” HURIWA stated.

HURIWA echoed these concerns, arguing that the devaluation of the Naira and the implementation of foreign-influenced economic policies weaken Nigeria’s financial sovereignty.

The association pointed out that by aligning Nigeria’s economic strategy with foreign interests, the current administration is ceding control over the country’s financial system to external forces, stressing that this shift not only diminishes the nation’s economic autonomy but also places Nigeria at the mercy of international economic pressures.

In addition to criticizing the economic policies, HURIWA also linked these measures to broader security concerns.

The association contended that the failure of Nigeria’s security agencies to effectively protect the country’s borders is directly related to the administration’s economic strategies.

According to HURIWA, inadequate border security has allowed armed non-state actors and criminals to infiltrate the country, further threatening Nigeria’s sovereignty. This situation, HURIWA argues, is a consequence of prioritizing foreign economic directives over national stability and security.

HURIWA’s critique extended to a call for the government to adhere to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act, which obliges the administration to stabilize the Naira.

The association emphasized that protecting the national currency is crucial for maintaining Nigeria’s economic sovereignty and stability. Additionally, HURIWA urged the government to improve efforts to secure Nigeria’s borders, reinforcing measures to prevent the infiltration of terrorists, arms smugglers, and other illicit actors.

Drawing comparisons with other nations, HURIWA highlighted how countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom have successfully defended their economic and territorial sovereignty.

“These countries have implemented policies that prioritize national interests, maintaining strong control over their economic systems and borders. For instance, the United States has resisted external pressures to devalue the Dollar, ensuring a stable currency that supports its economic strength. Similarly, Australia and Canada have fortified their borders against illegal entries, safeguarding their territorial integrity”, HURIWA added

HURIWA further argued that Nigeria’s political leaders should adopt similar strategies to protect both economic stability and national security.

The association suggested that by resisting foreign-imposed economic measures and focusing on strengthening border protection, Nigeria can safeguard its sovereignty and ensure a more secure and prosperous future.

“HURIWA’s criticism of President Tinubu’s policy reversal underscores the broader implications of adopting IMF and World Bank directives. Our call for adherence to the CBN Act and the enhancement of border security highlights the interconnectedness of economic policies and national sovereignty.

“As Nigeria faces ongoing economic and security challenges, Our recommendations offer a pragmatic approach to achieving stability and defending the nation’s interests against external influences,” the statement added.

 


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Overlapping Regulations, Major Challenge for Manufacturing — CPPE

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The Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, (CPPE), has lamented the crippling effect of the overlapping regulatory policies of government on businesses, and called for the adoption of good regulatory governance principles to unlock the full capacity of businesses and industries.

Speaking on the theme, “Harmonising Regulatory Compliance: The impact of overlapping regulatory functions on business operations”, at Chief Executive Officer’s Breakfast Meeting of the Ikeja Branch of the Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr. Muda Yusuf, the Director of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, (CPPE), said the call was particularly important as this was not the best of time for manufacturers and investors in the country.

Yusuf said regulatory risk was one of the biggest risks that businesses had to cope with in the Nigerian economy.

This, he noted, could manifest as overlapping regulatory regimes with too many regulations, both sporadic and frequent regulatory changes and absence of dispute resolution mechanism between business and regulators have several cases of overlapping regulatory functions creating challenges for manufacturers, hence, the need for regulatory needs to be kept to the barest minimum.

He stressed that the regulators’ purpose and objectives should be clearly defined and communicated to the regulator, the regulated and the general public.

He said stakeholders should be able to predict with a high degree of confidence what decision a regulator is likely to make in a particular circumstance.

In his remarks, President of MAN, Francis Meshioye, said while regulations were essential for safety and quality, the overlapping and sometimes contradictory regulations increase operational costs and ultimately hinder business growth.

He noted that Nigeria’s regulatory landscape was characterised by a multitude of agencies with its own set of rules and requirements.

“These bottlenecks have adverse effects such as operational inefficiencies, increase compliance cost, delayed production and risk,” he said.


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CIBN Commences Tutorial Session for Agency Banking Certification Examination

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Tutorial sessions for the students registered for the October 2024 diet examinations for Agency Banking Certification of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) have begun.

The first in the series of the tutorial session commenced on Saturday July 20, 2024 and  will end on Sunday July 28, 2024.The dates for subsequent sessions being jointly organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and FIC Professionals Network Plc, will be announced later.

The organisers are being supported by the industry associations comprising of the Association of Mobile Money and Bank Agents in Nigeria (AMMBAN), Association of Mobile Money Operators of Nigeria (AMMON) and Association of Mobile Bank Operators (AMBO).

The sessions will focus on the four modules of the Foundation level of the Certification and avail the students the tips on how to prepare for and pass the examinations.

It would be recalled that CIBN unveiled the agency banking certification programme last year for Point of Sales (POS) agents, NIN /BVN agents, Agent network managers, customer service officers, agent banking personnel in the banks and Fintech companies.

One of the organisers, Mr. Segun Shonubi,  Executive Director, FIC Professionals Network Plc stated that the main purpose of the tutorial sessions was to help the students to better understand the course and enhance their performance in the examinations.

The examinations which have been scheduled for Tuesday, October 8, 2024 and Wednesday, October 9, 2024 will be conducted through Remote Online Proctoring to enable students write from the comforts of their homes or any place of their choices.

In addition, plans are being put in place for practice questions to be made available for the students on the Institute’s e-learning platform. This is to enable the students to practice and get acquainted with the format to aid their preparations.

Registration for the examinations is still open to interested students via www.myabc.ng till September16, 2024.

Mr Ken Opara, former President and Chairman of Council, CIBN, said the Agent banking certification program (ABC) was introduced to address capacity challenge in the ecosystem.

“Agent banking has been the key driver of financial inclusion, which creates financial access points and ultimately eradicating poverty.

“It is democratizing banking services, taking it to the grass root and connecting to the nooks and crane of the country.

“The certification programme, which details provides all round knowledge, practical engagement with industry experts and participation in standard procedures for conducting Agent banking business in Nigeria,” he said.

Fasasi Sarafadeen Atanda, member, CIBN sub-committee on Agent Banking Certification programme, said that Nigerians can now look forward to more knowledgeable and professional POS Agents, mobile money agents, bank customer service desk that knows what to do when you are debited by POS, more understanding from security agents that will see certified agents and treat cases from agent transaction professionally etc.

“It has been a lot of work from the ideation, to conception, to proposition, to adoption and to commission in the programme.

“There is a lot of complains about proliferation of unregistered agents in the ecosystem. What we are doing is banking because when you are doing cash -in cash- out, account opening among others. Most of these services require professionalism.

“The account opening that we pushed for, resulted to not palatable experience because greater per centage of accounts opened at agent location were used for fraud. This actually made some banks to stop account opening at agent location.

“Not every agent can handle Biometric Verification Number and National Identity Number, any agent that wants to handle these registrations must be certified by CIBN. We have seen that most of the error seen in the process are from agent location.

“They do sharp practices, unethical practices, not doing due-diligence due to poor training and lack of professionalism, if they had pass through this process of certification, they would have been trained on maintaining ethical standard,” he said.

 


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