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Nigeria’s Telecom Sector: A Beacon of Hope amidst Challenges

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By Johnson Ademola

In the midst of political tumult and upheaval, there is a tale of remarkable progress emerging from Nigeria’s telecom landscape. It’s a story that should be celebrated, for it signifies a beacon of hope in a time of widespread despair.

At the helm of this transformative journey is Umar Garba Danbatta, a professor of telecommunications engineering, and the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The numbers tell a compelling story. Since the advent of GSM and the expansion of broadband infrastructure, Nigeria’s telecom sector has attracted a staggering $77 billion in investment. What’s even more impressive is that $39 billion of this sum flowed into the sector during Danbatta’s eight-year tenure as the regulator.

Moreover, the sector now contributes a substantial 16 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a remarkable increase from the 8 percent it contributed in 2015 when Danbatta assumed the role of EVC.

This meteoric rise in the telecom sector reflects the surging demand for telecommunications services across various sectors of the Nigerian economy, from agriculture and commerce to education. It’s a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the industry, which weathered global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recessions while maintaining its bullish stance.

Danbatta credits this remarkable journey to “thorough sustained regulatory excellence and operational efficiency” by the NCC. Indeed, telecom has become a shining example of local content development, with significant growth in digital innovation, human capital development, and skills acquisition among Nigeria’s youth. This has enabled them to compete on a global stage, earning recognition from multinationals and international agencies alike.

In financial terms, the telecom sector continues to make a significant contribution to the national economy. A report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicates that telecom and information services added a substantial N2.508 trillion to Nigeria’s GDP in the first quarter of 2023, representing 14.13 percent.

One of the sector’s forward-looking strategies is the adoption of 5G technology, positioning Nigeria as one of the early adopters in the global digital economy. This bold move paid off handsomely, generating $820.8 million for the federal government from 5G spectrum license fees paid by operators like MTN, MAFAB, and Airtel.

But that’s not all. The recent launch of Starlinks broadband services, a satellite-based wireless broadband offering with nationwide coverage potential, is another feather in Danbatta’s cap. This service, made possible by the NCC’s issuance of a license to Elon Musk-owned SpaceX, is already available in various parts of the country.

Under Danbatta’s leadership, the number of telephone users in Nigeria has surged to 218.9 million, while internet subscribers and broadband users now stand at 159.5 million and 88.7 million, respectively.

These figures, coupled with the creation of jobs, both direct and auxiliary, during a period when other sectors were shrinking, have earned Nigeria the respect of international bodies like the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The telecom sector’s growth, as evidenced by its consistent 16 percent contribution to GDP, demonstrates its resilience in the face of socio-economic and political challenges.

It prompts us to ask how such growth was achieved in an environment plagued by erratic electricity supply, ethnic and religious divides, Right of Way (RoW) disputes, fiber cuts, high capital requirements, multiple taxations, infrastructure vandalism, and regulatory hurdles.

The answer lies in Danbatta’s unwavering commitment to innovation and active engagement with stakeholders, all for the betterment of the sector and the nation’s economy at large.

Nigeria can draw inspiration from the telecom sector’s success story. If the goal is to elevate Nigeria into the ranks of the world’s top 20 economies, the federal government must replicate the triumphs of the telecom sector in other industries. Danbatta’s leadership has shown that with vision and dedication, Nigeria can indeed achieve greatness.

In the grand scheme of economic transformation, the telecom sector’s journey under Danbatta’s stewardship has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. Beyond its undeniable contributions to the GDP and job creation, it has paved the way for profound advancements in entertainment, banking, agriculture, e-commerce, and various primary sector frontiers.

The steady rise in quarterly GDP contribution, now at a phenomenal 16 percent, means that the telecom sector has successfully insulated itself from the socio-economic and political vagaries that have stymied growth in other sectors.

So, how did Danbatta and other stakeholders in the telecom industry achieve this remarkable feat? It’s a question that warrants deeper exploration. How did telecom transition from mere kilobytes to terabytes in growth, market size, and innovativeness in an environment where electricity supply remains horrendously erratic?

How did it rise above the divisive forces of ethnicity and religious affiliations that have plagued the nation’s public discourse and rendered it ineffective? The telecom sector’s resilience in the face of challenges like Right of Way (RoW) disputes, fiber cuts, high capital requirements, multiple taxations, infrastructure vandalism, and complex regulations deserves a closer look.

The answers to these questions lie in the unwavering commitment of Danbatta and his team to finding innovative solutions and actively engaging stakeholders for the greater good of the sector and the larger economy. They have demonstrated that a robust regulatory environment, coupled with visionary leadership, can lead to extraordinary growth and prosperity.

Nigeria now stands at a pivotal crossroads. The success of the telecom sector serves as a blueprint for what can be achieved in other industries. If the vision is to leapfrog Nigeria into the exclusive club of the world’s top 20 economies, then the federal government must replicate the summer success recorded in telecom across various sectors.

Danbatta’s leadership has shown that with dedication, innovation, and visionary leadership, Nigeria can indeed become a global economic powerhouse.

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Airtel Doubles its 5G Network Coverage in Kenya

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Airtel Kenya has announced major steps in its network expansion, doubling its 5G footprint since mid-2023. The company has expanded its 5G network to cover 39 counties and 285 wards, with over 690 sites operational.

This year, Airtel Kenya aims to add approximately 1000 new sites, with 50% of the rollout already completed.

The expansion focuses on improving indoor coverage in urban areas and extending services to rural regions, particularly in the North Eastern part of the country. Airtel Kenya’s network now covers 89% of the Kenyan population, with a goal to increase this coverage to 94% by the end of 2024.

In response to the growing demand for reliable home internet, Airtel Kenya has launched new Unlimited Home Broadband 5G Data Plans. These plans offer seamless and uninterrupted internet access, making them ideal for streaming, gaming, remote work, and other high-bandwidth activities.

The plans are priced at Kes 3,500/month for 10 Mbps, Kes 5,000/month for 20 Mbps, and Kes 6,500/month for 30 Mbps. The Airtel 5G router, now available for a reduced price of Kes 2,999, features an innovative power backup, ensuring up to 5 hours of connectivity during power outages.

Customers can order the Airtel 5G router and sign up for an Unlimited Data Plan at any Airtel shop, online at Airtel Kenya, or by dialing *400# for home delivery and plan renewals.

 


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IHS’ Impact on Nigeria’s Digital Transformation, Foreign Direct Investments Drive

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By Blessed Omonose.

Proudly Nigerian Campaign, a private sector initiative promoted by media entrepreneur, Olorogun Elkanah Mowarin, in 2017, was one of the popular efforts to elicit pride in resourceful Nigerians and made-in-Nigeria products and services. The central theme of the campaign was to project Nigeria and Nigerians as a Brand by generating positive narratives about Nigeria and her people.

Today, IHS Nigeria is one notable corporate brand that wears the Proudly Nigerian emblem with gait and a commitment to promote Nigeria as a good brand, despite some challenges the country faces.

Last October, President Bola Tinubu played host to a team of senior management of IHS Nigeria in New York, United States on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly. During the meeting, the Executive Vice President (EVP) and Chief Human Resources Officer, Ayotade Oyinlola, listed the company’s giant strides, including its consistent investments in state-of-the-art communication infrastructure and world-class services that have put Nigeria on a very strong footing in the global telecommunication market.

Oyinlola said at the time, that in an era where connectivity serves as the lifeblood of societies and economies, IHS Towers stands as a beacon of success, demonstrating how a company that was established in Nigeria, in a little over two decades (2001), has grown to become a reckonable multinational telecom infrastructure powerhouse, with footprints in 11 countries across three continents and impacting the lives of over 800 million people.

The team asserted that the company, despite having an expansive global footprint, including a remarkable global tower count of over 40,000 towers across Nigeria, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kuwait, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia, proudly maintains its Nigerian identity.

In May 2024, IHS Nigeria again proudly carried the Nigerian green-white-green flag to the 2024 Corporate Council on Africa’s 16th U.S.-Africa Business Summit, held at the prestigious Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention, Dallas, Texas, USA. The telecoms infrastructure company, both as co-sponsor and participant at the strategic international summit leveraged the platform to market Nigeria’s limitless opportunities.

The summit – a pivotal moment in the convergence of global leaders, industry titans, and visionary entrepreneurs seeking to unlock Africa’s digital potential and foster sustainable economic growth, was attended by prominent leaders from the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), including Florie Liser, President, and John Olajide, Chairman, representing CCA, as well as members of a strong leadership team from IHS Nigeria including IHS Nigeria’s Chief Operating Officer, Kazeem Oladepo, Dapo Otunla, Chief Corporate Services Officer, and Seye Dosunmu, Chief Financial Officer, respectively.  Mohamad Darwish, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President of IHS Towers and CEO IHS Nigeria, serves as a notable Board member on the Planning and Programs Committee in CCA.

With the increasing influence and power of technology, a high-level dialogue titled, “Unlocking Africa’s Digital Potential – Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunities,” opened the discourse where IHS Nigeria showcased its pivotal role in charting a course for Africa’s digital transformation.

In highlighting the company’s commitment to bridging the digital divide and empowering communities across Africa, IHS Nigeria’s COO, Kazeem Oladepo, reeled out the company’s numerous interventions, including investments in school connectivity. He said IHS has unveiled ICT and digital infrastructures aimed at promoting Nigeria’s digital economy, which include the innovation hub at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, in collaboration with the Oyo state government. It also implemented a three-year partnership with the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy in support of the government’s Three Million Technical Talent (3MTT) Initiative.

Through its partnership with the Limitless Space Institute, a non-profit education and research organisation based in Houston, Texas, IHS Nigeria is broadening access to space education for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators in Nigeria. It also supports UNICEF Nigeria’s School-to-School Connectivity Project and has established notable partnerships with the END Fund, Save the Children, and USAID.

Through its subsidiary company, Global Independent Connect Limited (GICL), IHS has deployed over 13,000km of fiber optics across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory to deepen nationwide digital connectivity and broadband penetration. Today, over 3,000 towers have been connected on metro fiberacross Nigeria to further increase connectivity and support Nigeria’s growing digital ecosystem. In its resolute commitment to increasing connectivity, especially across rural communities, the company launched a rural telephony solution in 2020. The exclusively solar-powered solution connects the most remote communities in Nigeria to essential 2G and 3G services. To date, 586 rural telephony sites have been established across 25 states, serving over two million Nigerians living in rural and underserved areas.

The session was moderated by Michelle Chivunga, Founder & CEO of Global Policy House, the dialogue brought together luminaries such as H.E. Mogweetsi E.K. Masisi, President of Botswana, and Hon. Nthomeng Majara, Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho, alongside Hon. Enoh T. Ebong, Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), and Dr. Thierry Wandji, President & CEO of Cybastion.

During the session on “Invest in Nigeria: Showcasing Investment Opportunities,’’ co-sponsored by IHS Nigeria and moderated by Ekenem Isichei, Program Director at the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), the Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji led the voices that showcased Nigeria’s burgeoning investment opportunities. He was supported by Aisha Rimi, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), and industry stalwarts including John Olajide, Chairman of CCA and Founder/CEO, Axxess and Cavista Holdings. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, who led the Federal Government delegation, affirmed Nigeria’s commitment to strengthening bilateral relations and strategic partnerships aimed at stimulating foreign direct investments inflow to Nigeria.

Oladepo, who represented IHS Nigeria at the session, underscored the company’s pivotal role in lowering barriers to entry for mobile network and internet service providers, catalysing infrastructure development, and fostering innovation hubs across Nigeria. He further shared IHS Towers’ illustrious journey from its inception in Lagos, in 2001, to its becoming a global powerhouse with footprints in 11 markets across three continents. He also stated that the IHS was the first Nigerian-rooted company to be publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), in 2021, showcasing the company’s role as a beacon of Nigerian achievement and a magnet for international investment.

At the closing plenary titled, “Partnering to Accelerate Africa’s Industrialisation,’’ IHS Nigeria reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to propelling sustainable industrial growth across the continent. Represented by Dapo Otunla, Chief Corporate Services Officer, IHS Nigeria, the company reiterated that it was dedicated to infrastructure investment, technology adoption, and collaborative partnerships as key drivers of Africa’s industrial revolution.

The plenary, moderated by Andrew Herscowitz, Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute North America, convened a diverse array of leaders from government, finance, and industry to explore viable pathways for Africa’s green industrialisation. Also present in this discussion was Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, former Vice President of Nigeria and Guardian of Timbuktoo African Innovation Foundation, who highlighted the importance of innovation and technology in driving industrial growth.

Overall, IHS Nigeria’s good ambassadorial role at the summit underscored its belief in Nigeria, affirming its proactive role in shaping the future of African industrialisation, and aligning with its vision of fostering inclusive, sustainable development through technological innovation and strategic partnerships.

Blessed Omonose, a Developmental Journalist writes from Lagos.

 


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ICANN80: Nigerians Using .NG Domain Name Surpass 225,000

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The total domain names of the .ng registry have increased to 225,533, according to data made available by the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA).

Mrs. Busayo Balogun, Head of Technical Services at NiRA, during her presentation at ICANN80

NiRA the registry for .ng Internet Domain Names and maintains the database of names registered in the .ng country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD).

A team led by Mr. Adesola Akinsanya, the President of NiRA is currently attending Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Policy Forum, ICANN80, in Kigali, Rwanda.

In her presentation at the Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) session, Mrs. Busayo Balogun, the Head of Corporate Services at NiRA said the Association had launched a dashboard for real time updates on .ng domain name registrations.

She said that the .ng domain name has continued to garner popularity in usage for websites and email addresses.

According to her, the dashboard shows the .ng domains have increased to 225,533 from 222,820 reported earlier in the year.

She told the audience that through its 3R – Registry, Registrar, Registrant – model of operation, NiRA contracts more than 100 registrars to provide registration services to the public.

“An end user selects a registrar to provide the registration service, and that registrar registers the domain chosen by the user. NiRA does not register user, directly. This model has really helped us to maintain decorum.

Earlier, Mr. Akinsanya reiterated NiRA’s commitment to driving .ng domain adoption and advancing Nigeria’s digital landscape.

“This growing trend underscores the domain’s significance and its role in establishing a strong digital identity for businesses and individuals alike.

“Additionally, we are currently conducting the .ng brand survey [https://form.jotform.com/niraworks/ng-brand-survey-2024] to gauge the awareness and adoption levels of the .ng domain among internet users in Nigeria.

“I encourage everyone to participate in this survey and share their valuable insights”, he said.

NiRA also received a rousing applause from participants at the ICANN80 as the ccNSO session lead, Joel Karubiu, former chief executive officer, Kenya Network Information Centre (KeNIC), said, “I see a lot of passion from the Nigerian team here”.


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