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Sad! Govt Playing Politics with ICT



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No modern economy can exist without fundamental information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure because these are the tool for national and economic development.

In recognition of this truism, some governments around the world are transforming themselves into e-governments to meet the challenges of modern day.

Example is India, where the government deliberately orchestrated chains of events that culminated in making that country one of the pillars of ICT in the world.

Also, through government’s support and political will, Sri Lanka is on the path to becoming regional knowledge hub.

Malaysia also sees ICT as a powerful enabler of development in many sectors and government of the country has begun to harvest and encourage home grown ICT initiatives.

These governments recognize that embracing ICT will result in improved transparency, speedy information dissemination, higher administrative efficiency and improved public service sectors including: transportation, education, health, water, peace and security.

Conventional wisdom supported by imperial economic studies dictates that market forces alone are incapable of accelerating the development of ICT and indeed the economy.

Government must be the unseen hand that weaves the magic wand.

Responsible government is like a catalyst that speed up reaction without seen to be taking part in the reaction.

The proof lies in the fact the gross domestic product (GDP) of Singapore with a population of just over 3 million is over $40,000.

This is made possible by the massive political will of the government of that country.

In Nigeria, the case is different with a GDP of $2000 and seemingly unconcerned leaders.

Nigeria is currently living precariously with over dependence on her depleting oil and gas resources.

The huge disconnect between Nigerian government and ICT is puzzling.

Either by sheer ignorance or refusal to do the right thing at the right time; successive governments in Nigeria have continued to chase shadows.

To show their disregard for the sector, it is on record that no past president of Nigeria has presided over a major ICT event in the country.

Apart from 2002 when Atiku Abubakar, then vice president declared open e-Nigeria, no other high ranking government official in Nigeria has made his or her presence felt in any major ICT event.

Unlike the neighbouring Ghana where even the President sometimes sit through and make meaningful interventions in ICT fora, Nigerian government officials are far removed from ICT events.

Sometimes it is simply because they do not know and are not bothered to learn.

Elsewhere in Uganda, the government of that country has purposely built its development around ICT and it will not be surprising if Nigeria will start importing software and other ICT products from that country soon.

What Uganda has done is not rocket science; they have simply underpinned the regeneration of its economy with strong political will.

Political will is not something Nigerian leaders would have to go extra mile to provide.

It is not also intangible; it takes an individual, generally situated somewhere within the state apparatus (best if the person is at a very high level) to stir ICT revolution.

ICT is the tool used by the leaders of India, Bangladesh, Singapore, Ghana, Uganda and Malaysia to transform their countries.

Nigeria with its wealth of human capital and natural resources has even better potentials but the attention of the ruling class is elsewhere.

They are inclined to putting square peg in a round hole. Appointments to certain sensitive offices suggest that the government is not serious about using ICT as a platform for development.

There are many compelling reasons why government must embrace ICT for development but importantly because it is the only sector that has shown signs of life despite the general meltdown of the economy.

Having tried every known economic trick to steady the economy without any success; ICT remains the only key to redirecting the economy.

The only way forward is for the ruling class to begin to listen actively and show strong commitment to ICT related issues.

Importantly, the President must assume the role of chief technology officer of the country or appoint one he must listen to.

Agreed that some countries have made some successes using ICT as springboards; Nigeria must not copy and paste their models.

She must grow and deliberately too an indigenous architecture if it must survive in this knowledge era.

In this indigenous architecture, Nigeria can incorporate a special purpose ICT vehicle complete with ICT parks as well as research and development parks.

Nigeria can also emulate India that gave blanket exemption from tax to ICT, its largest growing sector.

Also, there is need for ICT practitioners in the country to build a strong and united front to press home their demand for incentives that spur development.


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Smile Voice Service Will Give Nigerians Different Experience – Obiejesi



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Dr. Ernest Azudialu Obiejesi is the chairman, Smile Communications (Nigeria) Limited. He first founded Obijackson West Africa Limited in the early 1980’s before diversifying into the oil and gas industry with Nestoil in 1991. 
Dr. Azudialu-Obiejesi sits on the board of directors of several companies including Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, and is the Chairman of the Board of Neconde Energy and Smile Communications.‎
He recently addressed the media on the investment plans of Smile in Nigeria; peter ugwu was there for Nigeria CommunicationsWeek.

Smile Communications $365million Fund Raising
I am Dr. Ernest Azudiala Obiejesi, the chairman of Smile Communications in Nigeria and a major shareholder in the Smile Holdings limited; comprising, Smile South Africa, Smile Dubai, Smile Tanzania, Smile Uganda and Smile Democratic Republic of Congo (2016). In that capacity, we look at Smile as one of the best things that has happened in the telecommunications industry, both in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. Smile, actually, is a data telecoms company operating on 800Gigahertz Spectrum with 4G LTE licence.
Recently, we embarked on a major capital raise to make sure the company is financially stable to be able to carry out its business and network expansion plans around Africa.
The financial raise was not an easy one. It took us quite a lot of energy, because the management staff had to deal with banks in different parts of Africa. At the end we raised USD ($) 356million; which is a debt and equity.
The aim of this financing is mainly to finance to our growth; to accelerate our expansion drives, so that we will be able to a robust network smiling around Africa.
Due to the speed of the 4G LTE network it becomes very practicable that we should be able to have other networks spread across Nigeria very fast, such that we get the spectrum operating efficiently in Nigeria before other competitors catch up with us.
Secondly, we promised Nigerians a network that will enable the growth and expansion of businesses. That is already happening both in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. So, we are consolidating.

Smile’s Shareholders
As stated earlier, Smile is a pan-African telecommunications provider that owns and operates mobile wireless 4G LTE broadband networks in the 800GhZ band.
The shareholders are comprised of Al Nahla Group, a Saudi Arabia-based company, which is the majority shareholder; Renven Investment Holdings, a pan-African investment vehicle, in which Nigerian investors, including the Obijackson Group, are the majority and Verene, representing Smile senior management and social entrepreneurs from South Africa.
Also, Telecom investments, a South Arabian-based investment company is a shareholder in Smile; Capitalworks, an active alternative management company, spreading in investment in the African mid-market; the PIC, which is the biggest pension fund in the world; and Smile employees. So, we came together to compose the company called Smile. Nigeria is the largest telecoms market in Africa and that entails why Smile’s business in the country accounts for about 80% of the total operations. That is what makes Smile Nigeria very big and our participation in the country.
Smile in other African countries are getting it and will grow big too. The fund we secured is one of the biggest funds ever raised in the telecoms industry in Africa, especially with regards to a business that is somewhat a startup. Therefore, the management staff are happy with the feat we could achieve.

Smile Brazing Up For Voice Network
I have already mentioned we intend to expand the existing 4G LTE (mobile) broadband network in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa. With the fund, we intend to complete our expansions to other countries.
The more critical is Nigeria which is huge and for you to nurture such business to maturity you must spread out; cover all parts of the country.
The essence is for subscribers do witness continuity in the network coverage as they move from one part of the country to another.
Secondly, we are preparing for Smile’s clear voice network (CVN). We believe that before the end of this year we would have rollout out our CVN. Therefore, apart from data, we can use Smile’s spectrum voice-wise. Some of these are the reasons we had to go into the fund raising.

Where Smile Is Headed
This funds raised answer that question. This is young company and we don’t want to go public before pre-maturely.
Listing on Stock Exchange goes beyond having the certificate; you must have something to sell. At the moment we can’t take a product that is not known to the people to NSE which will be a hard sell.
With this kind of funds raised we believe that we have all the financial strength to expand the network and unleash clear voice network. So, we don’t think we will need the help of an IPO or listing on the floor of the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) in the nearest future, because, before we complete the deployment of the funds, I am sure that the returns on investment will create enough funds to enable us embark on any other future investments. #
I also want to mention that one of the reasons for having a business case here is to support the growth of the economy and improve on the lives of Nigerians through job creation. The telecoms business has been proven, across the globe, as catalyst to improving the gross domestic product (GDP) of any economy.
We believe that with the kind of speed this broadband has and the facilities, the tendencies are there to create jobs for a lot of Nigerians.
It is going to impact on every sector, particularly, the entertainment industry as local content is key in the internet business.
Nigeria being one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, we believe that this type of network will help Nigerians grow faster while consolidating the gains already made in the economy.
I think it is a very welcome development and requires a lot of support. However, we as the shareholders and as the Chairman in Nigeria, we are not resting on our oars until Nigerians smile as they should in the internet connectivity and voice network-wise. Smile within the next two years would have become a success story.
At the moment an IPO is not going to be successful; not a good business strategy and we look at it as something that will come secondary. It is not a matter of dinning with the devil with a long spoon, rather be sure you are not in the menu.
You may take the pain of going through the processes of NSE; even the compliance requirements of an IPO and at the end of the day you might not secure the fund.
Even though is it more expensive the way we are doing it now, due to the interest way, but is a sure way to create a marketable brand before considering going public.

The Participating Institutions on the Fund Raising
The Development Bank of South Africa was there. Diamond Bank of Nigeria and EcoBank Nigeria also participated. PIC, the leading pension fund in South Africa; the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa and the Standard Chartered Bank were part of it too.
So, it was a consortium of banks that made it possible to raise the fund. On the equity aspect is where we put in our money alongside the Saudi Arabian partners.

Percentage of the Funds Smile Will Invest In Nigeria
If you look at the analysis with regards to Smile as a pan-African company, but the majority of the business is in Nigeria. This is market where about 80% of Smile business comes from. So, it is also expected that about 80% of that money will be spent in Nigeria.
This is the economy the company hopes to invest and recoup its resources too. This is where we have the population, growth tendencies, the businesses, and the oil and shows you that Nigeria is very large and sustainable for businesses too.
Therefore, both in infrastructure deployment and the funds usage, it is expected that Nigeria will have a fair share. Other market will be sharing the remaining percentage.
This simple analysis was part of the reasons the pan-African banks doled out the funds. They know Nigeria has the capacity to give back what is invested.

Why Smile Is Venturing Into Voice Network
The answer is very clear. The network runs on a superior spectrum. The idea is to give Nigerians clear voice network service. We know what the experience is today with other networks at the moment. The whole idea is to encourage good quality network service.
That is why the funds are very key, because once you commence and cover the areas; the voice network is going to be very clear.
There are testimonies that Smile’s 4G LTE in Nigeria is better than that used in London. Is it the same technology, but the one here offers better quality. Such testimonies point to the saying that Nigeria is at the forefront of global development; we want to be there with every other country.
We can’t be behind again. We are working with the Ericsson in this area to make it happen. We will start deploying by October and hope to commence fully before the end of the year.

Primary Segment on Clear Voice Network
It is important we understand that Smile is not going there to starting “fighting” the likes of MTN, GLO, Etisalat or Airtel, rather our strategy will set us apart…

…But You have A Market Share?
Yes, we do have market share, but we do wholesale as well. We expect that some of the big players can leverage some of the underutilized spaces we have.
What we are trying to do is, within the broadband, we are trying to take some of our free network and use it for voice over. If Smile is there for data and you can make calls from any part of the world, then, it gives you a whole package.
We have already created a niche for our selves and work towards adding a voice service. Without that we might not be able to utilize all the space we have on the band. Therefore, it is not a question of going to wrestle power, cut out from the subscribers of MTN, Glo and others.

How Will Rural Dwellers Will Benefit
We have to understand that 4G LTE broadband is the next level of telecom experience. Anyway, in the villages, almost everybody has telephones, but what percentage of them use or require data services. To adapt to data services, you need smartphone, laptops, or other smart devices too.
The 4G LTE is an advanced technology and Nigeria is moving fast from the voice to data. It is only when greater percentage of the population works with data services that this business will boom.
Those villages are not where the problems are rather the number of people who play in the data segment. Surely, data service is where the world is headed to. So, our target is every person or business that needs data service.

Was $365million The Needed Fund to Embark on Smile’s New Expansions Phase?
The quickest way to answer that is, $365million is a function of the companies coming together to look at what we want to achieve over the years.
The banks then looked at it and agreed on the projections they believe we can achieve. It is just like saying we want to cover Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt and the banks say no.
What you can do now is to cover Kaduna, Kano, etc, within the next three years. Leave Lagos for now. Therefore, the fund is a function of the agreement between the two plans. In the funds are equity and debt; most importantly, this cash is available for the company to deploy more services. The shareholders had made major investments. Before we secured the present funds, the company has been existing.  



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Jonathan Ranks as 6th Richest President with $100m



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President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has been listed as the 6th richest African president by known wealth, according to Richest Lifestyle, a US-based website.

In an article titled, ‘Richest African Presidents 2014′, the US website compiled a list of the nine richest presidents and kings in Africa.

There are 47 nations in Africa, led by different leaders who have been ruling for several decades.

According to the article, President Jonathan is worth $100million. It is however unclear how the US based website got their figures.

But, another website amplified further when it said that some of these leaders and their families are very rich and their wealth are considered ill-gotten.

“They make their wealth from natural resources of these nations through the creation of companies under the names of their families. Here is a brief overview of the richest Presidents in Africa” the website added.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek cannot independently verify the claims.

Other African presidents and kings on the list include;Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola – Net Worth: $20 Billion; Mohammed VI of Morocco – Net Worth: $2.5 Billion; Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea – $600 Million; Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya – Net Worth: $500 Million; and  Paul Biya of Cameroon – Net Worth: $200 Million.

Others are: King Mswati III of Swaziland – Net Worth: $100 Millio, The monarch shares the number 6 spot with President Jonathan; Idriss Deby of Chad – Net Worth: $50 Million; and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe – Net Worth: $10 Million. amplified further when it said that some of these leaders and their families are very rich and their wealth are considered ill-gotten.

“They make their wealth from natural resources of these nations through the creation of companies under the names of their families. Here is a brief overview of the richest Presidents in Africa” the website added.

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Militants Plan Invasion of Abuja over Exclusion from Amnesty Programme



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Plans by some aggrieved youths in the Niger Delta region to invade Abuja over their exclusion from the Presidential Amnesty Programme for ex-militants have been uncovered, according to a statement by the Presidential Amnesty Office.

Daniel Alabrah, Amnesty Office’s head of Media and Communications, in the statement said that security agencies had been alerted to abort the plan while denying that extending invitation to any group of youths from the Niger Delta.

He said this was contrary to the claims of the aggrieved youths that they were invited to a meeting by the Amnesty Office in order to document their inclusion in the programme.

He said: “We have discovered that their plan is to storm the National Assembly to demand inclusion in the amnesty programme even after the window granted by Mr President had since closed,” the statement said.

“The Amnesty Office notes that the agitation for inclusion in the programme is a familiar pattern encouraged by some elements in the Niger Delta each time they want another phase of the programme.

“The Amnesty Office insists that no amount of protest or agitation will force an extension beyond the Third Phase, which is indeed the last of such inclusion in the programme.

“We insist that there will be no further inclusion beyond the 30,000 beneficiaries already captured in the programme and condemn any move that encourages unengaged youths in the region to demand inclusion through ill-advised agitations and protests.

“The Amnesty Office aligns itself with the outcome of the Third Phase verification exercise conducted by the Air Vice Marshall James Gbum-led committee set up by the Chief of Defence Staff.

 “The committee did a thorough job and we are satisfied with the outcome of the verification exercise, which resulted in the inclusion of an additional 3,642 youths in the programme, following a Presidential directive. Payment of the monthly stipends of these youths has since commenced having been properly verified by the committee.”

The Amnesty Office however urged security agencies to be at alert the threat posed by the said group.

“The Amnesty Office urges security agencies to continue to be alive to their responsibilities and take appropriate actions to stop any individual or group that foments trouble in Abuja or in the Niger Delta under the guise of demanding inclusion in the amnesty programme.

“We also urge Sates in the Niger Delta to engage youths in the region through educational, skill acquisition and empowerment schemes as the amnesty programme for the former agitators are not an alternative government in the region.”

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