With investments in the fast-growing Nigerian telecommunications sector standing at $68b as at July, 2016, the highest by volume in Africa, Nigeria by the rating of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) must be doing many things right. The catalysts for such phenomenal growth are hinged on regulatory excellence and strict adherence to global best practices.
In recent years, Nigeria has remained on the cutting edge of world telecoms as one of the markets with the highest returns on investments. The fact that out of this figure, $35b comes from Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) fittingly illustrates the global confidence on the market.
Hamadoun Toure, who as keynote speaker at the Nigerian Telecoms Investment Forum at the ITU Telecom World 2016, Bangkok, Thailand said these figures recorded so far in Nigeria point to the fact that “the country is certainly a preferred destination for telecommunications investors in Africa”.
The 2016 Investment Forum was by far the most successful and the most subscribed of all such forums organised by Nigeria at the ITU World in recent memory. The choice of Toure as keynote speaker was also most auspicious. He is a highly respected voice in the global telecom ecosystem and he was also at the helm of the United Nations telecom arm when Nigeria was ranked as the fastest growing mobile market in the world for five consecutive years.
Toure told the global audience including Communications Minister, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar G. Danbatta, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Chief Executives of agencies under the Ministry of Communications and major telecommunications companies from Nigeria, Thailand, Iran, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Senators and Members of the National Assembly among others that Nigeria is the place to invest because of the large population, political stability and a very robust telecommunications regulatory regime.
According to him, within 15 years when Nigeria opened its telecoms sector to the global community, investments have grown in leaps and from a paltry 400,000 connected lines in 2001, the country now has over 150 million connected lines and a teledensity of 107 percent.
“The next growth for voice communication is in Quality of Service. The new oil in Nigeria is ICT and data transmission is the way to go”, an excited Toure told the audience.
Toure told current and potential investors that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has done a very good job with the way it has managed regulatory activities transparently. He said the fact that lawmakers from Nigeria were also part of the audience, underscored the importance Nigeria attaches to this sector.
He said he is more Nigerian than his native Mali because Nigeria has always led the way, adding “Nigeria should share its experience with other African countries”.
Earlier, the incumbent Scribe of the ITU, Mr. Houlin Zhao, applauded the Nigerian telecom regulator for its steadfastness and commitment to the philosophy of the ITU by being an active participant in major activities of the global telecoms Union. Zhao charged Nigeria to brace up for more investments because some Asian nations and investors are looking to Africa as the next frontier for investment. Japan, he said, is looking to working with African nations and Nigeria must lead the rest.
“Africa is no longer looking for aids but looking for partnerships and ITU is also looking for more opportunities in Africa. At ITU, we will make sure that we link European investors also to Nigeria”, he said, adding that he always looked forward to joining the rest of the world at Nigeria Pavilion every year because of the commitment of the country to telecoms development.
While assuring existing and potential investors in Nigeria of Government support and protection at all times, Shittu, who spoke on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari said since Nigeria was now navigating from resource-based to knowledge-based economy, “we want to encourage you (the investors) to renew your confidence in our country”.
“Feel free to come to Nigeria and if visa is an issue let us know. Our doors are open and the ease of doing business in Nigeria is being improved upon”
Governor El-Rufai, who served as panelist at the forum alongside Prof. Danbatta, EVC of NCC, Ms. Funke Opeke of MainOne Cable and Mr. Ibrahim Dikko of Etisalat said technology as an enabler has helped Kaduna State to reduce land fraud, stressing that tax payments are now done online thus reducing incidents of leakages.
El-Rufai, a former Minister of Federal Capital Territory and former Director-General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) told the audience that Kaduna will soon launch Smart Kaduna Initiative and has contacted a major Smart phone manufacturer to introduce pocket-friendly smart phones to Kaduna inhabitants to boost the smart Kaduna Initiative.
NCC boss, Danbatta told the audience that the regulator has begun digital transformation through the National Broadband Plan (NBP 2013 – 2018).
The NCC boss explained that since broadband is the catalyst for social and economic transformation, “we have come to let the global community know that investments are welcome in this area”.
He said, the target is 30 percent by 2018 according to the NBP 2013 – 2018.
Although Nigeria has hit 21 percent so far in broadband penetration, investments will be needed for 3G, 4G and to take services to underserved and unserved regions of the country, “and we need to deploy infrastructure to those areas that have no services, we understand that and the strategy to address them hence we came out with the 8-point agenda”.
Danbatta told the audience that Nigeria has a very flexible regulatory environment and “we are fair, firm and forthright in our activities”.
CEO of MainOne Cable Company, Ms. Funke Opeke said MainOne Cable has keyed into the National Broadband Plan and hence investments in the Infrastructure Company (Infraco) licence for Lagos to take broadband services to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), corporate organisations through metropolitan fibre optic links.
“We are building over 1,000km of fibre optic in Lagos and this is part of the building blocks to encourage broadband penetration”.
Dikko whose company, Etisalat, has over 20million subscribers said that Etisalat is encouraged to invest in Nigeria because “laws are very clear, policy is good because the NCC hears us out all the time”.
Vice President, New Consumers at MasterCard, Mr. Anand Menon praised Nigeria’s ICT sector for creating an enabling environment for businesses to grow and for its resilience over the years..
“We at MasterCard believe in Nigeria” Menon added.
Mr. Sulman Hassan, Director International Marketing at Pakistan Software Export Board in the Ministry of Information Technology said his Board is fully aware of the Nigerian ICT market and its potential.
“We have a culture of quality delivery of service and we are involved in a couple of data projects in Nigeria; so the market is not strange to us”, he said.
Over all, the take-away from the nation’s participation at ITU Telecom World 2016 in Bangkok is that Nigerian telecoms market can no longer be ignored. Its sheer size, resilience and impressive return on investment coupled with a friendly regulatory environment make it the preferred destination for investors.