Despite the economic challenges facing the country, Nigerian telecoms investments has crossed the $68 billion mark at July this year.
This figure was disclosed at the ITU Telecom World 2016 held last week in Bangkok, Thailand, when Dr. Hamadoun Toure, the immediate past Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), delivered a keynote speech at the Nigerian Telecoms Investment Forum
Toure says that out of this figure, $35b was generated from Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and the figures recorded so far in Nigeria point to the fact that “the country is certainly a preferred destination for telecommunications investors in Africa.”
According to the former ITU chief, 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 tele-density of 107%.
“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,” Toure told the audience at the event.
He was particularly excited that while he served as Secretary General of ITU, Nigeria occupied the number one position as the fastest growing telecoms sector for five consecutive years.
He also applauded the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) saying it has done a very good job with the way it has managed regulatory activities transparently.
He told current and potential investors that Nigeria is the place to invest because the population is large, there is political stability and a very robust telecommunications regulatory regime.
The former ITU Sec Gen 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.”
He said the fact that law makers from Nigeria were also part of the audience he spoke to at the venue underscored the importance Nigeria attaches to this sector.
Nigerian delegates present at the event included Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Communications Minister; Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State; Prof. Umar G. Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC); members of the Diplomatic Corps, Chief Executives of agencies under the Ministry of Communications and major telecommunications companies from Nigeria, Thailand, Senators and Members of the National Assembly among others.
Speaking on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, Shittu assured existing and potential investors in Nigeria of Government support and protection at all times.
Shittu said since Nigeria was now navigating from resource based to knowledge based economy and “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.”
Also, Governor El-Rufai, who served as panelist at the forum alongside Professor Umar Danbatta, EVC of NCC; Ms. Funke Opeke, CEO of MainOne and Mr. Ibrahim Dikko of Etisalat said that technology as an enabler has helped Kaduna State to reduce land fraud and tax payments are now done online thus reducing incidents of leakages.
Governor El-Rufai, who is a former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, 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 to boost the smart Kaduna Initiative.
On his part, the NCC boss told the audience at the ITU Telecom World 2016 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.
According to Danbatta, though Nigeria has hit 21 percent so far, investments will be needed for 3G, 4G and to take services to under-served and un-served regions of Nigeria.
“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 to address this,” Danbatta said.
He further said Nigeria has a very flexible regulatory environment and “we are fare, firm and forthright in our activities.”
While also contributing at the panel discussion, Ms. Funke Opeke, CEO of MainOne Cable Company, 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 1,000 km of fibre optic in Lagos and this is part of the building block to encourage broadband penetration,” she said.
Mr. Ibrahim Dikko of Etisalat, whose company has over 20 million subscriber base 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”.
Also, Mr. Anand Menon, Vice President of New Consumers at MasterCard, in his contribution, praised Nigeria’s ICT sector for creating an enabling environment for business to grow.