The Nigerian economy just limped out of recession with 0.55 percent growth rate in the second quarter of 2017, which is about 2.04 percent higher than what was recorded in the same quarter last year. When I learned about those figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), I instantly became keen to know the contribution of the telecom industry.
Frankly, my keenness about what the telecom industry had contributed to Nigeria’s journey out of recession heightened when I read that NBS accredited the growth to four key primary sectors, comprised of oil, agriculture, manufacturing, and trade.
I still had some fact to console myself, even if the telecom ecosystem where I reckon with isn’t among the top four major industries that have aided Nigeria limp out of recession. At least, it contributed N1.54 trillion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a figure that clearly represents 6.68 per cent increase from the first quarter’s contribution of N1.45 trillion the same year.
Although, Nigerians are yet to start feeling the impact of coming out of recession, an impact that must take a while, then, the sustainability of this present economic situation must be taken seriously. If not, Nigeria’s economy would be forced to crumble once again, and we need sector like ours with enormous potentials to expediently take the bull by the horn.
Alas! The telecom industry is one of the most challenging emerging industries in Nigeria, challenges that range from multiple taxes, heavy levies on ICT infrastructure, delay approval of base stations, scarcity of forex, to the destruction of fibre lines, but an introspective analysis of the telecom industry should put smiles on anybody’s face.
The sector has been evolving for about 17 years recording uninterrupted growths, as well as disruptions due to the ever changing dynamic innovations. Some of these innovations which are super fantastic offer Nigerians the flexibility and convenience of doing things. Even a kid enjoys the evolution of the industry today in Nigeria; a feat which I doubt was even a dream 17 years ago.
Looking back to the earlier days, putting a call through on a mobile phone was a daunting task, as one may need to move to a particular location before a call could go through.
Today, the case is different. You could sit comfortably in your house and make a video call. The industry is full of potentials which are still undergoing the process of exploration. A lot of disruptions are taking place, which positions the telecom industry at the pinnacle if you are to juxtapose other sectors in Nigeria.
Historically, the telecom industry started from its infancy in 2001 with a paltry investment of $500million; this was the period when MTN Nigeria came into the Nigerian market, and the entry of the South Africa firm subsequently paved the way for other investors.
Nigerians saw the industry’s investments growing gradually, as at then (2001) we had 400,000 connected lines. However, the country now boasts of 155m connected lines, recording a teledensity of 111 percent.
Currently, we speak of an industry worth about $68 billion with $35b coming from Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) contributing 9.80% to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The growth is not just about the current worth, the FDI or the GDP, the sector could boast of many operators that are constantly in competition to keep Nigerians loyal to their service, hence at the advantages of Nigerians.
Nevertheless, the ecosystem has grown as a result of concerted efforts from different stakeholders such as the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the Ministry of Communications, Nigeria Institute of Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Nigeria Communications Commission and others.
Each of these agencies and stakeholders has contributed significantly in one way or the other to the glittering feat of the industry which has attracted international applauds over the years.
In different occasions, there have been several collaborations and synergy amongst the stakeholders, with the primary objective of driving the industry forward. Most of these ties, no doubt, have yielded the necessary results, while Nigerians await the rest to fall in place positively.
For instance, about five years ago, the NCC, under the leadership of Eugene Juwah organized a National Stakeholders Consultative forum and invited key stakeholders in the industry to discuss critical issues expected to drive growth in the sector.
That forum aimed to ensure that critical inputs from key stakeholders were considered in the development of a five-year strategic management plan for the commission. Most of the inputs now form the policies in the industry today.
Moreover, another significant area that constitutes part of the sector’s success is the regulation of good service delivery. And this is one of major aspect where the NCC has devoted its focus. The Commission had devised various measures to improve the quality of service, consumer satisfaction, making telecom subscribers get value for their money.
This success, although, is as a result of the strategic collaboration with other key players, who are relentlessly making efforts to catapult the industry to a higher level.
At this juncture, I would like to commend all the efforts of various industry stakeholders who have pioneered this industry for the past 17 years. We are not there yet, but moving expediently forward is imperative for Nigeria. Let’s keep fighting to keep Nigeria sustainably out of recession.
There is urgent need to start attending to matters that borders in the sector. Some of these challenges are not insurmountable, for instance, some policies that would create enabling an environment for investors need to be revisited.
Issues of taxation, fibre approval shouldn’t be a problem that occurs yearly, it has to be fixed. All these issues have an effect on broadband penetration, and at the same time, broadband penetration has relative to any economy.