To unleash Nigeria’s potential for industrialisation and sustainable economic growth, while ensuring competitiveness in a global digital economy, the Federal Government says it will take measures to digitise the economy and make digitalisation a key driver of national economic development strategies.
In a document released towards this end, the government said it will ensure that, by 2025 critical digitisation challenges are addressed so that the sector can achieve its job creation and economic productivity potential.
Consequently, the Federal Government, in its National Development Plan (NDP) 2021 to 2025, Volume 1, has projected about N150 billion investments.
The N150 billion, which according to the Federal Government, is public investment, will be spread across priority projects in the sector as well as projects essential to the operations of the relevant ministries.
In addition, the government said the ICT sector is projected to facilitate the formation of up to $1 billion in private equity and private capital investments in digital infrastructure of approximately $40 billion.
The document noted that despite recent improvements in Nigeria’s ICT sector, several challenges, including low funding and weak digital infrastructure, especially in noncommercial hubs, have limited the value-creation potential of businesses.
These constraints include digital and financial exclusion of key segments of the population; intermittent access to power, which threatens the development of the ICT sectors, particularly to the telecoms and IT services and last-mile connectivity; lack of local funding for promising start-ups (over-reliance on foreign funders who may not necessarily fund start-ups based on local needs); and low capacity of digital infrastructure and institutions, especially in non-commercial hubs.
Others are low skills development due to skills mismatch between academia and industry, leading to a shortage of workers with digital skills; new risks associated with data privacy and cybersecurity challenges.
The Federal Government said these constraints must be addressed to reduce the risk of low regional and global competitiveness, low economic productivity, business exits, and brain drain.
“Thus, to create high-growth businesses, including unicorns, and maximize job creation opportunities, the digital economy building blocks are of strategic importance and priority,” the document stated.
While challenges exist, FG said Nigeria has a significant young, tech-savvy, resilient, and entrepreneurial population, which creates opportunities for the ICT sector.
The FG, which puts Nigeria’s population at approximately 200 million, said a privately held start-up with a valuation exceeding $1 billion, noted that the population makes Nigeria an attractive destination of choice for ICT services and products, and the installation of under-sea cables has boosted bandwidth capacity in the last decade and provided a framework for digitisation across the country.
According to the document, these trends have led to an influx of world-leading multinationals establishing operations in Nigeria as well as international equity investments into start-ups operating in these sectors.
FG, GSM Operators Meet Over 40% Tariff Hike
Telecommunication companies under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) say they expect to begin conversations over the state of the telecoms industry with the Federal Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) soon.
Disclosing this to The Tide’s source on Monday, Chairman, ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, said, “we do not give a timeline to our regulator. We would only give information as to what is the current state of affairs in the industry.
“And, we know the regulator would either conduct a study or review the data that we provided. So, we can’t give a timeline to our regulator. We expect that some conversations will now commence around it”, he said.
This is coming in response to a recent letter by the association to the NCC on the state of the telecoms industry.
In the letter, telcos proposed a 40 per cent increase in the cost of calls, SMS, and data as a result of the rising cost of running a business in the nation.
Reacting to the outrage that followed the intended hike in the cost of telecom services, the NCC said telcos could not increase costs without due regulatory approval from it.
According to the regulator, any cost determination is usually the outcome of transparent studies which are fair to enhance healthy competition among operators, provide wider choices for the subscribers, and ensure the sustainability of the telecoms industry.
“However, while there could be justifiable reasons for MNOs’ demand for tariff increase, it should be noted that they are not allowed to do such either individually or collectively without recourse to NCC, following the outcome of a cost study. This is not the case for now”, the NCC stated.
Also, while speaking on Sunrise Daily on Monday, Adebayo acknowledged that the current pricing regime in the telecom industry could not sustain the industry.
“We are confronted with different economic realities. And the fact remains that if you look at the economic indices, the current pricing regime is not sustainable.
“And what we have done is to approach our regulator, to present a case to them to show them where we are as an industry. We made some recommendations as to some of the things that can be done to forestall the price review.
“But certainly, considering the global energy price considering the challenges we face in our operating environment, if we are not getting any regulatory intervention, it would be a bit difficult to sustain the industry with the current pricing regime that we have”, he said.
According to him, the telecom sector is a highly regulated industry, and any tariff hike must have the approval of the regulator.
“We must warn that there is no industry that is immune against failure. For us to avoid any catastrophic situation in our sector we are saying let’s look at the reality of our pricing, let’s look at the challenges we face. Let the government do something in order to mitigate against having this kind of explosion”, Adebayo warned.
Network Provider Tasks MTN, SMEs On Data Usage
Chief Executive Officer, Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) Nigeria, Mr. Olutojun Toriola, has urged Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to use the data presented to them through telecommunication companies and financial systems to access capital.
Toriola gave the advice at the Sparkle’s webinar for SMEs with the theme: ’’Simplifying Support for Small Businesses’’, in Abuja recently.
He said that data was abundant in both the telecommunications and financial system.
“The person to make magic out of this is the person that can turn data into wisdom because the data is out there and not many people have successfully been able to transform and beneficially structure this data”, he said.
According to him, if data was converted into wisdom, a magic formula can be created that can transform the SME world and fix the problem about access to capital.
‘’Africa is no different, according to the World Bank, they provide for more than half of all jobs and account for more than a third of the combined GDP of emerging market economies.Getting access to credit, however, is an uphill task for most of these SMEs,’’ he said.
The MTN officer noted that it has been established that lack of access to finance was the most significant constraint on the growth of small enterprises.
He said that in developing economies, the estimated annual credit gap could be as much as $5.2 trillion dollars, noting that his company is committed to enabling the growth of small businesses by offering solutions to improve organisational effectiveness and productivity.
Toriola also said MTN Nigeria provided access to knowledge and information through easily affordable, sometimes free tools and learning programmes through SMS automated port training programmes.
“In addition, we also try to provide access to infrastructure with specifically designed packages for SMEs, such as cost-effective voice and data solutions as well as collaborations with global ICT partners”, he said.
The Tide’s Source reveals that those at the webinar include CEO, Flour Mills of Nigeria Group, Boye Olusanya; and CEO, Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe.
‘Hunger, Poverty, Bane Of Innovation Dev
Hunger and poverty have been identified as part of the top-most challenges in creativity and innovation training and development.
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Olotu Square Hub, Mr Bruce Lucas, said this when the Covener, Startup South Initiatives, Mr Uche Anichi, and others visited the Hub in Port Harcourt recently.
Lucas, a software expert, said the trainees are willing to learn, but due to lack of funds they end halfway.
He explained that money for their welfare, such as food and transportation, was enough to sustain them in the training, if such provisions could be made.
According to him, they also build what he described as Success Story using technology.
Another software producer, Mr Precious Chukwundah, listed poor power supply as part of the challenges facing their job.
Chukwundah, who is the Founder of ChigiSoft, reasoned that if power supply could be improved, the industry will thrive for better.
He hinted that the business is better in Kenya due to their high level of internet appreciation.
In his views, the Program Manager, Renaissance Innovation Labs, Mr Olusegen Ekundayo, said they were working seriously in order to reduce the issue of talent scarcity.
Ekundayo said since talent is key in the industry, the best option is to think more on grooming rather than hunting.
The occasion was a Leaders’ serminar for all hub operators which was anchored by Aniche and the Executive Director of Afri Labs, Anna Ekeledo.
Over five Labs, including Ken Saro-Wiwa Hub, were visited by the team and its foreign partner during their tour.
By: King Onunwor
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