A little over a week ago, I was pleased to represent A4AI as moderator of a keynote panel at NigeriaCom. After listening to the discussion between participants on our panel and others, and chatting to many attendees, I was reassured by how rapid Nigeria’s current progress appears to be.
Broadband penetration rates are rising fast, and whilst short- and medium-term goals are focused on enhancing access — in line with Nigeria’s ambitious broadband plan — cutting-edge topics, such as opportunities presented by the Internet of Things, are very much on the radar too. A4AI is proud to be working with the Nigerian government and other in-country stakeholders to accelerate the pace of change through regulatory reform, focusing on areas such as Infrastructure Sharing and Open Access, Spectrum Policy and Regulation, and Consumer Advocacy and Protection. Much hard work lies ahead if Africa’s largest economy is to meet the ambitious targets it has set for itself, but today, a clear path to affordable Internet for all Nigerians is visible.
Current broadband penetration rates in Nigeria are around 10% — lower than the African average of 19%. However Nigeria’s comprehensive Broadband Plan spells out in some detail how the nation will increase its broadband penetration five-fold from 6% in 2013 to 30% by 2018. (For those who’d like more detail, A4AI recently prepared a case study looking at Nigeria’s plans). In contrast to some other countries, this plan was developed in collaboration with the private sector, civil society and other powerful stakeholders. At NigeriaCom, the buy-in from these players was palpable.
As well as belief in the Broadband Plan, another critical ingredient I observed at NigeriaCom was the real sense of urgency. Everyone I spoke to agreed: unless Nigeria meets the penetration targets laid out in the plan, providing basic broadband to millions more Nigerians, many of the brilliant ideas and initiatives being implemented by those who attended NigeriaCom will come to nothing. What might an Internet of Things look like in Nigeria without the critical mass of broadband users and devices? How big can the content industry and OTT providers grow without a mass market? How much data will be sent to the cloud if “ordinary” Nigerians don’t have access? (Although, note, I have never met an ordinary Nigerian!)
Of course, it’s easy to gaze into the crystal ball, but hard to make exact predictions. Mr. Ntin Anand, Director of Mobile Data, Digital & Innovation at Airtel Nigeria, made an excellent presentation about Digital Africa on the first day of NigeriaCom. Full of predictions about the Nigerian and wider African markets, Mr. Anand’s presentation was underpinned by one humorous but important statement: “Predictions are easy to make because who really knows what will have happened in 4 years and who knows where I’ll be.”
What is clear, though, is that a potent cocktail of ingredients for success are present in Nigeria. The government knows where it wants to go, it has the full support of business and civil society, and powerful allies to help it along the way. We’re delighted to be playing a part in this journey, and excited to see more progress in the years to come.
Many thanks to our panel participants Engr Festus Daudu, Director, Federal Ministry of Communications; Mr Okechukwu Aninweke, Zonal Controller, National Communications Commission; Mr Osundo Nwokoro, Director of Regulatory Affairs and Special Projects, Airtel Nigeria; Mr Kamar Abass, Country Manager, Ericsson Nigeria. Their willingness to discuss the key issues so candidly and add colour to the discussion with real life examples was enlightening to all attendees.
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