This blog post was written by Kojo Boakye, A4AI’s Policy Manager.
It is exactly 10 days since the climax of the Nigerian election and, depending on your news source or with whom you speak, Nigerians have either given a resounding call for change or they have reverted back to a mid-1980’s status quo. I congratulate President-Elect Major General Muhammadu Buhari on a well-run campaign, and the Nigerian people on their willingness to vote, despite the much-publicised threat of violence, actually occurrences of violence, and technical problems. I also congratulate President Goodluck Jonathan on the way in which he graciously conceded defeat and has begun to hand over power; odds on the outgoing president winning the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Prize might be long, but he is in the running.
Change is afoot, yet I’m keen to see Nigeria maintain a particular aspect of the current status quo — the good progress the country has made in its efforts to connect its citizens to broadband. Nigeria has a well-defined 2013-2018 Broadband Plan that recognises many of the country’s key barriers to increased broadband affordability and access, and establishes the goal that Nigeria increase its broadband penetration fivefold, to 30%, by the end of 2017. The plan places great emphasis on affordability and how industry cost structures might be changed positively. Like every good plan or strategy it provides a clear budget and timetable for implementation. It is this plan — and efforts by stakeholders from the government, private sector, Nigerian civil society, and the international community to execute it — that has led to some noticeable improvements.
Internet usage in Nigeria has risen from 32% in 2012 to over 40% today, and, in that same time period, broadband penetration has risen from 6% to just over 10%. The cost of an entry-level, prepaid mobile broadband connection has decreased from 13% of GNI per capita in 2012 to 5.6% in 2013 — a decrease that is particularly significant for the millions of Nigerians that have to make difficult decisions daily about where to spend their limited incomes.
A4AI’s own Affordability Index reflected this positive change — Nigeria went from a 19th place ranking in 2013 up to 11th place in 2014. There was a change in the methodology for the Index, but the more robust 2014 ranking confirms two things: (1) Nigeria is heading in the right direction in terms of its broadband-focused policy and regulation; and (2) the Federal Government Minister that takes over from the widely respected Honourable Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, would do well to leverage the plan already in place. All too often, a change of government in Africa has led to the slashing and burning of existing policies and plans, whether they be good or bad. I very much hope this is not a fate that awaits Nigeria’s current broadband plan. There will be opportunities for the new Federal Government of Nigeria to put its mark on the plan and create ownership. These opportunities should be seized because ownership, after all, is an ingredient key to the success of any plan, but there is no need to reinvent a plan that many stakeholders already feel ownership of and believe in.
In addition to a call to maintain the status quo with respect to Nigeria’s broadband plan, I’m compelled to call for the continued work of the Broadband Council. Of course, these two go hand-in-hand. Inaugurated on July 16, 2013, and chaired by the Honourable Minister Mrs Omobola Johnson, the Broadband Council provides progress reports on the implementation of the broadband plan and facilitates coordination and collaboration among the various stakeholders involved, in order to help ensure that the objectives of the plan are being met.
I was honoured and pleased to attend a recent meeting of the Broadband Council in early February, where it became clear just how important the Council’s role is. In addition to providing the ongoing monitoring and evaluation that is essential for successful project and programme outcomes, the Council’s ability to advise on implementation, while ensuring it does not usurp those who do the implementation, is vital. The A4AI-Nigerian Multi-Stakeholder Coalition continues to the work in Nigeria, and remains at hand to continue supporting both the Ministry of Communication Technology and the Broadband Council. By the time the next meeting of the Nigeria National Coalition comes around in June 2015, much of this uncertainty will have been cleared. My hope, and that of A4AI’s local coalition members, is that Nigeria maintains the Broadband Council and continues the implementation of the country’s broadband plan. If it does, I’m confident that other countries will look to Nigeria not only as a model of democracy, but also as a model of broadband planning and implementation.
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