The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org
When High Television (HiTV) was launched in 2007 to compete with MultiChoice (otherwise known as DSTV) in the multichannel digital television market, I was very excited. Unfortunately, as with many of such Nigerian stories, it had to develop what President Olusegun Obasanjo would most probably describe as K-leg! Today, HITV is no more, leaving us with the South African monopoly called DSTV which offers very expensive and lousy services, especially during raining season--essentially because they know that most of us (given our craze for the English premiership and Spanish La Liga) have no other choice.
It is precisely because of the unfortunate story of HITV that one can easily situate the achievement of another Nigerian-owned company that has successfully competed with the South African economic invasion of our market. While we may have all forgotten now, Globacom, owned by Dr Mike Adenuga Jr., was launched exactly ten years ago today (29 August, 2003). That was more than two years after MTN (a South African company) and Econet, (promoted by a Zimbabwean) had established themselves as the only two Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) networks--since the third licensee of the Digital Mobile Licence (DML), the government-owned MTEL, was dead on arrival. At that period when it was still a status symbol to own a mobile telephone, Nigerians were told that per second billing for airtime was impossible and for two years we endured the exploitative claim.
That was the first lie that Globacom successfully put an end to upon entering the market by launching the per second billing platform, making it possible for GSM users to pay for only the actual time spent on the phone. With that, MTN and Econet (the network has changed names so many times I don’t even know what it is called now!) had to follow. And being a fully-owned Nigerian company, Globacom immediately took upon itself the role of a catalyst in the bid to ensure reliable and affordable telecom services for our people. From crashing the cost of acquiring a GSM line from such prohibitive cost as N40,000 to as low as N200 or helping to bring down the cost of airtime from N50 a minute to 5 kobo per second, there is no way anybody can write the story of the massive telephone penetration in our country today without taking into account the intervention by Globacom.
For me, it is noteworthy that when Adenuga eventually secured a telecom licence with Globacom in August 2003, I wrote a column on this page titled “Unto Whom Much is Given…”, where I reminded him that while he may have won the battle for a licence, he had to prove to Nigerians and the world that he could run an efficient telecoms company. I reiterated what informed my strident campaign at that time on the need to empower our people, given all the efforts made to crowd Adenuga out by the Obasanjo administration, apparently as a punishment for his “poor choice” of friends. But I also admonished that Adenuga should realize that he was holding aloft a national flag and that he could not afford to fail. Ten years down the line, I feel proud to say that all factors considered, with what Globacom has been able to accomplish in the first decade of operations, Adenuga has succeeded beyond my expectations. The story is all the more remarkable against the background that the Federal Government failed with MTEL that was handed a free licence (0804) which it could not operate.
Indeed, that more than 50 percent of our population in both urban and rural areas today have access to telephones can easily be attributed to the fact that we had an indigenous operator like Adenuga coming in at a time it was almost believed that the sector was beyond the capacity of any Nigerian. Yet such was the level of Globacom’s impact that by the end of its first year of operation in 2004, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recognized the role the network played in what was then globally celebrated as a revolution in the Nigerian telecommunication industry.
Of course, there are people who remain cynical of Nigerian business operators but not only has Globacom proved to be a successful story of entrepreneurship, the fact that Adenuga surmounted serious odds before he could secure a GSM licence, following the CIL misadventure, makes the story even more compelling. That he has successfully competed in the industry and has in fact extended operations to neighbouring West African countries like Republic of Benin, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Gambia, should make us proud as Nigerians, especially considering our investment in ECOWAS.
It is also noteworthy that given the disproportionately high population of youths in our country, Globacom has since inception kept that unique demographics in focus in the development of its special products, sponsorships and promotions. From “Glo with Pride” to “Rule your World” and “Unlimited”, the company’s payoff lines have been a clarion call to Nigerian youths that they can be whatever they choose to be and in the process take charge of their destiny and their world. It is then no surprise that the essence of all Globacom interventions has always been to project the values of hard work and the power of dreams. And by empowering the vast majority of our young adults with a modern communication infrastructure to reach their fullest potentials, Adenuga has proven to be a firm believer in the Nigerian project. We need more daring people like that who would invest their wealth and creativity on our shores.
The critical challenge of our country today is that we have too many idle billionaires with neither credible sources of livelihood nor any feasible investments within our country. Many of them just stash their money (mostly earned from rent seeking in our oil industry) abroad while employing only domestic staff who minister to them and their families without adding any value to our society. The situation is not helped by the fact that our public officials, at practically all levels, encourage this indolent class while they seek the elusive foreign investors to come and develop our economy for us. However, what they fail to understand is that given the volatility of foreign direct investment flows, particularly in today’s economic climate, what we really need are local investors who will impact the economy by helping to engender productivity with their energy, enthusiasm and courage.
For taking bold steps in creating wealth and generating employment for Nigerians, men like Adenuga, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and a few others have become the real engine of growth for our beleaguered economy. In the particular case of Globacom, it should be acknowledged that the competitive pressure exerted by its entry into the telecoms market as a fully-owned Nigerian company in 2003 changed both the narrative and the dynamics of the entire industry and contributed to a great extent in putting an end to the destructive effects of what was then becoming a Southern Africa cartel. For that reason alone, I always feel proud anytime I travel outside the country and switch on my Glo line and it works, as it always does. This is possible because the network’s international Wholesale Voice and Data Exchange and Trading Business Unit, Glo Gateway, is a leading provider of telephone hub services for the rest of the world. It has voice interconnectivity arrangement with over 70 Tier 1 and Tier 2 carriers and roaming partnerships with over 370 mobile operators worldwide.
Because it is a Nigerian company owned by a Nigerian, Globacom also invests heavily in social intervention in our country and within the continent. It is for instance the biggest promoter of Nollywood which has helped to project our country as well as sports in Africa with the sponsorship of the Premier Leagues in both Nigeria and Ghana. Globacom is also the sponsor of the annual Confederation of African Football (CAF) Awards, which it has elevated to a major event in the global football chart. And just early this year, Globacom established the Glo Soccer Academy to help youths within the West African sub-region to develop their football skills.
As Globacom therefore clocks 10 today, I cannot but doff my hat for Adenuga, a visionary Nigerian businessman who is deploying his resources and talents for the advancement of our society.
What I find most interesting about our people, I mean Nigerians, is our capacity to laugh at ourselves and make humour out of every challenge we face. That is also what gives me the confidence that no matter the odds stacked against us, Nigeria is one country nobody can write off. I am sure almost all of us are aware of the way Nigerians tear one another to shreds on the internet. That was the subject of a joke last week by a creative Nigerian who contrasted an imaginary Facebook post and the following thread between an American and Nigerian. Although I have taken the liberty to slightly edit the “postings”, the message remains intact.
The American: Hello, my name is Sandra Stone, I am from Florida, I love my husband so much and I can do anything to please him… But I have recently been falling in love with his cousin, what should I do?
• James Stone (Alabama): I think you need to talk to your husband because marriage is all about communication.
• Sarah Mountain (Boston): Oh my dear, sorry about that.. I have been in your shoes before, I had to wake up and face the fact that I am married.
• Michael Paper (New York): Well, just remove your mind from him and make your husband do the things you like in his cousin..
The Nigerian: My name is Mulika, I stay in Abuja, married with a kid. I have a good husband but I think I am gradually falling in love with his cousin. I am confused…
• Emmanuel Onaodowan (Sapele): This Waka Waka woman don kolo big time! Just confess that you need deliverance and I will take you to my Pastor who will cast the demon from you. Meanwhile, my number be 020999999 in case you tire for your cousin too!
• Mayowa Ibikunle (Akure): Oloriburuku, omo alashewo… I pity the man who is keeping a public dog like you as wife. O ma she o!
• Idris Audu (Kano): Allah ya tsine miki anya ke musilma che kuwa? Stupid idiot!!
• Amaka Acholonu (Enugu): Tufia kwa! You are a big disgrace to womanhood!
ENDNOTE: I am sure many of us will laugh but what the foregoing says about us is that most Nigerians are ever so judgmental when it comes to the ‘other’ person and there is hardly any compassion or restraints in the intervention we most often provide. Either in the private or public sector, we no longer deal fairly with one another and it is telling in what our nation has become today.