ITU 2016 Raises Hope for Telecoms Investment in Nigeria

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By Emma Okonji

Nigeria’s participation at the recently concluded International Telecommunication Union (ITU Telecoms World) conference, in Bangkok, Thailand, no doubt, has strengthen foreign investors’ confidence to invest in Nigeria’s telecoms sector, thus raising hope for future telecoms investment in Nigeria.
Led by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Nigerian delegation, include the members of the National Assembly; Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) of government; telecoms operators; telecoms service providers; broadband service providers, start-ups and the media.

NCC and the Nigerian delegation made a good show of Nigeria’s potential and investment opportunities in Information and Communications Commission (ICT), which attracted foreign investors from over 120 countries of the world who attended this year’s ITU Telecom World conference, to see the need to invest in Nigeria’s broadband.

The Nigerian government and the private sector, made a pitch to foreign investors, where they presented the country’s developments in ICT, and the opportunities for future investment.

A former Secretary-General of ITU, Dr. Hamadoun Toure, who was the special guest of honour at the Nigeria’s Investment Forum at the conference, reminded foreign investors of the population size of Nigeria, which he said is a strong factor that would attract quick returns on investments.
According to him, the over 170 million population of Nigeria is a major factor that would attract investors because the market is huge and the people are ready.
Speaking during the panel session on “Smart Communities as the key to a Digital Nigeria”, the EVC of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta talked up the opportunities for investment in Nigeria, aided by flexible regulatory policies. Buttressing his comments, the Chief Executive Officer of MainOne, Funke Opeke, described the telecom infrastructure gaps in the country as opportunities available for investment. She highlighted as example, the government-assisted Infrastructure Company (Infraco) project, where MainOne is licensee for Lagos State, which aims to expand broadband penetration from the current 20 per cent to over 30 per cent targeted in the National Broadband Plan for 2018. According to her, licensees for five other regions of the country are currently available for bid.
Opeke highlighted the tremendous potential Nigeria’s ICT industry offers to investment, underlining Nigeria 80 million internet users, the growing population of  smartphone users, and the country’s over 100 per cent voice penetration. She noted that most regions of the country were still under-served in terms of ICT deployment and explained that the commitment of government to diversify the economy from oil will require greater ICT penetration to create jobs.
“Availability of broadband infrastructure across all regions of Nigeria and the technology adoption this will facilitate will greatly accelerate the pace of development in Nigeria, facilitate increased non-oil trade, enhance the digital economy, improve public access to education, health and other social services and aid job creation,” Opeke said.

Vice President, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs at Etisalat Nigeria, Mr. Ibrahim Dikko, who also sat at the panel discussion during the Nigerian Investment Forum in Bangkok, commended the efforts of government and the NCC, for their efforts in wooing foreign investors to invest in Nigeria. Dikko said Etisalat has invested in infrastructure and would continue to do so, in order to further drive telecoms development in the country.
The ITU Telecom World is an annual conference sponsored by the ITU, an agency of the United Nations that coordinates telecoms activities across the globe.
This year’s conference featured high-level chief executives and ministerial round tables to facilitate open dialogues between governments and business leaders. Held in Bangkok, Thailand, the conference theme for 2016 is “Collaboration in the Digital Economy” and featured sessions on collaborative regulation, smart sustainable cities, fostering SME innovation, gender inclusive development and digital financial services for financial inclusion.