Telecoms as Nigeria’s Best PR Tool
No sector has advanced the international image of Nigeria like telecoms. Since the advent of what has been rightly dubbed the ‘telecom revolution’, the image of Nigeria in the global communication circuit has shot to the heavens. At the global telecom feast annually organised by the International Telecommunication Union, ITU, from country to country, Nigeria has in recent years enjoyed special attention and mention. The accolades are the same during the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, CTO, conferences which Nigeria has had the privilege of hosting twice since the advent of the telecom revolution. The reasons are not far-fetched.
In the recent history of global telecoms, Nigeria has held the record of being the fastest growing mobile market in the world for five consecutive years; Nigeria telecom more than many elsewhere in the world has guaranteed the highest return on investment; it has generated more jobs, steady jobs, and millions of ancillary jobs than any sector in the local economy. It has grown to being a major contributor to the GDP; currently telecom contributes about 10 percent of the GDP. It has spluttered to well over $32 billion industry from a paltry $50 million in year 2000.
At international forums, the telecom sector has attracted positive global commendation for Nigeria more than any other sector. Presidents, techies, technocrats, corporate moguls and leaders of international organisations have consistently cited the Nigerian telecom regulatory model and growth gradient as a template for others.
It is little wonder, therefore, that since the telecom revolution buzzed in Nigeria, other countries have made several sorties to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to understudy the nation’s regulator. From Kenya to Ghana to Botswana, the NCC has played host to delegations who have journeyed to Nigeria to study the Nigerian telecom regulatory template.
In January, 2011, the US Federal Communications Commission, FCC, the equivalent of the Nigerian telecom regulator, NCC, commended the giant strides recorded in the Nigerian telecom industry, giving credit to the Nigerian telecom regulator for bringing Nigeria at par with several advanced nations of the world.
Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner of the FCC at that time during a meeting with the Nigerian delegation, said after comparing notes about how Nigeria has strived to better the sector over the past years and what has been achieved so far, that the Nigerian regulator appears ahead of other African countries and indeed, some more advanced countries of the world in telecom regulation. The Nigerian NCC delegation to the meeting at the FCC headquarters in Washington DC that year was made up of the Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Peter Igoh, Executive Vice Chairman, Dr. Eugene Juwah and Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Mr. Okechukwu Itanyi. The lady Commissioner of FCC commended the Nigerian delegation. She observed that it was the first time the Commission would host a delegation of telecom regulatory institution from Africa.
Clyburn said the FCC was keen on how Nigeria, and indeed Africa, marches on to exploit the benefits of telecom and ICT. The two-day meeting hosted by the FCC under its International Visitors Programme, IVP, discussed issues of mutual bilateral telecom regulatory best practices, with an interactive session where the two telecom regulators exchanged ideas on the different dimensions and challenges and agreed to continue to share idea and information. Topical issues discussed at the meeting included telecom compliance and enforcement regulation, universal service, competition and interconnection, rules-making procedures and ethics among others.
Perhaps, the ITU forums, more than any other, are where Nigeria’s international reputation has continued to soar. At the ITU World in Dubai 2012, Nigeria was the only country listed on the opening session, aside the host nation – the United Arab Emirates – to address the global audience made up of government officials from around the world, chief executives of global telecom brands, investors, other stakeholders and international media.
The then Secretary-General of the ITU, Dr. Hamadoun Toure, had on several occasions voiced his admiration for the strides of Nigeria telecom, and was never shy of recommending it as a model for other nations.
By every yardstick, telecom has emerged in recent years as the most effective public relations tool for Nigeria. The signs are all over the place and the brilliant statistics epigraph the arrival of Nigeria on the global telecom stage. The tradition has continued without any sign of abatement.
The incumbent EVC of the Commission, Professor Umar Danbatta, has not only continued in the tradition of regulatory excellence, he has so far demonstrated that the NCC is willing and ready to position Nigerian telecom as the undisputed enabler for productivity for other sectors. Professor Danbatta whose appointment has been largely hailed as one of the best and most pertinent appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari recently unfolded his eight-point agenda for Nigeria telecom. The agenda is embedded in a five-year plan which targets primarily a pervasive rollout of broadband services across the nation as a way of addressing the knotty issue of quality of service.
Danbatta sure knows his way around the sector. An accomplished Professor of Electronics Engineering and alumnus of the University of Manchester, he was in his element when he presented his vision to the media recently. His roadmap is clear; carefully crafted and conceived to fit into the vision and goals of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari: to create jobs, wealth and widen the revenue base of the economy away from crude oil receipts while maintaining a high degree of fiscal prudence and good corporate governance.
The success story of Nigeria telecom has continued to win more international accolades and attract partnerships for the nation. Recently, the Global System of Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), the umbrella body for all mobile operators, equipment manufacturers, vendors among others opened talks with the NCC on capacity building, and sundry ways to attain an accelerated growth in the mobile sector.
A couple of days back, the Nigeria telecom narrative was, again, a reference point for many speakers at this year’s Nigeria Summit organized by the authoritative international magazine, The Economist. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, Philip Walker, Regional Manager, The Economist Intelligence Unit and other speakers while commenting on the global oil crisis and the opportunities it presents for Nigeria to diversify her economy all cited the critical success recorded in telecom as an indicator that with the right political will, good mix of policy and robust regulatory framework, the nation can achieve much in other sectors in a manner that would make earnings from oil look like peanut.
Without disputation, it is safe to say that in the global corporate matrix, Nigeria telecom has consistently been numbered among the best, often ranked with those of some Western economies. The impact of this growth stretches beyond achieving digital inclusion and connecting the unconnected; it has helped to galvanise other sectors. Just for once imagine what would have become of the actors and players in the nation’s youth-dominated entertainment sector. Players in music and moviedom now sell their content via mobile platforms out of the reach of pirates; they have become the faces and brand ambassadors of telecom service providers and their services; Nigerian music has become our quintessential caller tunes and putting money directly in the pockets of the artistes.
The impact of Nigeria telecom is felt most when you are attending international ICT forums. You will feel proudly Nigerian to hear the encomiums poured on the nation’s telecom regulator by globally renowned icons in the sector, including heads of governments. It is a zero to hero story; it makes me feel proudly Nigerian in the international circuit and I relish every moment of it.
- Ojobo writes from Abuja