Permit me to start this conversation with a remark credited to Fatai Folarin, Tax & Regulatory Services Lead Partner at Deloitte.
He said "The telecommunications industry in Nigeria is one that can currently be described as self-aware and steadily adapting to the stark realities of business – changing trends, intense rivalry, regulatory uncertainties etc.
“There is a general understanding that to remain sustainable, there is a need to recreate existing products, diversify into new areas for which the capabilities and resources are near, improve on general business processes and navigate through the regulatory landscape."
This captured the mood in the Nigerian ICT sector. Suffice to say, for this industry to tap into new trends, draw inspirations from new areas for improved capabilities and resources and general business processes, it must navigate through the regulatory landscape.
At the time of liberalisation of the sector, though telecommunications in specific, almost two decades ago, it catalysed and opened up the sector to local and foreign direct investment (FDI) estimated at over $68 billion as at November 2016.
The sector is currently considered a key contributor to economic growth and one that can help lift Nigeria out of recession; created approximately over 2.5 million jobs over the past 10 years, with its impact reaching across all industries.
But, honestly, things have not been the same in the last 24 months. The case of Etisalat is still fresh on our minds; people are losing their jobs, companies are subdued.
If you refer back to Fatai Folarin postulation and given the tremendous potential that telecommunications has to jump start and stimulate the Nigerian economy at all levels, there is urgent need of help of government and regulators to play the role of referee and establish a level playing field.
One issue that have not left the pages of newspapers since late last year is concerned with Data Floor Plan. We recognize the free market principles of business and competition, but we also note the artificially low prices that are having a negative effect on investment and growth within the sector. Both large and small mobile network operators are currently working to try and mitigate the current challenges related to squeezed margins, and in other cases generating losses, and lack of direct access to foreign currencies, with the smaller firms struggling the most to compete. Reduced competition will be a lose-lose situation for all operators, and the public as a whole.
The recent default status of Etisalat Nigeria, is a prime example of how it can all go wrong. Etisalat is the fourth largest telecom operator in the country, but as a direct result of the company’s razor thin margins on its current service offerings, and against the backdrop of the devaluation of the Naira, the company has failed to meet its obligations to its lenders.
Concerted regulatory efforts need to be made to ensure that all sides survive and the quality of service levels continue to be enhanced, by having the regulatory bodies insist the mobile network operators focus on additional customer metrics such as, measuring their signal reach, network uptime and improved quality of a data services.
I am using the telecommunications here to reflect the mood of the ICT industry in general. Every aspect of it or the microcosms need breath of fresh air.
At this point, let me draw your mind to Think Breakfast Series (tBs- www.tbs.com.ng), a gathering of passionate thought leaders who have the capacity to proffer solutions to the issues affecting their industry and the Nation through a brainstorming session held over breakfast.
Second on the series, tBs comes up on September 28, 2017 between 8:00am and 11:00am at Prime Chinese Restaurant, Bishop Aboyade Cole Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The theme for this edition of tBs is “The Future of Broadband in the Face of Tough Operating Environment.”
Now, there are many platforms through which industry stakeholders are voicing various opinion and making recommendations on how to get things right in this industry, but I tried to find out from Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata, one of the brains behind tBs, on the need for another platform like this.
An interesting response from him: “Nigeria has a plethora of challenges that must be solved if it must be a great nation. tBs has a goal to convey ‘fearless’ personalities who would say things the way there are, with the motive to assist Nigeria in achieving the greatness it deserves within the comity of nations”.
The Strategy, he said, is drawing solutions from successful business leaders to solve the myriad of challenges holding Nigeria back.
Yes, we need to connect to the future; Seeing Nigeria as an authentic leader in the sphere of the economy, technology and business enterprise.
This is event is strictly by invitation. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to participate https://tbs.com.ng/contact/