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Telecom Colonization Imminent – Daranijo

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Sinari Daranijo, Chief Executive Officer, Elcomserve Nigeria Limited

Sinari Daranijo, Chief Executive Officer, Elcomserve Nigeria Limited – a conglomerate of Security, Telecom and IT professionals.
He is a highly successful unique individual with immeasurable business acumen and has accumulated diverse business portfolios ranging from International Business, Oil & Gas, Business Development, Commerce & Industry, Training & Development, Information Technology, Strategic Management and Safety with over 18 years of relevant experience.
He spoke to Peter Ugwu on the company’s newly invented Nigeria’s first instant messaging/chat platform – Simply Beep and the state of the nation’s telecom industry. 

Elcomserve in Nigeria’s Telecom Business
We have a mix of professionals to provide great solutions for the development of the country and the people.
And one of our major target areas is to make things easier for people on the global scale by using the telecommunication platform.
When telecom was liberalised in Nigeria we actually started by providing infrastructure, equipment like radios, antenna, masts etcetera.
Everything is in stages. After they achieved that feat, the next step was to maintain the existing infrastructure, so that clients and customers can have value for their money and speak to themselves.
So that after acquiring huge voice subscriptions, the SMS promos, text-to-win were inspired, and now the next level is providing service for value added creation which has given rise to increase in the use of data.
For us at Elcomserve, we thought that now that the world is going digital everyone will end up in the internet, whether we like it or not.
So, we considered having a data plan that will be all encompassing, a gate into the world. We discovered that these days the spirit of chatting is beginning to encompass and engulf the entire world – it is easier to be on an IM platform than being on an SMS one.
We also discovered that while the whole world is going ahead, talk about android, iPod, Africa is lagging behind a bit because of high poverty level.
However, the chat experience is presently only available on that higher level, so we thought, ‘what can we do to bring it lower?’, hence we have created a product called Simply Beep.
It is supposed to help people who are using ordinary phones to tap into the experience of the upper-class users of smartphones.
It will open up a huge avenue into the entire system. But of course we have our challenges, even the people who work with the network operators do not completely understand because they are all following the world trend.
We have statistics: out of about 100 million subscribers on all the GSM networks in Nigeria, only about 3 million have BlackBerry and other smart phones.
We have about 97 million others who do not possess a BlackBerry or Smartphone.
For the most part, we have concentrated on those at the top.
 We need to connect with those on the other end of the divide. So, we decided to do something that will allow more people to have access to chat platform, people like students, artisans, house wives, etc, they are willing and ready to chat.
Beep is already available for download with the MTN network and we are concluding talks with all other mobile network providers in the country.
 
Beep and Local Lingua
The product has local lingual significance.
The reason why it is deployed in local lingua is to separate us from the crowd. And it will actually make the product proudly Nigerian.
Our local Pidgin-English is also something now respected and subscribed to in some parts of the world, owing to our music and movie industry.
Therefore, our move is to capture that segment of the society and endear them to the product. The emoticons such as “Laugh wan kill me die”, “I beg wait” and “I dey vex,” are some of the unique features of Simply Beep.

Challenges
Although there are other competing brands in the market – they have higher-end products – not necessarily mass friendly and not directly pushed to the people.
The reason why it’s taking some time for us to leverage on our own product is because we are stepping into a market with a new experience, and by pulling these people into a new experience it now means that we need to throw the product directly to their phones, unlike those other competitors that subscribers have to download from the internet.
That is our strategy, but it was tough pushing the networks to understand what we are talking about, because all they can see is the upper class people.
We had to make them see that Nigerians are highly motivated people.

Economic Values
Now, when you look at it from the point of economic value, the social media is a very big platform.
Increasing the dissemination of information, helps two or more people engage in interaction, increases communal feelings, etc.
So, all the advantages of social media are what we are bringing to the fore, especially for those who won’t otherwise use data services.
Our underlying philosophy however, is: own something. We don’t create, own or produce anything as Africans.
Over 50 per cent of what we wear on our bodies is foreign made. And that is why we shall continue to have local content problems.
Shoprite is here and you are all excited, it is not your money! If you go there to shop, they take the money and develop their own countries.
Why can’t we build our own platforms? This is the age of social platform. And I am building this platform in pain, because banks don’t support me. Even the networks, it was a battle to make them buy into this.
And that is the story of Nigeria, even the government does not understand.
But we need to build platforms that are ours. It will checkmate capital flight, because presently, when N10 is plugged into Nigeria’s economy, N5 out of it leaves the country.

Nigeria in Telecom Market
The world telecommunication market is expanding.
The data accompanying all products pushed to Africa are being kept by foreign companies. The problem with Nigerians is that we are not creators; we would want to leverage on what everybody brings to us.
We can do something even better; something we can call our own.
If Nigeria can boast of a chat platform we hold as ours, rather than depend on outsiders, then it is the beginning of great things to come in the Nigerian telecommunications market.

Infrastructure
That is where the global village phenomenon comes in, because we are still battling with electricity and all that, what we have done is to partner RackSpace that hosts servers for many other companies in the world.
RackSpace keeps all our chats and everything.
There is a room in the cloud that is dedicated to us. Reason why we have gone to that level is to ensure we do not tell our subscribers stories.
The problem we are having with the network operators is their inability to see that this project is important for the nation, because local content is not always the best for the expatriate companies.
It’s just the way the oil companies operate; we need a lion-hearted Minister who will put it on the expatriate companies to align themselves with the domestic inventors.
Do we have government functionaries who understand what mobile application developers go through?

Human Resources
We need to have telecom people in government; those who understand the nitty-gritty of the business so as to harness the potentials.
Your software is nothing until it goes out to the public. Nigeria must do everything within our powers to run away from impending telecom colonization.
It is a serious issue; there is no sector that the foreigners are not dominating.
We need to have Nigerians hold some gates in the sector. They know it, but there is not enough passion to drive it.
We have the best of policies in place, but the implementation is the problem. You remember when the telecom market was initially liberalised, NITEL had 400,000 lines and owned all infrastructure associated with the industry.
The new private operators were begging NITEL (for infrastructure sharing), but now they have all built their own infrastructures and its NITEL through the government begging them (for accommodation).
So, the bigger you are, the less stress, because you don’t have to talk to anybody.    
  
Government’s Involvement  
The connection between government and the realities ends in speeches. We need to have people who feel the pain to make things happen.
We need the government and the industry to understand each other by communicating on a regular basis, so we can deliver a resultant technological effect to the people at the grassroots.     

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Roar Nigeria Hub Hosts Facebook Stakeholders Roundtable @ University of Nigeria

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The University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) went agog with activities as it recently, welcomed a team from the global giant Facebook.

The Public Policy Director for Facebook Africa, Ebele Okobi led the team who visited Roar Nigeria Hub for a stakeholder’s roundtable.

The visitors were first received by the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Benjamin Ozumba starting with a courtesy call at the Vice Chancellor’s conference room.

After a brief tour of the Lion Laptop Assembly Plant and the Lion Science Park they were welcomed at Roar Nigeria Hub for the planned stakeholder roundtable hosted by Charles Emembolu, Co-Founder and Director of Roar Nigeria.

The roundtable had the academia, private and government representatives drawn from across eight states of the South South and South East Nigeria including innovation hub, business leaders, academia, investors, technology community, members of the SSE Angel Network (SSEAN), and other national technology leaders were in attendance.

Discussions focused on policy issues, technology commercialization, knowledge transfer, academic research, mentorship opportunities and the engagement strategy for the technology giant.

Roar Nigeria is a private sector led incubator opened in 2016 as a collaboration with University of Nigeria and recently partnered Facebook under the NG Hub program to foster businesses that leverage deep technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Virtual Reality, Drones, etc).

Ebele Okobi, in her remarks, appreciated the university management for its effort in creating an enabling environment for innovation to thrive in the academia and explained the purpose of the visit. “We realize the critical role of policy in creating an environment that maximizes the potential for technology to drive forward economic, social and academic advancement”, she said.

She shared details of some of the partnerships Facebook had launched in Nigeria while stating that the visit was to explore better ways of partnering African institutions and organisations such as Roar Nigeria at the policy level.

The University of Nigeria boasts a lot of firsts in the technology and innovation space with the Lion Laptops being assembled locally at UNN; the Roar Nigeria Hub, West Africa’s first full-fledged university embedded business and technology incubator and very recently the Lion Science Park.

These novelty projects have been delivered under the remarkable leadership of the Vice Chancellor, Prof Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba and mostly working with a triple helix concept.

“I consider this engagement a milestone in our journey to bring academia to the forefront of technology and innovation advancement in Nigeria.

The significance of this roundtable has been the ability to have top level policy makers and influencers from institutions such as Facebook, State Governments, Regional Businesses, Student Leaders, Chambers of Commerce, Investors and Universities discussing research, technology, innovation, commercialization as tools for national development.

It helps us to reimagine Africa” Charles Emembolu who is also a director of the Lion Science Park said.

“In order to restore the dignity of man, we have to make the University of Nigeria the home of innovation in Africa.

That is a journey we (UNN) embarked upon in 2014 and I am happy that global brands such as Facebook are taking note of these efforts” says Prof Benjamin Ozumba who was happy with the visit of the Facebook policy leadership and other stakeholders at UNN.

The Lion Laptop assembly plant currently assembles affordable laptops and plans to increase local content to 35% starting from 2019. Also, the Lion Science Park (LSP), which inaugurated its board last month has attracted top companies to its stable.

Mirai Denchi, a Japanese company, Huawei Authorised Information Network Academy (HAINA) and a host of other local companies are in different phases of residency at the Park. LSP was recently registered by the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP) which the global body for science parks.

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UBA Appoints Four New Board Members

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Board of Directors of the United Bank for Africa is pleased to announce the appointment of four new members to its board, subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN).

 

The new board members are Mrs. Erelu Angela Adebayo, Ms. Angela Aneke, Alhaji Abdulqadir Jeli Bello and Mr. Isaac Olukayode Fasola.

 

These appointments follow the retirement of Mrs. Rose Okwechime, Mr. Adekunle Olumide, OON, Alhaji Ja’afaru Paki and Mr Yahaya Zekeri, with effect from August 30, 2018.

 

“I am pleased to welcome Erelu Adebayo, Angela Aneke, Abdulqadir Bello and Kayode Fasola to the Group Board” said Tony O. Elumelu, the Group Chairman of the Bank.  “These men and women bring a wealth of experience in their fields and will be tremendous assets, as we deliver on our mission to become the leading Pan-African financial institution in all our countries of operation.”

 

‘I am particularly pleased that two of the newly appointed Non-Executive Directors are women, bringing the total number of women to four, a further demonstration of our commitment to ensuring equality for both men and women,’ added the Group Chairman.

 

Mr. Elumelu thanked the retiring directors for their contribution, hard work and commitment to UBA, “I would like to express my appreciation to our retiring Directors for their leadership and dedication to UBA and for their contribution to an already impressive 2018. I wish them the very best in their future endeavours”.

 

This announcement comes on the heels of the Bank’s strong H1 2018 performance with a PBT of $58.1billion.

 

With the successful expansion of its retail operations, UBA now operates in 20 countries in Africa, following its recent acquisition of a licence in Mali and the United Kingdom. The bank also has offices in New York City and in Paris.

About the Directors

Erelu Angela Adebayo who graduated with an M.Phil in Land Economy from Cambridge University, is the former First Lady of Ekiti State in Nigeria.

Mrs Adebayo previously served on the boards of several organisations, including the Dangote Foundation, DN Meyer Plc, Wemabod Estates.

Mrs. Adebayo is a council member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and has worked extensively on real estate development and She is the Chairman of the Erelu Adebayo Foundation for the underpriviledged.

Ms. Angela Aneke is a board advisor, banker and a strategic thinker with over 30 years’ experience in financial services, in the areas of financial control, strategy, transaction banking, corporate banking, retail banking and governance.

Ms. Aneke has held executive management and board positions in several international and regional institutions, including Ecobank Transnational Incorporated and the United Bank for Africa.

Mr. Isaac Olukayode Fasola is a consummate professional with over 30 years’ cognate experience obtained from Management and Board positions covering banking operations, risk management, credit analysis, insurance, asset management, business strategy/development, performance management and corporate governance.

Mr. Fasola previously served as an Executive Director of a commercial Bank in Nigeria. Mr. Fasola holds 2 MBAs and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Business Administration.

Mr. Abdulqadir J. Bello, a Chartered Accountant, has over 30 years’ corporate experience in the banking sector, during which period he held several senior Management positions in various Banks.

He also previously served as the Group Chief Credit Officer of UBA and thereafter as the Executive Director in charge of Risk Management for UBA Group.

 

 

 

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Umudioka Awka to Commission ICT Centre Next Week

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Prototype ICT centre

Okolobia Umudioka, Awka, a body of youths in Umudioka Community in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra state will next commission its information Communications Technology (ICT) centre to empower youths in the community.

 

The ICT centre situated at the village community hall, will support, empower and up-skill youths in the area, leveraging on ICT.

 

The centre equipped with handy tools for learning and computer appreciation was made possible by the joint efforts of all the age-grades and some well-meaning individuals.

 

Anyaor Obiakor, chairman, Okolobia Umudioka, Awka, said that the centre would generate digital activities that would drastically reduce the number of youth restiveness.

 

He also solicited support from government and other well-meaning Nigerians as well as corporate bodies to make the centre a model in Nigeria.

 

The Umudioka ICT centre still requires amenities like standby electricity supply; as well broadband internet access the would create tremendous networking opportunities and lead to digital activities that would generate employment and income.

 

Apart from ICT centre, youths on their own have also embarked on palliative road maintenance; community security and mentorship programmes

 

 

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