ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, in this piece, looks at the Strategic Vision Plan targeted at improving the telecommunications sector.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), has established that the telecommunications sector is the largest segment of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
Today, Nigeria has one of the largest telecoms markets in Africa, contributing over 17 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Nigerian Telecommunication sector has evolved over the years to an oligopolistic market structure (a small number of firms have the majority of market share). It had in August, celebrated 20 years of its revolution, increasing the number of telephone lines from NITEL’s 400,000 to GSM connected users of over 290 million. It currently commanded an investment put at over $75 billion.
Over the years, the sector has contributed immensely to Nigeria’s economy and the lives of Nigerians. The advancement of mobile phone usage from basic telephony to new enhanced services and the introduction of new technology within diverse sectors of the country have seen the sector grow massively.
The sector has experienced rapid growth and helps in for example, easier banking services (bank mobile apps), e-Health, and provide access to e-learning platforms for Nigerians. During the pandemic, the telecoms sector became a reliable ally for individuals, businesses and religious organisations. It brought about the new normal.
Conversely, Nigeria’s telecoms industry has had its own fair of challenges, from multiple taxation to over regulations, vandalism, theft, Right of Way imbroglio, among others.
Lately, the sector is also facing low consumer purchasing power, currency movements and the recent loss of global investors. The inaccessibility of the dollar in the economy resulted in weak macroeconomic conditions, and has impacted the telephony sector as well. Nigeria’s weak macroeconomic conditions have led to weak labor market dynamics (high unemployment and underemployment), reduced disposable income and poor corporate performance.
While these challenges persist, efforts are being programmed to reduce the impact drastically. Indeed, to ensure long term growth and sustainability, the sector needs new focus and direction for new development.
New Strategic Vision Plan
DIRECTLY tied to achieving this new development is the new five-year strategic vision plan (SVP) 2021-2025 by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which is expected to provide an effective framework for the implementation of an already unveiled Strategy Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024.
The SVP is expected to enable cross-functional infrastructure, ubiquitous services, and deepen consumer engagement to consolidate the growth of the telecoms sector.
The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the SVP will naturally ride on the new SMP 2020-2024 unveiled in June last year. As a visioning document of the Commission for planning, monitoring, analysing and its assessment to meet its goals and set objectives, proposed SVP and current SMP will be fully leveraged by the NCC for serious improvement in performance matrix and its efforts in accelerating the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) and the National Broadband Plan (NBP), 2020 – 2025 of the Federal Government.
The new SVP 2021-2025 has five items namely; organisational renewal for operational efficiency and regulatory excellence; facilitating the provision of infrastructure for a digital economy which fosters national development; promoting fair competition, inclusive growth, increased investment and innovative services; improve quality of service (QoS) for enhanced consumer quality of experience (QoE); and facilitating strategic collaboration and partnership.
Danbatta explained that to ensure strong commitment to its implementation, the new SVP also has inbuilt initiatives, key performance indicators developed from inception and activities tied to an implementation responsibility matrix.
According to him, it also incorporates timelines and a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism. He said it is equally outcome-based and recommendation-driven with follow-up actions to guide the Commission in operationalising the plan and assessing its performance over time.
The NCC EVC said the new SVP, no doubt, embodies several innovative elements deliberately designed to re-invent and transform the telecoms ecosystem within the context of regulation.
Role of Private Sector
WHILE commending the NCC, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, said the SVP will help in delivering on objectives of national policies on digital economy, which will boost private sector growth.
He particularly said that he was happy and optimistic that with the new SVP, the NCC will lead the way in the implementation of the NNBP 2020-2025 and NDEPS towards fast tracking the attainment of national targets on digital economy vision of the Federal Government.
He said the main function of the communications ministry was to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, adding this is what the Ministry and regulators such as NCC, under its purview have been doing creditably.
He explained that it was necessary for the private sector to be more successful because they control majority of the economy.
“Strategic vision is key to the foundation of whatever we do. Usually, strategy cascades our national policy for implementation.
“This strategy of NCC has cascaded the two national policies that are relevant to it, most importantly, the national digital economic policy and strategy for a digital Nigeria and Nigerian national broadband plan. This is what the strategy is all about,” Pantami said.
Boost for Digital Economy
Already, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has said that efficient and affordable ICT infrastructure and services allow countries to participate in the digital economy and to increase their overall economic well-being and competitiveness
“ICTs can achieve results at a scale, speed, quality, accuracy and cost not imaginable just a decade ago. They are means to deliver quality goods and services in the areas of health care, education, finance, commerce, governance and agriculture, among others. They can help to reduce poverty and hunger, boost health, create new jobs, mitigate climate change, improve energy efficiency and make cities and communities sustainable,” ITU said.
Indeed, other stakeholders, who attended the unveiling, see the SVP, contribute significantly to the country’s drive to enthrone a digital economy.
For instance, the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, applauded the Commission for its futuristic vision, which he noted, was on the right course and capable of taking Nigeria to greater heights in the 21st century.
Chairman, House Committee on Telecommunications, Akeem Adeyemi, extoled the SVP initiative as another project of the NCC, noting that the Commission had consistently been a major contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the last few years.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Galaxy Backbone, Prof. Muhammed Abubakar commended the EVC for his visionary leadership.
According to Abubakar, the initiatives would guide the transformation of Nigeria, digitally. He also lauded Pantami, for his efforts and support to the growth of the digital ecosystem.