Participants at a Virtual meeting organized by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) have advocated for a stronger focus and holistic approach to shaping Nigeria’s digital economy future amid the prevailing economic challenges caused by the novel COVID-19 pandemic.
President of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola in his welcome address provided insights into why the Association convened a Virtual meeting to discuss the Socio-Economic and Political Impact of COVID-19 on the Telecom and ICT Sector in Nigeria.
On Thursday, June 4, 2020, ATCON brought together eggheads and thought leaders in Nigeria’s Telecom/ICT sector on a Virtual platform, to brainstorm on the socio-economic and political impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.
According to the ATCON President, the virtual meeting was convened with the objective of ensuring effective regulation and development and building of local capacities for the speedy spread of telecom and ICT infrastructure facilities across the country.
It was also convened to push for the buy-in of governments at all levels to encourage telecom and ICT infrastructure development in their respective states by encouraging rapid investment through incentives such as tax holiday and provision of special intervention funds for the sector by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
While expressing appreciation to the Honourable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, for matching his words with actions by getting President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval for the security of all telecommunications infrastructure nationwide, Teniola expressed hope that further clarifications would be made about this development in the light of the confusion on whether the Executive Order on CNI is still expected considering this approval.
The ATCON boss also commended Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Mr. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Director-General/CEO, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for their show of support to the Minister in moving the industry to an enviable trajectory which can be explained by the recent 14.07% Q12020 contribution of the Nigerian telecom and ICT sector to the country’s GDP.
“It will not also be wrong to commend the efforts of our member company CEOs who have been making right decisions to put us on this growth path and ensuring our networks withstood the pressures of the stay-at-home COVID-19 directive over the last 3 months,” he said.
While thanking the Virtual meeting’s sponsors such as the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, NCC, NITDA, VDT Communications, Rack Center, eStream Networks, and Vodacom, Teniola was hopeful that the report that will come out after the virtual deliberations would be used to improve the investment climate of the telecom/ICT industry.
Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, in his contribution, observed that even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, online services providers were enjoying the best of times.
“We should start looking beyond the crisis. We should focus on how to shape post-COVID-19 lives. Shaping the future of the digital economy should also be the focus. The best we can do for the industry at this moment is to identify the opportunities in this crisis,” Inuwa said.
The NITDA DG stated that the future of the Telecom/ICT industry can only be guaranteed when the entrepreneurial opportunities of Nigerians are identified, explaining that the ICT Hubs across the country can help in this regard.
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Galaxy Backbone Limited, Prof. Mohammed Bello Abubakar while contributing to the virtual conversation noted that the ICT sector has positively impacted on the lives of Nigerians during this COVID-19 pandemic.
He cited the recent increase in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) brought about by the contribution of 14.07% by the ICT sector, a development the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy described as unprecedented.
While Ms Abimbola Alale, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited (NigComSat), spoke on the need for everyone to work together and provide connectivity as well as meet the needs of the rural dwellers, Engr. Biodun Omoniyi, the Managing Director/CEO of VDT Communications, harped on the need to encourage home-grown initiatives that will help grow the economy during the post-COVID-19 era.
In his contribution during the virtual conversation, Managing Director of Rack Centre, a leading Nigerian Tier III Carrier Neutral Data Centre, Engr. Tunde Coker said there was the need for the country to begin to target significant foreign exchange earnings, adding that Nigeria has the potentials of becoming Africa’s digital hub.
Other contributors like Mr. Ibrahim Dikko, MD/CEO of Backbone Connectivity Network; Mr. Mohammed Rudman, NiRA President and CEO of Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN); Engr. Ike Nnamani, MD of Medallion Communications Limited, as well as Engr. Muyiwa Ogungboye all emphasized the need for the expansion of the country’s local capacity while agreeing that technology has the greatest potential to lead Nigeria’s economic revival.
While they also observed that long traffic has significantly increased by 20%, a situation that translates to a wakeup call for collaboration, Engr. Ike Nnamani called for the establishment of a telecom industry bank.
Over 60 people from across the world, including top government functionaries, CEOs of Telecom and ICT Companies, Directors (public and private) and technology journalists joined in the virtual meeting.