GIANTS STRIDES IN NIGERIA’S TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY AND BUILDING ON SUCCESSES RECORDED
By Samuel Okocha
The story of Nigeria’s ground-breaking leaps in technology is rooted in the country’s return to democracy in 1999. That year, Africa’s most populous country had just 400,000 fixed telephone lines and less than 200,000 regular internet users.
Today, telephone penetration has risen sharply over the last few years, with the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics reporting that the total number of telephone connections jumped from 195 million in 2021 to more than 222 million at the end of 2022. That is a tele-density of more than 120%.
Internet users have also continued to expand. Over 150 million internet subscriptions were, for instance, recorded in March this year, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission.
These milestones began with Nigeria’s nascent democracy, notably in the year 2000 when the government took steps to liberalize the telecoms sector with the launch of the National Telecommunications Policy.
Now, private firms can be licensed to provide services such as fixed and cellular telephony, long-distance transmission, global mobile personal communications, international data access, high-speed data transmission, value-added services, as well as, internet and unified access.
Indeed, Nigeria’s first Global System for Mobil (GSM) communications, technology was launched in May 2001, when South Africa’s MTN established its Nigerian subsidiary, MTN Nigeria.
In August that same year, Econet metamorphosed to Vodacom and now Airtel, also launched its own Nigerian subsidiary.
Globacom Nigeria entered the market in August 2003, to be joined by Etisalat, now 9mobile, in October 2008.
Last September, Nigeria became the third African country to launch 5G, after Kenya and South Africa, following MTN’s launch of the technology in Lagos. 5G technologies hold the promise of revolutionizing communication, assuring higher speeds in sending and receiving information on-line. And that means a lot for the growth of Nigeria’s telecoms industry.
It is safe to say that Nigeria’s technology revolution began with the liberalization of the country’s telecoms sector, courtesy of the rebirth of the nation’s democracy.
That tech revolution, powered by increased access to internet enabled mobile devices, has led to the rise in fintech companies, better financial inclusion and global expansion of the entertainment sector. In fintech for instance, Nigeria has been home to successful mega Start-ups like Flutter wave and Paystack, attracting interests from global investors.
In 2020, Stripe, an American Fintech company, announced the acquisition of Nigeria based Paystack, a fintech company that makes it easy for small businesses to collect payments from around the world.
The acquisition, which media reports said was worth some $200 million, reflects the growing on-line commerce market in Nigeria and how fintech companies from Nigeria can provide a gateway to Africa. How about entertainment?
Movies and music from Nigeria have found markets across the globe because of increased access to technology back home. As a result, new music stars like Asake keep emerging, selling out concerts abroad, and earning valuable foreign exchange in the process.
But despite the success stories and significant progress made in Nigeria’s technology industry, there is still plenty room for growth. Broadband penetration remains low at just under 50% as at the end of last year, compared to over 70% in Egypt and South Africa.
This gap suggests opportunities for more investments with a potential multiplier effects on growth across sectors. The new administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu must build on the successes recorded and expand other frontiers for growth of the sector.