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Nigeria needs $15bn to unravel digital future

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By Usman Oladimeji

A strong dedication to promoting digital inclusion is necessary.

According to MTN Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ralph Mupita, Nigeria will be required to invest between $12 billion and $15 billion in infrastructure over the next five years in order to improve the country’s lagging network quality, boost internet speeds, elevate digital inclusion, and prepare the country for the future digital advancement. Nigeria possesses a robust digital reach which most investors aspire to take advantage of, owing to its massive population and broad internet reach. In May 2023, estimates showed that the number of mobile voice subscribers increased to 220 million, making it the continent’s largest mobile market.

Yet, inadequate investment on infrastructures that drives the digital economy continues to decelerate the development pace. The low rate of broadband adoption (48.24%) is a crucial cause, as it is unable to meet the demands of millions of online users (including many businesses with high data needs). Mobile broadband is the primary source of internet access in the country because fixed wireless coverage is ironically low at 0.03 per 100 people. As a result, access to fast internet remains an imaginary goal for most of the population. According to Ookla, a company based in the United States that analyzes internet speeds, Nigeria has the 89th fastest connection speeds in the world.

Government must provide incentives to entice investments.

Even in terms of e-Government Development, Nigeria lags behind ranking 140th. The situation of the country is instructive considering it has always allocated funds towards e-governance. As an example, last year, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari allotted N19 billion for the procurement and installation of new and updated computer software in government ministries, departments, and agencies. Despite spending billions of naira, the country still does not have a digitized government. Mupita argued that Nigeria’s internet difficulties could be viewed as investment possibilities. Although he stressed, the government must provide incentives to entice investments.

He argued that Nigeria’s digital economy represents the country’s future and that its full potential can be realized with the right mix of strategically placed motive, cooperation, and a common vision. President Bola Tinubu assured MTN in a recent meeting that his administration will foster an ideal climate for telecom investors to thrive. The government maintains ambitious plans to introduce policies to support growth, including aims to expand the number of online firms, enhance logistics and delivery systems, and promote creativity and innovative thinking.

MTN has pledged over $3.5 billion over the next five years.

Expanding educational opportunities, incentivizing corporate investment in talent development (through tax credits and other means), and boosting the number of government-sponsored digital skills training programmes are all goals of the current administration. Other steps planned to promote the industry include reduced import duties on semi-manufactured goods production lines, like automobiles, IT, and smartphone industries. On top of all, Mupita pointed out that the government must demonstrate a strong dedication to promoting digital inclusion to realize its potential as a driver of sustainable growth and development.

To further bolster Nigeria’s telecommunications infrastructure, MTN has pledged over $3.5 billion over the next five years. According to MTN Nigeria CEO Karl Toriola, this amounts to a yearly investment of $700 million. Similarly, Open Access Data Centres is working towards deepening data center presence in the country. It is currently constructing a Tier III certified, $200 million data center in Lagos, Nigeria, with more than 7,200 square meters of white space and has the ability to handle a site power demand of up to 20 MW.

Digital infirmities present a chance for private sector investment.

With enough space for 3,275 racks, the facility is among one of the continent’s largest data centers apart from South Africa. The site power load is completely expandable to 40MW to meet future market demands. CEO of Open Access Data Centres, Ayotunde Coker asserted that Nigeria’s digital infirmities present chances for private sector investment. Considering that AI and blockchain are still relatively new fields with much exploration context, Coker emphasized the country’s great potential to lead in these areas over the next five years.

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