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The Nigerian telecommunications market

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By Mercy Kelani

60 million phones are sold in the country every year, mostly Asian brands.

Nigeria, due to its massive population, has been an investment destination for entrepreneurs and investors from across the world who seek to gain value for their investments. The rising population of Nigerian youth is the same reason why smartphone producers have remained in the Nigerian market. Truly, the early 2000s GSM revolution ensured provision of jobs and services for millions of people, up till date, through the rapidly expanding telecoms market. However, almost all the smartphones sold in the country are imported.

A report titled “The Telecommunications Industry in Nigeria 2022” says over 60 million phones are sold every year in the country, with Asian manufacturers dominating the mobile market. Although there are brands from other countries, most of the brands found in the Nigerian mobile market are owned by the Chinese with brands of more than 300 models in the past one and half decade. Some of these phone brands are Tecno Mobile, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung, Gionee, Panasonic, Apple, HP, Wiko, Oppo and others.

Nigeria, with 200+ million population, has 226 million subscribers.

Industry stakeholders have stated that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC’s) inability to enforce and implement standards for every telecommunications equipment in the country has paved the way from diverse kinds of substandard smartphones. Availability of these substandard smartphones have largely expanded their market. Another category of smartphones in the market are stolen phones. Nevertheless, this industry has provided job opportunities, as many Nigerian youths now repair phones for a living, given the massive number of phone users in the country.

Operators in the industry believe that Nigeria would have gained massively if the mobile market was created in a way that encourages local entrepreneurs to build smartphone factories in the country with enough capacity to provide employment for a good number of the youth population. As at February 2023, Nigeria had about 226 million subscribers with a population of 200+ million. The unstable nature of the Nigerian economy has also proven that the telecoms sector is growing with a capacity enough to drive the country towards a digital economy.

In 2022, Nigeria spent $2.35 billion on smartphones importation.

With the increasing rate of poverty in Nigeria, telecom industry operators have highlighted the difficulty in overcoming the battle against the inflow of used and counterfeit phones in the country. Report has it that the shipment of these used smartphones attained 282.6 million units in 2022, an 11.5 percent increase of 253.4 million units in 2021. Last year (in 2022), the International Trade Centre (ITC) asserted that Nigeria spent about $2.35 billion dollars on importation of smartphones in three years.

The cashless policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), according to industry operators, is one of the government’s policies creating expansion of the coverage of smartphones, apps and services. The cash withdrawal policy served as a compellation for Nigerians to adopt online banking transactions. A smartphone dealer in Computer Village, Ikeja, Mr. Sunny Iroegbu, said that the policy made many Nigerians purchase phones that have more internet capability between January and March, this year.

There will be a 60 percent growth in smartphone users in 2025.

By 2025, there is a projection that the number of smartphone users in the country will increase to over 140 million. Although there are about 170 million subscribers in Nigeria, the number of smartphone users are around 25 and 40 million. The predicted growth of smartphone users in 2025 is about 60 percent more than the current number. This data reflects a strong growth outlook for the country’s smartphone market as it presents strong growth opportunities for feature phone and manufacturers of smartphones too. Mobile technologies are contributing to facilitation of a connected continent.

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