Ceo forum 2023

Tax, broadband top telecom agenda for Tinubu

Nigeria’s incoming president will have to tackle many challenges facing the Information and Communication Technology sector, including excessive tax control, Right of Way (RoW) cost reduction, job creation, and connectivity, to tap its full growth potential.

The sector in recent times has been a major source of revenue and growth to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), contributing more than the oil sector, which is Nigeria’s biggest source of revenue.

Over the last six years, the sector has added a nine percent growth to GDP, according to Andersen Nigeria.

Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressive Congress, was declared last week as President-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Tinubu, in his manifesto, said: “A Tinubu administration will strive to create one million new jobs in the ICT sector within its first 24 months by deploying new technologies that can fast-track business growth and diversification.”

He said he would implement policies that would train and build capacity among Nigeria’s large and youthful population to help offer outsourcing services just as India has done.

BusinessDay spoke to industry players who shared their opinions on other challenges in the ICT sector and how the incoming president can proffer solutions to solve them.

Ajibola Olude, secretary of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said the incoming government must pay adequate attention and focus more on the sector, especially in the area of connectivity, which is a key driver to other sectors of the economy, and task the state government not to charge above the N145 stipulated ROW charges.

He said: “The main thing we expect from the incoming government is that the federal government needs to appeal to the state government that the cost being charged for RoW must be N145 per linear metre. When you look at the cost of energy and RoW in Nigeria, it remains very high. There is a need for all states to buy into the harmonised RoW, which is N145. If the cost is N145, unlike when it is like N1,000 to N1,500, there will be more money left to buy equipment and employ more people.

“With N1,500, you can get 10 linear metres but when it is reduced to N145, it means that you will be doing 10 times what you were doing before, which means that the capital outlook for laying cables and others will further channel to deepen broadband penetration.”

In the area of human capital development in the sector, Olude said there needs to be sustained development, which can be achieved by ensuring that the human capital (tech talents) formation is not discouraged to leave the country. “When you have the technology but no human to drive it, then it is as good as not having the technology in place. Those that are working in that sector must be encouraged to stay pushing in order not to leave the county.”

According to the ATCON secretary, many tech talents have left the country over the years because of poor remuneration.

He said the incoming government should ensure the sector is not overburdened with tax, so investors who have investment in ICT will get adequate reward and continue investing.

He said, “The incoming government should also encourage the implementation of infrastructure in the state. The last government was meant to implement the seven geographical locations which were given to Infraco licences but along the way, those who won that licence were not given the required subvention by the federal government and that led to the government not implementing Infracos. NCC that represents the government should try as much as possible to implement it.

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“The incoming government should also not further divide the sector. We have heard about NITDA trying to take some of the goals that are already being pursued by NCC. This will further subdivide the industry. We expect NITDA to stay on its lane, while the NCC stays on its lane.”

Frank Ezeji, CEO of TDS Hi-Tech Solution, said the incoming government must devise a means to provide access to affordable and high-speed internet, considering the population of the country.

Citing a 2022 report by Statista, Ezeji said half of the total Nigerian population are active internet users.

According to Statista, Nigeria is ranked as the seventh country with the lowest-cost mobile internet with an average cost of $0.70 for one GB in 2022.

“Nigeria’s next president should prioritise providing access to affordable, high-speed internet to most Nigerians,” Ezeji said.

He said the government must also intensify efforts to curb cybersecurity threats by creating effective cybersecurity measures to protect citizens’ sensitive data and critical infrastructure.

He said Nigeria needs inventions like cloud and edge computing, artificial intelligence, block-chain technology and cybersecurity, which are mostly dominant discussions within this sector.

“If Nigeria wants to catch up with these varying trends, it must first take cognisance of the changes and enact policies that promote digital inclusion. More digital transformation needs to be activated, to drive awareness from the grassroots to the national level,” he said.