Tuesday, November 29Inside Business Africa

Telecoms operators want 30% of CBN N15tr infrastructure funding

Telecommunications operators have called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to channel 30 per cent of the N15 trillion consortium it announced recently to boost infrastructure development in Nigeria, especially telecoms.

The Chief Executive Officer, Medallion Communications Limited, Ikechukwu Nnamani, made this call at the Sectoral Virtual Forum 2020, organized by the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).

He argued that it would be unfair for the apex bank to devote the N15 trillion into building transportation infrastructure alone, leaving the telecom sector, which is presently contributing 10.88 per cent to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Nnamani, who is also the Vice President of ATCON, noted that for Nigeria, which is working towards having a digital economy, industry operators must get the right mix of funding to build telecoms infrastructure that the system can ride on.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced plans to establish an N15 trillion infrastructure development company. I expected that 30 per cent of that money to be channelled into building telecom infrastructure.

“Concentrating everything into building the transport infrastructure would be unfair to the 196 million telecom subscribers, who are always advocating for good quality service, but could not get most of the time because of lack of the required infrastructure,” Nnamani said.

According to him, if 30 per cent of the money is channelled into the telecoms industry, it will give operators the opportunity to massively deploy infrastructure across the country, and ultimately aid the digital economy being championed by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Recall that the Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, had recently announced plans to establish a N15 trillion infrastructure development company, which he said will be used to fund the rebuilding of critical infrastructure across the country for an initial period of five years.

Specifically, the Governor said funding will be mobilized to support the federal government in building the transport infrastructure required to move agriculture and other products to processors, raw materials to factories, and finished goods to markets.

Meanwhile, the Director-General, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa, has said that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) will play a key role in the post-Covid-19 pandemic, which is presently ravaging the world, and has forced people and organizations to observe social distancing and staying at home most of the time.

Inuwa, who stated this at the ATCON webinar, added that already, ICT is playing a major role in the global effort at returning to the new normal, explaining that COVID-19 has triggered an unprecedented paradigm shift in the way of life, and only ICT sector can accelerate the development of digital economy.

“Covid-19 has stimulated a surge in demand for digital services, and is putting tremendous pressure on the existing ICT and Telco infrastructure,” he said.

Inuwa also stressed the need for the government’s intervention and regulatory instruments to help industry players come out stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Specifically, he said broadband infrastructure remains the most critical infrastructure the nation needs to weather the storm of the pandemic, disclosing that the government’s connectivity drive has made Nigeria a mobile-first market, with almost three-quarters of about 100 million Internet users consuming digital services using smartphones.

He mentioned reassigning the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy’s mandates to accommodate the Digital Economy Plan, National Broadband Policy, and Nigerian Digital Economy Strategic Plans, as some of the various efforts, which had within eight months increased the broadband penetration from 32 per cent to almost 42 per cent.

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