By Prince Osuagwu
IN the estimation of theÂ former Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, Mr Adrian Wood, Nigeria needs to attract at least twenty five billion US Dollars in telecommunications investment to keep alive, the hope of becoming one of the top twenty economies in the world by the year 2020.
Wood, who fell in lo
ve with Nigeria and refused to leave after his assignment at MTN came to a conclusion, is now the Chief Executive Officer of Brymedia West Africa Limited. Brymedia is the project coordinator, bid manager and consortium leader for bidding in the current privatization process for NITEL
Wood has never hidden his love for the country, and so, as the country was celebrating her 49th independence last week Thursday, he communicated his goodwill message to Vanguard Mobile Week, hoping that it would be relayed to the nation.
Wood is apparently adding his own voice in the multitude of voices canvassing for a greater Nigeria by the year 2020.
One of the cardinal goals of the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua is to make Nigeria one of the top twenty economies in the world by the year 2020.Â The Federal Government is believed to be aiming to attain a 100 per cent teledensity before the year 2020 in line with Vision 20-2020 project.
According to Wood, to become the kind of giant Nigeria is aiming at, federal government, has to bring the national telecommunications network up to world standard, and to do that, the minimum level of investment required in the industry is about $25b.
This, he said, is despite the giant strides recorded in the industry in the last eight years, adding that a greater part of the amount, should be expended in providing fibre optic network in every workplace, household, Federal, State, and LocalÂ government offices, as well as tertiary institutions and primary schools.
For him, â€œit is clear that the Federal Government needs to attract further investment into the telecom industry.Â That, will generate employment and also brings about fresh competition, with lower prices and better value for Nigerian customers, including private individuals, businesses and government.Â That means credible, experienced players and seasoned local management must be prioritised for recruitment, and Nigerians given the opportunity to invest upon advantageous terms, rather than overseas connections.â€
He noted thatÂ Nigeria needs to show industry leadership by having a national telecommunications carrier, with wide shareholding, attracting a foreign operational partner and providing career opportunities for Nigerian specialists beyond its borders, just as it consistently shows political and security leadership in Africa, in the African Union, ADB, resulting in interventions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Sudan.
â€œNow is the time for Nigeria to set a high standard for cooperation in developing the regional telecommunications industry.Â Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Benin, even Togo all have well-supported national operators.Â But Nigeria would be alone without a national telecom flag carrier, if NITEL is dismembered or cannibalized.â€
He added that â€œsince 2001 substantial foreign direct investment has flowed into Nigerian telecoms, providing a host of important services to the teeming private, commercial and public sectors.Â Foreign-controlled operators have made a welcome and massive contribution to the Nigerian economy and telecommunications industry, however, despite having local investment partners, all but one of the major telecoms networks in Nigeria, are controlled from abroad.
Any cross-border expansion opportunities are blocked.Â If any of them for example, already has operations in Benin and Cameroon, its Nigerian affiliate would not enjoy the opportunity to expand in the region.â€
Wood expressed displeasure that despite the rapid growth and development in Nigeriaâ€™s telecommunications industry, internet access, reliable long distance fixed network and international connections are neither world-class nor affordable, saying that by now there should be proper broadband internet access in every school, college and university.
He however gave kudos to the Federal Government and its agencies including the Federal Ministry of Information & Communications, the National Communications Commission, and the Bureau for Public Enterprises for the giant strides recorded in less than a decade of focus and concerted direction in the telecom industry, but advised that efforts should also be made to bring operatorsâ€™ costs down in order to ensure that rural populations do not wait forever.
â€œTowers are popping up everywhere, often right next to each other such as outside the Abuja airport terminal and the National Assembly.This wasteful expense means high costs are passed on to consumers.
In Malaysia, the government passed a law for compulsory tower sharing, with each of the state governments mandated to form a telecommunications infrastructure joint venture with private sector specialist companies.
Not only is environmental degradation avoided, but GSM, CDMA, WiMAX and other operators benefit from lower construction and operating costs, as well as much faster times to deploy new service capabilities,â€ he added.