By Prince Osuagwu & Laide Akinboade
Ahead of its upcoming event, ITU Telecom world, in Geneva, next month, the Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, Dr Hamadoun Toure, was in Abuja, Nigeria weekend, to attend the maiden edition of the African Telecom Development Forum.
The forum was organised to look at the development parameters of the continent and harness ways of achieving sustainable growth.
Toure who delivered a keynote address at the event held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotels Abuja, was particularly proud that the contributions of the Nigerian telecoms development has helped a lot to put Africa on the top spot of world telecommunications today.
He however admonished that a sound government policy was part of what it takes to sustain the achievement else there would be a retrogression.
Toure was at home in Nigeria and did not mince words in celebrating Nigeriaâ€™s chief telecommunications regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission, for championing telecoms development that has become a model in the whole of Africa and beyond.
â€œIt is a great pleasure to be here with you in Abuja today to discuss Nigeriaâ€™s ICT development, ICT development challenges and opportunities for the African continent as a whole.
It has been an extraordinary decade for Africa – and it gives me great personal pleasure to see how the continent has taken huge steps forward in bringing connectivity to Africaâ€™s people.
Just ten years ago, virtually nobody in Africa had a mobile phone; today across the continent mobile cellular subscription teledensity has reached 32.6 percent with some 250 million subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa alone. The spread of mobile telephony has also become much more equitable. Back in the year 2000, South Africa alone accounted for three quarters of sub-Saharan Africaâ€™s mobile cellular subscriptions. By the beginning of this year it was just one fifth – and Nigeria is now the continentâ€™s largest market, with over a quarter of all subscriptionsâ€
Toure noted that operators have been quick to spot market opportunities and boost mobile uptake by promoting the use of prepaid services and making them more convenient for low-income users. This includes offering features such as low denomination airtime recharges and â€˜per-secondâ€™ billing, so that here in Nigeria, for example, recharges are available for as little as 50 naira
$55b telecom investment expected
AT a world press conference the following day, TourÃ©, hinted that about $55 billion investment was expected in the Information Communications Technology (ICT), sector in Africa.
Reason for such huge investment, according to him, was to ensure the creation of jobs and development of ICT as well as addressing the problem of food shortages in the continent.
For him it was time for the continent to stop depending on charity because the continent as a whole has lot of potentials in the ICT sector, with Nigeria having the highest number of phone subscription in the Africa continent and one of the highest growing ICT nations in the world.
â€œIn three days of the summit we got a commitment of investment of $55 billion and profit will be made, this is not as a result of charity. It is investment that will be made on the continent. In 2008 about $8 billion was invested in ICT sector in Africa alone, apart from $3.5 billion in the year 2000. I am sure that $55 billion will come by the end of 2015. Africa continent have opportunity to develop in ICT.
â€œJust ten years ago, virtually nobody in Africa had a mobile phone; today mobile cellular subscription teledensity has reached 32.6 per cent, and more than 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa access the Internet. What is needed now is a major push forward in broadband accessâ€.
Simple approach for growth
Toure noted that â€œthe African countries are still lacking behind in development but in ICT sector, but we can move forward. The approach is very simple. For the past 50 years our development in Africa was based on charity; Africa is always asking for help even when we have over 600 million people. In ICT sector we need no help what we need is public, private partnership; we have to put very good policy, for the continent to develop especially using the ICT sector in the continent. Therefore I call on the leadership in Africa to take up the challenge.â€
Toure noted, “before now Nigeria was insignificant in the development of ICT in the Africa continent but that was no longer the case after the year 2000. Considering the population of Nigeria, the nation has a lot of potentials in development of ICT. In fact Nigeria has the highest number of phone users in the continent” he added. He challenged Nigeria to use ICT to get to its rightful place in the continent.
According to him, â€œNigeria was insignificant in 2000, in the number of phones, then one third of the phones in the continent were in South Africa, today one fourth of phones in the continent are in Nigeria so Nigeria is taking it rightful place in the Africa continent.
For the first time in the world for the first time in ICT sector, Africa in the last five years, is in the forefront of ICTÂ growth in the world.Â There is still a lot of room for ICT to grow in the continent.â€ Toure who also visited the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili in her office said Nigeria has the highest a significant growth in the telecoms industry.
â€œThe Four billion mark of mobile phone subscription has been possible due to the vibrant nature of the Nigeria private sector.â€Â He said
The Secretary General commended the Federal government on the proposed switched from analogue to digital by the year 2012 deadline in the nation, saying â€œIn 2015, there will be full digital broadcasting to enable it cut energy consumption.â€
Prof. Akunyili in her response said the fact that an African is the Secretary General shows that the continent is developing and this feat should be celebrated.