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FG and Microsoft announce development of high-speed internet infrastructure

The FG has revealed a joint project between itself and Microsoft for the development of high-speed internet infrastructure across the six regions in the country.

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Telecoms companies in Nigeria

The Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy revealed a joint project between the FG and Microsoft for the development of high-speed internet infrastructure across the six regions in the country.

This was disclosed in a statement by the media aide to the Presidency, Tolu Ogunlesi on Monday afternoon.

Details of the Microsoft deal

“Following discussions with ⁦the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and local partners, six regions in [Nigeria] have been earmarked for the development of high-speed internet infrastructure,” the joint statement said.

“Microsoft’s Airband Initiative has succeeded in bringing high-speed internet connectivity to underserved communities around the world, tapping into the unused broadcasting frequencies of television white spaces. The technology is cheaper and faster to deploy than fibre and has the added benefit of being able to travel long distances and through forested terrain,” it added.

What you should know

The number of internet subscribers in Nigeria increased from 126.1 million as of Q4 2019 to 154.3 million in Q4 2020, representing a 22.38% increase. Lagos, Kano, Oyo, FCT, and Ogun state recorded a total increase of 8.96 million new internet subscribers between 2019 and 2020, according to the Q4 2020 telecoms report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

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Microsoft Broadband Deal: Implications and how to maximize for AfCFTA

The world is gradually transitioning into a knowledge and digital economy and Nigeria cannot be left behind.

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Internet World Stats, Nigerian Communications Commission remittance, Network operators in Nigeria, Telecoms companies in Nigeria, MTN Nigeria, Airtel Africa, Globacom data, 9mobile court case, Top 10 states in Nigeria with the highest Internet subscribers , Telecommunications: The bright spot in a fragile economy, Telcos add 5.64 million voice and data subscribers in Q3 2019 - NBS , Alleged N200bn Debt: EFCC, DSS to probe telcos, Network glitch, as poor internet speed continues to impede banking services, Telecoms record 725% increase in foreign capital investment, as GDP contribution hits N6 trillion, Coronavirus: Instant messaging platforms, Telcos raking in funds from the work-from-home policy, Telecoms: Bright spot amidst the gloom, Nigerians lambast MTN, Airtel for offering free SMS, ignoring request for free data, airtime

On the 3rd of May, 2021, The Federal Government announced a deal with Microsoft through the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy for the development of high-speed internet infrastructure across the six regions in the country.

Microsoft disclosed in a statement saying: “Six regions in the country have been earmarked for the development of high-speed internet infrastructure. Microsoft’s Airband team will work closely with local partners to improve broadband connectivity in these communities while also assisting with the design and implementation of hyper-scale cloud services.”

The FG stated that Microsoft’s AirBand Tech has enabled rural and underserved communities gain access to high-speed internet connectivity, tapping into the unused broadcasting frequencies of television white spaces. The technology is also cheaper and faster to deploy than fibre and is coming at a time when telecoms have been the brightest spot of Nigeria’s economy in a period of declining growth.

With Nigeria looking to diversify the economy, deeper broadband penetration can act as a catalyst for Nigerian service exports for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Telecoms and Internet penetration in Nigeria

According to the last Gross Domestic Product Report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s information and communication sector grew by 13.8% in full-year 2020 compared to 11.08% recorded in 2019 and 9.65% in 2018, comprising majorly of Telecommunications and Information Services, Publishing, Motion Picture, Sound Recording, and Music Production, and Broadcasting.

The sector also contributed 15.06% to aggregate real GDP in Q4 2020, with Telecommunications & Information Services growing by 17.64% in Q4 2020 compared to 17.36% in Q3 2020 and 10.26% in Q4 2019.

Internet users

The Q4 2020 telecoms report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that the number of internet subscribers in Nigeria increased from 126.1 million as of Q4 2019 to 154.3 million in Q4 2020, representing a 22.38% increase, with Lagos, Kano, Oyo, FCT, and Ogun state recording a total increase of 8.96 million new internet subscribers between 2019 and 2020.

The reason for the sector’s impressive performance is not far-fetched as more Nigerians were home during the lockdowns and spent more time online, working remotely for Nigerian and foreign firms.

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Broadband Penetration

To develop a robust service sector economy, broadband penetration is needed to maximize service economy exports in IT, Finance, Entertainment, and many others.

According to a report by MICUS Management Consulting GmbH, “companies adopting broadband-based processes improve their employees’ labour productivity on average by 5% in the manufacturing sector and by 10% in the services sector. The development of broadband allows the acceleration and automation of information flow between companies, which enables an increased specialization in knowledge-intensive activities.”

With the rising number of internet users in Nigeria, broadband penetration has also witnessed a boost. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami disclosed last year that Nigeria increased its broadband penetration rate from less than 6% in 2015 to 43.30% by August 2020 which translates to 82, 653,247 broadband subscriptions in the country.

It is fair to say that with the rising broadband and internet penetration in Nigeria, the nation’s potential for skilled service export and trade is a gold mine that should be harnessed for future African trade, especially as Africa agrees to enter into tariff-free trade.

The AfCFTA

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement which took off on January 1, 2021, is expected to create the world’s largest free trade area measured by the number of countries participating. The pact which connects about 1.3 billion people across 54 countries with a gross domestic product (GDP) valued at $3.4 trillion, has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty.

Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) also urged that for the FG to maximize the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, it needs to direct its efforts into strengthening domestic value chains.

“Resource-based countries, such as Algeria, Egypt, and Nigeria – which collectively account for approximately 50% of Africa’s GDP – contribute only 11% to intra-African trade.

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In terms of intra-African exports, the estimates also showed that manufacturing exports will have increased by 110%  followed by agricultural exports (49%) and services exports (14%) by 2035.

Nigeria could reap more gains through export diversification away from crude oil, as manufacturing exports currently account for an average of 9 % cent of the country’s total exports,” Mr Laoye Jaiyeola, Chief Executive Officer, NESG said.

From what the NESG concluded, it is safe to say that Nigeria has enough potential to cover with Intra African trade, especially through broadband-inspired service exports, which will create employment and improve productivity.

Prince Nwafuru, an international trade lawyer with Paul Usoro & Co, leader of one of the Commercial Dispute Resolution & Litigation Teams, and a Nairametrics trade analyst says improved broadband penetration will lead to reduced costs and more productivity; and the added innovation infrastructure funding will boost innovation rankings for Nigeria.

What does improved broadband mean for Nigerian tech jobs and service jobs and how would it improve earnings?

“The world is gradually transitioning into a knowledge and digital economy and Nigeria cannot be left behind,” Nwafuru said.

“In order to build a strong ecosystem for the digital economy, Nigeria requires strong broadband and ICT infrastructure. The broadband penetration based on the last report from the NCC is less than 44% with the plan to reach 90% penetration over the next 5 years. The speed and cost of data remain a major challenge for the service and tech sectors. Faster internet is required to drive e-commerce and digital economy. Improved infrastructure will definitely lead to a reduction in the cost of doing business and increased earnings for the tech and services industries,” he added.

Bottomline

The tech and service ecosystem requires incentives and enabling infrastructure to scale and serve the large market that exists in Nigeria. Though the e-commerce space has recorded some growth in recent years more needs to be done to position Nigeria to serve the rest of Africa.

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Sadly, Nigeria was not even amongst the top 10 African Countries in the Global Innovation Index for 2020, which ranked Mauritius, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Egypt, Senegal, and Ghana above the country, despite the fact that Nigeria boasts of young and innovative population. This paradox further underscores the need for investment in enabling infrastructure to drive the needed growth which will position Nigeria in its pride of place on the continent.

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Spotlight Stories

Tip Jar, Twitter’s new giveaway feature that lets users send money to you

Twitter has introduced a new feature called Tip Jar that allows you send money to your favourite tweeters.

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US Elections: Twitter, Facebook suspend several news accounts

Twitter has introduced a new feature called Tip Jar that allows you send money to your favourite tweeters.

According to the blog post, “Tip Jar is an easy way to support the incredible voices that make up the conversation on Twitter. This is a first step in our work to create new ways for people to receive and show support on Twitter – with money.”

The new feature utilizes different payment platforms like PayPal, Venmo, Patreon, CashApp, and others.

Users can link their Twitter accounts with Tip Jar to any of these payment providers. Twitter takes no cut.

READ: Facebook is creating an audio chat product similar to Clubhouse

You’ll know an account’s Tip Jar is enabled if you see a Tip Jar icon next to the Follow button on their profile page. Tap the icon, and you’ll see a list of payment services or platforms that the account has enabled. Select whichever payment service or platform you prefer and you’ll be taken off Twitter to the selected app where you can show your support in the amount you choose.

Twitter has released series of features this year as part of its efforts to grow Twitter’s user base to 315 million daily active users by the end of 2023.

The company also launched Twitter crop where images don’t get crop again on Twitter for Android or iOS. Standard aspect ratio images (16:9 and 4:3) will now display in full without any cropping and images will look just like they did when you shot them.

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READ: Does YouTube stand a chance against TikTok?

Lauren Alexander, a Twitter spokesperson said, “Today’s launch is a direct result of the feedback people shared with us last year that the way our algorithm cropped images wasn’t equitable, The new way of presenting images decreases the platform’s reliance on automatic, machine learning-based image cropping.”

Twitter has tested several features and more will be rolled out soon.

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