By ADEDEJI FAKOREDE
NIGERIA’S recognition as a leading player in the African telecommunications ecosystem has again manifested as it takes full leadership control of the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organisation (CTO).
The CTO is the oldest and largest Commonwealth membership organisation in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and uses its experience and expertise to support members in using ICTs to deliver effective development interventions that enrich, empower and emancipate all peoples within the Commonwealth and beyond.
It supports members in delivering effective ICTs through its three operational divisions: research and consultancy; training and capacity development; and events and conferences.
CTO currently focuses on six key areas: regulatory environments, mobile broadband, cyber security, youth and ICTs, skills development and entrepreneurship, and ICTs and disability.
Indeed, Nigeria’s emergence may not have come as a surprise. This is because the country is currently the largest telecommunications market in Africa. It has well over 150 million active telephone lines, mobile Internet users of over 90 million, coupled with over $32 billion local and foreign direct investments (FDIs).
A tech-based research firm, Pyramid Research, rated the country as having one of the fastest telecommunications sector, with a yearly growth rate of 30 per cent.
While teledensity peaked at 107 per cent up from less than one per cent in 2001, the country had again recognised and developed a broadband policy which is expected to be an enabler of faster economic development.
In the National Broadband Plan, the country has set an auspicious 30 per cent broadband penetration target to be achieved by 2018 up from the six per cent penetration recorded in 2013. Broadband penetration currently stands at 10 per cent in the country.
Meanwhile, the conducive regulatory regime provided by the telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has been recognised locally and internationally as one of the key factors to the accelerated growth being recorded in the nation’s telecoms market.
Already, a number of telecoms regulators from across the African countries have also, at one time or the other, come to understudy the NCC. This feat has also propelled Nigeria to leadership position in some regional and International telecommunications organisations, which of course included the CTO, where Nigeria recently took over the leadership position.
CTO leadership mantle
The 54-member nations of the CTO rose from its yearly forum and council meeting held last week in Nairobi, Kenya with the election of Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the acting Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC as the new Chairman of the commonwealth body, a position help by the former NCC boss, Dr. Eugene Juwah until few weeks back. Chairmanship of the CTO, by its rules, is usually country-specific and the position is held by that country’s chief telecoms regulator. Nigeria won the position in 2014 and by yesterday’s election, the first tenure ended and another began.
Side by side with the election of Danbatta was the resumption of Shola Taylor as the Secretary- General and Chief Executive of CTO.
Taylor, an engineer was named Secretary-General on June 16, 2015 in London, United Kingdom and subsequently took oath of office during the opening of the CTO Forum 2015 held last week in Nairobi, Kenya.
The oath ceremony took place in the presence of over 400 participants, including representatives of over 30 member countries who attended the Forum which took place on September 16 17.
Bigger role for the NCC boss
With the re-election of Nigeria to the Chairmanship and Secretary General positions the country has effectively taken control of the affairs of the close-knit CTO and it would be expected to be a major force in championing telecommunications development, not only in its homeland but also deploys an Afro-centric approach to its regulation.
Meanwhile, the Director Public Affairs, NCC, Tony Ojobo, has thanked member nations for the honour done to Nigeria and assured that the new CTO leadership controlled by Nigeria will provide visionary leadership that will take the organisation to the next level.
“The CTO leadership, I believe, will continue to play greater role in telecoms regulations and policies by putting general commonwealth telecoms development agenda at the front burner,” he said.
Ojobo also commended the immediate past Secretary General, Prof. Tim Unwin, for his dedication to duty, which he said, had positively impacted on member nations towards engendering increased collaboration for wider access to telecommunications services.
On the administrative activities, Ojobo gave said that Taylor 35 years’ experience as a consummate and well-groomed engineer will be put to bear on the activities of CTO, saying it is hoped that Taylor “will translate many of those pending decisions to actions in the days ahead thereby taking the CTO to the next level, providing visionary leadership in the process.”
Making the difference
Speaking at the oath taking ceremony, Taylor assured of his readiness to work with necessary stakeholders towards making a difference in the telecoms landscape among the commonwealth nations.
He said: “I feel a high sense of responsibility to take this organisation to greater heights. It is indeed a big challenge and I am all set to build on the foundations of my predecessors. I did not take this job just to be seen talking. I want to make a difference and plant a new ICT tree at the CTO.”
More specifically, Taylor said he was determined to make a difference for all member countries in a number of areas such as mobile and amateur issues; science issues; aeronautical; maritime and radiolocation issues; fixed-satellite service; mobile-satellite service as well as satellite regulatory issues.
He promised to leverage on his robust national, regional and international experiences to unleash greater development in the member nations in the next one year.
Before his appointment as the Secretary- General of CTO, Taylor has been the Chief Executive of Kemilinks International, a global ICT Consultancy firm based in Lagos, Nigeria.
A telecommunications engineer by training, he brings his over 35 years of global telecommunications experience in ICTs with government and the private sector to CTO. He has consulted for several blue chip companies in Nigeria and the global ICT communities.
From 1994 and 1999, Taylor served as Regional Director of Inmarsat. He also served as Space Technology coordinator for developing countries at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) from 1993 to1994. He had earlier served as Project Director at ITU from 1987 to 1993.
Meanwhile, representing the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Deputy Secretary-General, Malcolm Johnson, expressed the readiness of the Union to collaborate with the CTO to advance the development of ICTs throughout the Commonwealth.
He expressed full confidence in the ability of Shola Taylor, who early in the year narrowly missed being the Secretary-General of ITU, to lead the Organisation successfully and wished him well.
According to stakeholders in the Nigeria’s telecommunications sector, the new leadership mantle bestowed on the country was a justification of the confidence and belief the member nations have in the Nigeria’s telecoms regulatory prowess, which, they said, had positioned the country as a force to reckon with in the global telecoms stage.
President of the Association of Telecoms Companies, Lanre Ajayi, said over the years, Nigeria has been playing noticeable role in the development of telecoms market in the African continent. “We have liberalized the sector and allowed more players to come into the market to play under good regulatory regime and this has deepened competition, which is good for the end users.”
Ajayi explained that Taylor’s rich experience will certainly impact positively on the CTO with Nigeria benefitting from this current position.
Also, a telecom analyst and Chief Executive Officer of AAA Infotek, Akin Akinbo, said Nigeria’s current position at CTO further reinforced its prominent role in instilling robust telecoms regulation at home and its ability to propel the needed growth in the commonwealth nations.
“This new status of Nigeria, taking full control of CTO leadership is something that we think will impact generally on commonwealth nations as they tap into the regulatory skills of Nigeria and specifically on Nigeria where the country is able to benefit from expected global collaboration with CTO,” said President, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo.
According to experts, while the current status of Nigeria as being at the helm of affairs of CTO has been lauded, the Taylor-led leadership has been tasked to explore more on how the Commonwealth region can effectively take a front position in the use broadband and other ICT tools for socio-economic transformation.