Telcos challenge FG to close $120bn internet funding gap

Telecommunication companies in Nigeria have called on the federal government to map out clear-cut policies to develop the information technology sector, which they say requires about $120 billion to send internet to every part of the country.

At the 2019 edition of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) Telecom Executives and Regulators Forum (TERF), the industry stakeholders and investors lamented that whereas the country needs $120 billion investments in the telecoms sector, only a paltry $2 billion is available as interventions funds from the federal government.

According to them, the intervention is too insignificant to impact on the sector, hence, investors have refused to access the fund.

At the telecom industry flagship event, investors weighed available internet infrastructure financing options, including a possible utilisation of the pension fund to develop the sector; deliberated on formulation of policy and regulation for OTTs; scrutinised regulation and policies on cloud computing and cybersecurity threats, as well sought ways to eradicate the influx of cloned phones and other telecoms devices into Nigeria.

On funding telecoms and ICT investments, a panel of investors discussed how the deficit in Nigerian telecom infrastructure could be financed and concluded that the challenge was a hard nut to crack, as the gap between financing need and available investment remained dangerously wide. They said the gap cannot be funded by private investors.

“In the whole issue of internet infrastructure development, there is an obvious truth and that truth is that we are all paying lip service to internet penetration in Nigeria. The problem is, we lost out the critical role of the incumbency. The gap in internet penetration cannot be funded by private investors,” said Martins Akingba, general manager, e-Stream Network Limited.

“Government must build open access infrastructure in-country to connect not just the capital cities of the states, but also the local government capitals. The lip service we have been paying to connectivity penetration has to change and the government is the only changer. In-country distribution is the way out and only the federal government can do it,” Akingba stressed.

Aminu Buhari, CEO HD Technologies, who said the National Communication Commission (NCC) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said not more than $2 billion has been raised under the CBN-NCC intervention, but noted that telecoms investors have not made good efforts at accessing the fund.

“We have to be more realistic about what government can do,” he said.
Other investors who reacted to the panel’s discussion, charged the CBN to inculcate the telecom sector in its development plans, noting that information technology is a driver of every sector of the economy.‎