REMMY NWEKE in this report reviews how the West African Internetional Telecommunications (W.Afri.Tel) annual show has added to the rise of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Information and Communication Technology sector of the economy.
Since the coming of the West African International Telecommunications and Information Communications Exhibition (W.Afri.Tel), seven years ago, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has no doubt witnessed tremendous growth in driving the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Nigeria.
It is so remarkable that the contributions of FDI in general in the nation’s economy is now running closely behind the oil and gas sector and is anticipated to over-run oil and gas in no distance future.
Described severally as the West Africa’s most important, professional and respected exhibition that is attended by companies from across the world; from Europe to Asia, America down to the host continent, Africa.
In what started as W.Afri.Tel at the New Expo Centre, Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, and organised by Exhibition Management Services (Pty) Ltd of South Africa, a subsidiary of Trade Fair Investments of United Kingdom (UK).
Remarkably, W.Afri.Tel has been consistent in taking place every June since year 2001 with exceptional growth recording between 50-60 per cent each succeeding year and as persistently faced with the challenge of searching for more space to accommodate the increasing number of prospective exhibitors.
Although available statistics have it that core visitors to the annual show are the main telecommunications companies cutting across Information Technology (IT) sub-sector, communication sector, electronics, oil and gas, professional, banking and legal sector as well as commercial, manufacturing and building and construction sub-sectors respectively.
The role of participants in purchasing decisions from their various sectors, according to statistics made available to Champion Infotel indicated that final decision makers recorded 37.60 per cent, those recommending a decision 39.75 per cent, specifying of products 7.90 per cent and others 14.75 per cent.
Relatively, visitor’s job function include that of chief executive officers recording 40.10 per cent, sales & marketing, 12.80 per cent, senior management, 14.20 per cent, professionals 11.06 per cent, consultants 4.35 per cent, technical management 4.05 per cent, general operating management 3.90 per cent, research & development 1.85 per cent, technicians 2.35 per cent, education and training 2.00 per cent and other 3.34 per cent.
Champion Infotel also gathered that over 1,500 visitors recorded in 2001 have grown to over 2,000 in 2002, and 2,800 in 2003. Also over 3,500 was recorded in 2004, over 4,000 in 2005 and in essence of 5,300 recorded in 2006, whereas W.Afri.Tel 2007 is expected to record over 7,000 visitors.
The green leave for this growth is being attributed to the partnership EMS had with one of the leading IT & Telecom Digest, as its Sole Nigeria agent for W.Afri.Tel.
Roll call of exhibitors
Exhibitors expected at this year’s W.Afri.Tel, according to the organisers include Globacom, Celtel, Sony Ericsson, Samsung Electronics, Accat, Netcom Africa, Cyberspace, Gilat Satcom, Hyperia, Briscoe Companies, Direct-on-PC, Swift Networks, Galaxy Backbone, Reliance Telecom, Dasat Network, Danisat.
Also expected are DCC Satellite & Networks, Hakel Trade, Hansen, Mweb, Alteq (ICT), Alpha Technologies, Eurotech, and Dizengoff as well as Starcomms, iCell, SkyVision, Simbanet, Cobranet, Skylinks, Satlynks, Battery Tech and Su-Kam Solar.
Although W.Afri.Tel commenced in June 2001, two months before the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) services actually started, the exhibition has been very instrumental, at the beginning, and continuous in helping to focus global attention on the Nigerian ICT industry.
As said by the chief executive of EMS, Mr. John Thompson, W.Afri.Tel has been at the forefront in bringing global telecom equipment manufacturers to exhibit, for the first time, in Nigeria, thereby instilling confidence in the foreign investor about the Nigerian economy.
He also said, W.Afri.Tel has been growing rapidly over the last three years doubling its growth, with last year being more than double the growth in particular the number of visitors and the calibre of exhibitors.
Noteworthy is that having recognised W.Afri.Tel’s potentials in driving their businesses, many leading Nigerian ICT companies, telecom operators, mobile operators, equipment vendors have come to take W.Afri.Tel as their priority ICT show in Nigeria, hence it was not surprising that every other year, the event has become known as the biggest and the best organised professional exhibition in the West African sub-region.
Just as the organisers through its sole agent in Nigeria appointed Alteq ICT Ltd as the conference managers for WAFICT 2007, which would be marketed and managed by Red Sapphire Nigeria Limited, there has been positive responses for this year’s event.
“We are already receiving positive responses from various stakeholders in the ICT industry in support of the conference as several big industry players have signed up for the event. They include: Globacom, Celtel Nigeria, Sony Ericsson, Huawei Technologies, Starcomms, LG Electronics, Reltel Wireless, Mweb and several Information and Communications Technology Companies in the UK and the West African Sub-region,” the editor-in-chief of IT & Telecom, Mr. Mkpe Abang informed.
This, he said, means W.Afri.Tel is living up to its billing as the regional most sought after exhibition in Sub-Saharah, stressing that even before the advertisement campaign commenced few weeks back, “the booths for the event have been completely sold out,” in what the organisers describe as a reflection of the important role W.Afri.Tel has been playing particularly in the Nigerian ICT sector for the last seven years since the event was instituted, and has been steadfast ever since.
He added that though scores of companies’ spirited efforts to get stands at the event were unfruitful many others were lucky having planned early for the show, saying “Its unfortunately we’re not able to provide space for companies that could not get stands although and wished we could be of help.”
Leading the pack
He cited for example, that the nation’s second national carrier and the emerging toast of Africa’s telecom sector, Globacom, is among the lucky few who planned ahead and were able to secure stands at the event, noting that W.Afri.Tel has always been faced with space challenges as it has outgrown the New Expo Centre at the Eko Hotel & Suites, where it made its debut in June 2001.
In addition, leading its Africa-wide campaign, Celtel Nigeria also comfortably anchored at W.Afri.Tel, even as Sony Ericsson, which has since taken the Nigerian market by storm, and Samsung, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of mobile phones and semiconductors as well as iCell, the Middle East and Africa-wide distributor of mobile phones secured stands at the sub-regional expo.
Mr. Abang pointed out that from the Internet provision sub-sector are leaders like Netcom Africa, Hyperia, Direct-on-PC, Mweb, Cyberspace, Cobranet, just as telephone operators Reliance Telecom and 21st Century Technologies have since joined others in the show, including leading equipment vendors such as Accat and Briscoe Companies are to showcase their products and services at W.Afri.Tel 2007.
The nation’s largest Third Generation (3G) Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network operator, Starcomms, already sitting comfortably at over half a million lines maintained its traditional spot at the front just as Dizengoff, the two-way radio equipment vendor and leading VSAT company systems integrator, DCC Satellite and Networks returns to the show full of promises.
WACIT at a glance
Champion Infotel investigations also revealed that this year’s event slated to hold from next week Tuesday, June 5 through Thursday, 7, 2007, would equally resurrect the West African ICT (WAFICT 2007) congress with confirmed participation of global, regional and national players in the ICT world.
The organisers also said that WACIT-07 would run concurrently with the exhibition at the Eko Hotel and Suites, with the theme, “Driving West Africa’s Economic Growth with ICT: Technologies, Products, Policies.”
They also said that the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, would deliver the keynote address at the opening session, while high level speakers at the conference have been drawn from senior executives of various ICT organisations in both the public and private sectors and include telecom operators, hardware and software manufacturers, policy, regulatory and enforcement agencies, internet service providers and IT executives in banks, the oil industry as well as other user organisations.
Apart from Dr. Ndukwe, other speakers billed to mount the podium at WACIT congress 2007 include the Chief Operating Officer of Globacom, Nigeria’s second national operator, Mr. Mohamed Jameel, and Starcomms chief executive, Mr. Maher Qubain, who would be leading a list of key industry operators as speakers at the conference.
Speakers being drawn from the entire industry, academia, manufacturers and network operators, are expected to address several issues including growing the Nigerian market, ICT penetration, development and shaping the evolving landscape among other sub-themes.
They would also examine the Nigerian software industry, local and international hardware Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) in the Nigerian market. Cisco Systems, a global leader in connectivity will be playing a key role at the conference speaking on the Nigerian connectivity market, just as others will look at diverse areas from Dial-Up to Broadband and Internet Service Provision in Nigeria.
In its futuristic characteristic, the conference would also discuss Nigeria’s telecommunications industry and what lies ahead, while assessing the Unified Licensing regime introduced by the NCC in 2006, as well as analysing how licence holders have performed to date and what still needs to be done as the sector progresses.
Additionally, Champion Infotel gathered that stakeholders at WACITD would be dwelling on what should be the priorities of rollout of 3G? While an attempt would be made to answer this weighty question given that Nigeria has issued four 3G licences without loosing sight of its impact on education.
The organisers noted that education in Nigeria would occupy a key area of discussion during the conference, as Jacques Van Schalkwyk, Vice President Intel Middle East and Africa, has been pencilled down to speak on this vital area, even as sub-theme has been developed in areas of education and Information Technology in Nigeria, Can one computer per Nigerian child be achieved? Teacher training and the use of ICT for learning, Digitising the curriculum for use online, Can Nigeria maintain growth without significant investment into connectivity infrastructure? What connectivity bottlenecks hurt Nigerian business most? And can Nigeria create effective public-private partnerships to deliver better connectivity infrastructure services?
Just as the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Cleopas Angaye would be dwelling on “Accelerating growth of Nigeria’s ICT penetration,” with others zeroing in on “Deploying computers in the Nigerian Market; Adoption rates in local markets, OEM challenges in the regional environment, Changing profiles of ICT needs, Aligning Nigeria with international demands.
Overview by Thompson
Celebrated as the most successful and best-organised ICT event in the West African region, W.Afri.Tel often leaves a memorable tale behind after each edition. Thus the enthusiasm at witnessing another year of the show is understandable, and this led to many companies that have become familiar with how competitive getting a stand at the event can be, preparing early and grabbing the available spaces.
Speaking further, Mr. Thompson who expressed excitement on the growth dimension of telecom on the continent and particularly of Nigeria’s leading role said the continued rise in foreign direct investment (FDI) into Nigeria’s telecom is a “renewed confidence in the country’s economy as a peaceful environment where people- foreigners and indigenes now transact businesses without let or hindrance.”W.Afri.Tel, he noted as an event aimed at apparently in furtherance of this growth in Nigeria’s telecom sector, described it thus, “today Africa’s mobile phone subscriber-base exceeds 100 million but that is only 11 per cent of the continent’s population. The African telecoms market is booming; but the fact is only the surface has been scratched, and Nigeria sure has taken the lead proving that the potential is still immense. We are glad that W.Afri.Tel has contributed in its own way towards this growth in the Nigerian telecom sector.”