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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Nweke, Isoun for ATCON franchise forum

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) minister, Mr. Frank Nweke and his counterpart in the Science and Technology Ministry, Prof. Turner Isoun, are billed to lead delegates to the Franchise forum being organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).

President, ATCON, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, who disclosed this said that minister of state for Communications, Dr. Obafemi Anibaba, Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Cleopas Officer Angaye and the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Chuka Ndukwe as well as the Director, Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), Mrs. Lolia Emakpore and Director-General, Small & Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Mrs. Modupe Adelaja are among top government officials slated to grace the event.

Dr. Ekuwem who spoke through the Executive Secretary, ATCON, Mr. Godwin Morgan also said that other dignitaries have been invited from the private sector including chief executives of telecom companies, banks and non-bank financial institutions, oil & gas companies in addition to representatives of local and multinational funding agencies as well as high network personalities from all sectors including the mass media.

ATCON said the one-day forum is being organised in collaboration with the NCC, and USPF and would play host to telecommunications stakeholders at the event scheduled to hold on Friday, March 30, 2007 at the Golden Gate Paradise, Ikoyi, Lagos based on the theme: “Telecom Franchise and Virtual Operation: Accelerating Service Provisioning in Rural Nigeria.”

Also, ATCON reiterated the group’s support for the universal access policy of the government of Nigeria, currently being implemented by NCC and USPF.

By this forum, ATCON said its using the forum to complement the efforts of the government, NCC and USPF “by assembling telecom industry experts and their counterparts from other relevant economic sectors to brainstorm on the potentials of adopting the franchise system and virtual operation as strategic business models with great potentials for driving the rapid expansion of telecom and other ICT services to all parts of the country, especially in the unserved rural areas.

In line with this vision, ATCON said that recent studies have revealed that telecommunications development in Nigeria has its concentration mostly in the urban and commercial centres, stressing that the reasons are simple.

“Poor infrastructural development of our rural areas, low commercial activities, low purchasing power of rural dwellers, low population, hostilities in some local regions to name a few,” Ekuwem said.

The aforementioned, he said, are enough reasons to discourage big investors from investing in the rural areas, as economic viability is the watch word of any profit oriented business,” Ekuwem said.

He emphasised that there are some local entrepreneurs who may be interested in investing in telecom and other ICT businesses in the remote areas but do not have the prerequisite for obtaining the relevant operating licences from NCC.

“With a well tailored franchise systems and appropriate virtual operation model, these set of investors could participate as franchisees of big licensed network operators in bringing ICT services closer to the grassroots,” he said.

Therefore, he said, the forum would examine telecom franchise and virtual operation as business models that could attract more investors to participate in further expanding telecommunications and ICT services to such areas that have not been served, without necessarily obtaining licences of their own from the NCC.

He said that discussants at the forum would dwell on what would be the format of contractual agreements between the franchisor and franchisee? What would be the guarantees and safeguards between a franchisor and a franchisee? What policy and regulatory framework would the NCC provide to strengthen franchising agreements? What level of funding could the banks and non-bank financial institutions provide to promote telecom franchising? What kind of investment incentives and support could States and Local Governments give to small and medium entrepreneurs to encourage their participation in telecom services franchising?

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