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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Odufuwa picks Nigeria, SA as global players

NIGERIA and South Africa have the potentials of emerging as the world’s largest information and communication technology (ICT) markets after Britain, Russia , India and China (BRIC) if these potentials are properly harnessed, according the African Director at Nova Global Markets Group, Mr. Fola Odufuwa, reports CHARLES OKOH.

Speaking during a two-day seminar organised by Technology Africa at the MUSON Centre Onikan-Lagos, recently, Mr. Odufuwa said the BRIC nations are believed by global economists to become the most dominant players by 2050.

These countries, he said, cover a quarter of the world’s land mass, 40 per cent of world’s population and have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) in excess of $75 trillion.

“Over the past 20 years, the BRIC countries have initiated successful economic and political reforms, embraced global capitalism, stressed education, adopted innovative technologies, attracted solid foreign investments, encouraged domestic consumption and empowered local entrepreneurs,” he said.

He added that a similar theory has been proposed by African economists that South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt (SANE) would lead Africa into a renaissance as the continent’s biggest markets.

Of these African countries, he noted that Nigeria and South Africa are widely believed to hold the potentials of becoming the world’s next markets following BRIC.

Mr. Odufuwa said that the SANE countries currently have over a third of the population of Africa, half of its GDP, and reserves in excess of $200m.

He further said that whereas Nigeria has overtaken South Africa as the biggest telecoms market and has the largest number of internet users in SENA but has only 500 broadband users compared to South Africa (165,300), Algeria (195,000) and Egypt (205,500).

As said by him, telephone penetration is less than a third of the Nigerian population as only 29 per cent of Nigerians have access to telephone compared to 85 per cent of South Africans, stating that even this figure is doubtful because the trend in the country is multiple phone ownership.

Odufuwa said that factors such as an unfilled market gap for wholesale telecoms infrastructure including national satellite, submarine cables and national transmission trunks.

The absence of which, he said, is responsible for the widespread poor quality of services observed at the retail end of the telecoms services.

He added that telecoms infrastructure itself depends heavily on public power, the absence of which diminishes the growth capability of domestic business.

He said that there is also a need to confront officialdom (red tape and bureaucracy) evidenced by multiple taxation of operators, multi-level industry regulation of different agencies and layers of government, redundant licenses as well as need to make a success of several innovative interventions of government such WiN, SABi and USPF.

The Nigerian telecoms markets, he stated, is competitively inefficient because of common pricing of services across networks, low levels of innovation and absence of contemporary solutions as emergency services, toll-free lines etc.

Dysfunctional legacy networks and the inability of the second national operator to effectively compete with Nitel 6 years after licensing, monopoly of SAT-3, rudimentary payment systems and exclusion from the ecommerce universe as well as market domination by a few extremely big players, he said, are some of factors that are inhibiting the growth of the country in ICT.



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