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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

W.Afri.Tel: Celebration of speedy growth

5 Following the persistent unique growth of participation recorded over the years at the West African International Telecommunications (W.Afr.Tel) exhibitions and conferences, the nation’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies are routing for the eighth edition of the event.

This include the federal government who it was gathered has concluded arrangements to send a high-powered delegation to this year’s W.Afri.Tel, given the kind of attention it has drawn for Nigeria through attraction of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and growth recorded in the last eight years.

Historically, W.Afri.Tel which began just few months before the rolling out of commercial services on the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) in the country, that is, precisely in June 2001, is organised by Exhibition Management Services (Pty), owned by a Briton resident in South Africa, Mr. John Thomson, with the parent company being the Trade Fair Investments of United Kingdom (UK) with over 15 years experience.

Speaking recently on his vision for W.Afri.Tel, Mr. Thomson said, it’s to be the most professional and largest exhibition in its class for the West African sub-region and the event in its eighth year, no doubt event has achieved even more than that.

According to him, W.Afri.Tel has contributed immensely to the telecom revolution in Nigeria; that is coming when there was literally not much to talk about, thus bringing in investors, exhibitors and visitors from across the globe.

So far, the event has convinced foreign investors that Nigeria is indeed, the market to be in and it is interesting that Nigeria, which had less than 500,000 telephone lines prior to W.Afri.Tel initial entrance now has over 46 million lines and is still counting.

Therefore, it was not surprising that the government of the day has reason to celebrate and identify with W.Afri.Tel at this year’s event.

Latest information reaching ITRealms Online as at last weekend indicated that the Minister of Information and Communication, Mr. John Ogar Odey, his minister of state, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki Nakande, and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe have advanced plans to be present at the W.Afri.Tel 2008.

Sources close to the ministry in Abuja, said that Odey would lead the federal government’s delegation made up of top government functionaries to grace the opening session of the event.

Affirming this, the sole agent of W.AfriTel, the publishers of IT & Telecom Digest, stated that several other industry operators including professional associations, like the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria, Nigeria Internet Group, Association of Licensed Telephone Operators, among others, would be represented at the highest levels at the opening ceremony.

Chief host at the event and editor-in-chief of IT & Telecom Digest, Mr. Mkpe Abang, in a press statement made available to ITRealms Online said W.Afri.Tel has over time grown to become the sub-region’s leading and most professional exhibition on the ICT sector.

“From a time when foreign direct investment (FDI) in the ICT sector was just under $50 million, today, FDI to Nigeria through the sector stands at over $12 billion,” he said.

As said by him, leading operators in the telecom sector, including the second national operator, Globacom, Celtel Nigeria, Starcomms, and the newest mobile operator, Etisalat are all geared toward taking active part in this year’s W.AfriTel as exhibitors, just as Sony Ericsson, Netcom Africa among others are not left out.

Available information also showed that foreign ICT firms that took part last year came from far away Europe, Asia, Americas and other parts of the continent, especially from South Africa.

The organisers pointed out that though W.Afri.Tel has been consistent in taking place every June since 2001 with phenomenal growth of over 60 per cent each successive year. Its major challenge has been the search for spacious location to accommodate what they described as “increasing number of prospective exhibitors.”

Statistically, W.Afri.Tel cuts across telecommunications, Information Technology (IT), communication, electronic, oil and gas, professional, banking and legal, commercial, manufacturing as well as building and construction sectors of the economy respectively.

As the industry players warm up for the 2008, invariably expectations are high and only time would tell how it fared, especially given the number of visitors which increased over 1,500 recorded in 2001 to above 2,000 in 2002, while in excess of 2,800 in 2003, the year 2004 recorded over 3,500 even as 4,000 participating in 2005 with additional300 in 2006, the 2007 expectedly doubled against 2005 record, another groundbreaking record of participants is obvious this year.

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