NIGERIA’S stellar participation at the ITU Telecom World 2016, Bangkok, Thailand has further underscored the sincerity of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to walk its talk in encouraging SMEs growth and innovation in the economy.
This commitment gels with the fourth item on the agency’s 8-Point Agenda namely to promote ICT Innovation and Investment Opportunities. This vision is aimed to promote ICT innovation in ways that improve the nation’s ability to compete in the global economy, through increased investment in youth and promotion of SMEs for the delivery of new business breakthrough.
The Commission’s strategy in achieving this vision is to facilitate and support the deployment and use of broadband networks as a platform for economic growth, innovation, job-creation, and global competitiveness by fostering increased strategic support for technology startups and SMEs.
Currently, investment in the telecom sector has hit US$68billion with US$35b coming from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) while investment in broadband connectivity, infrastructure remain the next frontier, according to the strategic focus of the Commission. This investment outlook clearly sees SMEs and tech innovators playing critical role and the NCC wants to be perceived as the catalyst for this feat.
SMEs innovators, industry players and stakeholders from Nigeria were among the 107 exhibiting tech-SMEs to the Telecom World 2016 with the general theme “Collaboration in the Digital Economy” signposting collaborative regulation, the connected car, smart sustainable cities, fostering SME innovation, new roles for the satellite industry and digital financial services. But Nigeria adopted the theme: “Smart Communities: the key to a digital Nigeria”.
As Yakubu Musa, Special Assistant Media to EVC-NCC, sees it: “ITU Telecom World represents the ultimate pilgrimage for the top echelons of the industry’s finest. It’s where they congregate, brainstorm and make far-reaching recommendations on how to move, unarguably the most dynamic industry in the world, forward. It’s one huge convergence that every nation hopes to explore to flaunt, to the rest of the world, what it has in abundance and thus ready to offer.”
The event afforded the Nigerian delegation, led by the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, a great platform to make an awesome investment pitch to the rest of the world. Nigerian SMEs and innovators that participated at the show did not win awards, but the exposure and networking that it provided would have lasting effects on them.
Umar Danbatta, NCC boss, used the platform to woo investors to take advantage of the immense window of opportunity opened up by the regulatory excellence of the commission under his watch, pushing the intimidating size and culture of the ICTs market that Nigeria commands.
“Nigerians love to communicate, no matter what difficulties we go through. The various indices of economic growth point to the fact that the telecommunications services will continue to be resilient, stable and therefore contribute to an average of between three to four billion dollars per quarter, every three months. The figures are there for all to see,” Danbatta explained.
According to the EVC, 60 per cent of the 8 Point- Agenda he rolled out earlier this year are only achievable with more deployment of telecommunications infrastructure. “I believe this is where investors can come in and take advantage of the climate, the ease of doing business in Nigeria, which has now greatly improved, as well as the flexible regulatory environment in the sector,” he added.
Secretary-General, ITU, Houlin Zhao spoke of the importance of ICTs as enablers, noting that “Within the ICT industry, it is the innovative small and medium enterprises – tech SMEs – that are key to industry disruption, to job creation, and to the technological innovations that are taking the industry forward.”
Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Mukhisa Kituyi commended the unique strengths of the event, providing dialogue between international organizations and the private sector to “collectively identify opportunities and challenges.” He also took the opportunity to inform delegates that UNCTAD was today joining the EQUALS initiative, which aims to tackle the gender digital divide.
Commending ITU as a “platform to manage the emerging digital ecosystem,” Director-General of Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), United Arab Emirates, Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori challenged delegates, as they began the debates, with topical questions such as “Can we ignore the value of collaboration?” or “Are we making sure we are applying enough innovation?” NCC has always bought into multi-stakeholder engagement as an effective and efficient approach to growing the national economy with strategic collaborations with sister agencies under the Ministry of Communications.