NCC: Nigeria Getting It Right On Telecom Reforms

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By Emmanuel Akinbile

At a time when the various sectors of the economy are taking the hit from the economic challenges and the cost-of-living crisis besetting Nigeria, the telecommunications sector has remained a beacon of hope in the ability of the country to get it right. In addition to the good foundation that was laid by successive leadership of the industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the incumbent leadership of the Commission has demonstrated a capacity to innovate and evolve to address contemporary challenges while setting the industry on the path of sustainability.

That leadership is embodied by the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) and Chief Executive Officer of NCC, Dr Aminu Maida, whose appointment in October 2023 signaled a continuation of the culture of professional excellence that perpetually aligns the telecommunications industry in Nigeria with the best practices obtainable in other parts of the world.

A trending approach in the liberal markets globally is that of the regulator not being despotic but rather collaborative, something that Maida brought on board, or amplified since assuming duties as the chief regulator of the sector. He has in this regard held interactive sessions with critical stakeholders in the industry during which he shared his vision. People, Collaboration, Data-Driven Decision Making, Compliance and Digitization. People, which he sees as the biggest asset in which investment would be made in skills and capabilities to drive the desired changes in capabilities.

Collaboration, in which the Maida leadership is taking a co-creative approach to regulatory activities and the Commission’s intervention initiatives aimed at transforming the industry. Data-driven decision-making that aims to eliminate subjectiveness and promote transparency, innovation and growth of the Commission and Industry. Compliance, which the Commission will meticulously monitor among its licensees to ensure they meet regulatory obligations. Digitization as his leadership leverages technology to optimize existing processes to ultimately enhance efficiency or regulatory activities.

Maida’s revamp builds on the progress of the recent years in which Nigeria made noteworthy strides in the telecommunications sector, transforming the way Nigerian citizens access information, communicate, and conduct business. Spearheaded by visionary leadership and strategic reforms, Nigeria has leveraged telecommunications to propel economic growth, promote digital inclusion, and empower its citizens.

One of the most notable achievements of Nigeria’s telecom reforms is the remarkable increase in connectivity and access to mobile telephony and internet services. With a population of over 200 million people spread across diverse geographical landscapes, ensuring widespread access to telecommunications services has been a formidable challenge. However, through strategic policies and initiatives, the NCC has succeeded in expanding network coverage to previously underserved areas, bridging the digital divide and empowering millions of Nigerians with access to communication and information resources. Through effective licensing and spectrum management, the NCC has encouraged investment in infrastructure development, leading to the deployment of advanced technologies such as 4G and 5G networks.

The regulatory environment under the past leadership has been characterized by transparency, accountability, and fairness, providing a conducive framework for investment and business growth in the telecom sector. The NCC has implemented robust regulatory measures to safeguard consumer rights, promote healthy competition, and ensure the sustainability of the telecom industry, and these are part of the structures which Dr. Aminu Maida the focus areas and approach are building upon, ensuring continuity and progress.
Furthermore, Nigeria’s telecom reforms have fostered a thriving ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship, unleashing the creative potential of its youth population. The expansion of mobile technology has catalyzed the emergence of innovative solutions in various sectors, including finance, healthcare, agriculture, and education.

Mobile payment platforms have revolutionized financial services, empowering millions of Nigerians with access to banking and payment solutions. Similarly, e-learning platforms are transforming the education landscape, providing students with access to quality educational resources and opportunities for skill development.

With the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) under the leadership of Dr. Aminu Maida, who pledged that transparency would form the bedrock of his leadership as Nigeria’s chief telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) remains committed to fostering an enabling environment for investment and innovation, promoting competition, and safeguarding the interests of consumers. Through strategic partnerships with the private sector, government agencies, and international organizations, Nigeria is poised to integrate its position as a leading telecommunications hub in Africa and beyond.

His projected approach to the implementation of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) will bring a notable change in accelerating broadband penetration across the country. Recognizing the pivotal role of broadband in driving socio-economic development, the NCC, in collaboration with stakeholders, has worked tirelessly to increase broadband coverage and affordability.

Consequently, while Nigeria has witnessed a significant increase in internet penetration, fostering digital inclusion and enabling citizens to participate in the global digital economy, the country can look forward to even greater access to connectivity.

Moreover, Nigeria’s telecom reforms have been instrumental in driving economic growth and job creation, contributing significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment generation. The telecom sector has emerged as a key driver of economic diversification, attracting foreign direct investment and fostering a vibrant ecosystem of service providers, vendors, and technology partners. With the advent of digital platforms and online marketplaces, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are leveraging technology to expand their reach, increase efficiency, and create employment opportunities.

Nigeria’s telecom sector is poised for further growth and innovation, with the rollout of 5G technology presenting exciting opportunities for enhanced connectivity, digital transformation, and the emergence of new services and applications. The NCC remains committed to fostering an enabling environment for investment and innovation, promoting competition, and safeguarding the interests of consumers. Through the kind of strategic partnerships with the private sector, government agencies, and international organizations as Maida has hinted at, Nigeria is well-positioned to consolidate its position as a leading telecommunications hub in Africa and beyond.

Nigeria’s telecom reforms have fostered a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, unleashing the creative potential of its vibrant youth population. The proliferation of mobile technology has catalyzed the emergence of innovative solutions in various sectors, including finance, healthcare, agriculture, and education. Mobile payment platforms have revolutionized financial services, promoting financial inclusion and empowering individuals with access to banking and payment solutions. Similarly, e-learning platforms have transformed the education landscape, providing students with access to quality educational resources and opportunities for skill development.

The regulatory environment in Nigeria’s telecom sector has played a pivotal role in fostering investment, competition, and consumer protection. The NCC has implemented robust regulatory measures to ensure transparency, fairness, and accountability in the industry. Through effective licensing and spectrum management, the NCC has encouraged investment in infrastructure development, leading to the deployment of advanced technologies such as 4G and the impending rollout of 5G networks. By promoting healthy competition and safeguarding consumer rights, the NCC has created an environment conducive to business growth and innovation.

Since the beginning of his administration, Maida has made a strong push for improved quality service, which he has now refocused on consumer quality of experience. He had said his administration at the regulatory body would not tolerate poor network service, warning the telecom operators to up their game, a charge that he is backing up by escalating interventions to address the concerns raised by operators in terms of factors that militate against their ease of doing business.

His vision, People, Collaboration, Data-Driven Decision Making, Compliance and Digitization is certainly being professionally acted upon to yield results, especially through the strategic focus on consumers, the government, licensees and industry.

In conclusion, Dr. Aminu Maida’s leadership at the Nigerian Communications Commission has been instrumental in driving Nigeria’s telecom sector to new heights of success and innovation consistent with the challenging legacies that preceded him.

He must sustain resourceful leadership, strategic initiatives, and commitment to excellence, laying the foundation for a digital revolution that is transforming Nigeria’s socio-economic landscape and empowering its citizens to realize their full potential in the digital age.

As Nigeria continues its journey of digital transformation, Dr. Maida’s will endure as a testament to the power of visionary leadership in driving positive change and progress.

Akinbile wrote this piece from Ikorodu, Lagos.