In August 2012, Nigeria’s Federal Government announced that it planned to invest $15-million in the country’s ICT sector to assist growth and generate more jobs.
This kind of investment shows that Africa, and Nigeria specifically, is poised for expansion and prosperity in the ICT sectors. This is echoed by the fact that Africa already has approximately 695 million mobile phone users with Nigeria housing 99 million of those users.
Smartphones and Internet-enabled feature phone manufacturers have, to a large extent, led this growth by zoning in on Nigeria and providing a platform for innovation and creativity that is allowing for new opportunities and business growth.
Let’s examine how some of these platforms have transformed the continent.
Mobile services can help narrow educational barriers. Like many other African countries, Nigeria faces technical infrastructure challenges, and lacks computer literacy. One of the ways this has been combated is the incorporation and implementation of e-reader technologies that provide school children in the country with books via mobile phone-based e-readers, which also offer the advantage of interactivity.
Mobile banking was ‘born’ in Africa and used for the first time in Kenya through the use of a service called M-pesa. In Nigeria, Mobile Money Transfer is picking up speed. In fact, two thirds of mobile phone users in Nigeria do not currently have access to formal financial services. As a result, by empowering the Nigerian population with access to banking services, opportunities then exist for new job creation, business development and of course the entrepreneurial spirit that often defines this country. According to industry analysts, the next three years will see almost 20 million Nigerians expected to form part of the formal banking system via mobile money which shows the services popularity.
As a transformational tool, mobile technology has – and continues to – assist the health sectors across Africa. As new and innovative mobile apps emerge, these can help change the way the healthcare industry operates. In fact, stakeholders at a recent mobile health (mHealth) workshop in Nigeria, voted in favour of adopting mobile healthcare systems which they believe will assist in obtaining information which will aid research, while making it easy to provide the right medical solutions. This is echoed by the fact that recent research found that 20% of mobile phone users in the country use their devices for health‐related needs; including providing access to emergency services and treatment of rapidly spreading diseases, such as HIV.
Productivity in Business:
In the enterprise environment, mobile communications have had varying effects on productivity. As an example, First City Monument Bank, one of the leading banks in Nigeria, relies mainly on fibre‐optic and VSAT satellite networks. This means that today this financial institution is equipped with more than 3 000 computers throughout the bank and via the power of mobile communication – where the PC can speak to mobile phones – it is able to keep its staff connected with current and potential clients anytime and anywhere.
As the mobile phone industry in Africa continues to grow, there are numerous opportunities that could lead to growth and profit for clever investors and innovators.
It has been said that if Africa were a gun, Nigeria would be the “trigger”– and a fast actioning one at that. Analogies aside though, there is no denying that Nigeria is not only well positioned and established to take full advantage of foreign direct investment opportunities, but the country itself is well poised to shadow competing nations on the continent in a wake of dust as sectors and industries in the country – especially the ICT sector at current – continue to explode with opportunity.
Yaron Assabi, CEO of Digital Solutions Group