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Taking a closer look at Nigeria’s connectivity evolution

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Lagos Nigeria
The National Broadband Plan aims to improve internet usage and connectivity across Nigeria’s states. (Image Source: afritramp.fr)

Recent research from the World Bank identified broadband and connectivity as key drivers for economic growth. Therefore, it is not surprising to see many countries and governments around the world investing significantly in their communication infrastructures.

Africa is no exception to this trend, with Nigeria posing an interesting example. In 2014, the country became the strongest economy in Africa with a GDP of $568.51 billion USD. With strong figures such as these, the government is looking to continue the momentum with national initiatives like the National Broadband Plan.

The National Broadband Plan aims to improve internet usage and connectivity across Nigeria’s states. Its mission statement summarises its objectives eloquently, “The Federal Government of Nigeria recognises the immense socio-economic importance of broadband services to national development and therefore seeks to ensure that the infrastructure necessary to provide ubiquitous broadband services is available and accessible to all citizens at affordable rates.”

The end-goal should be applauded and the results of coordinating internal agencies with increased financial investment does appear to be having a positive effect on services. Internet penetration has risen 6% since 2013, which shows the importance of long-term planning.

One factor in Nigeria’s favour is the country’s geographical position and its existing investment in submarine cables. This enables the country to provide connectivity to international firms looking to leverage the West African region, which in turn delivers economic improvements across Nigeria. While submarine cables allow larger volumes of data to be transmitted, it is important to note that directing too much data traffic at an early stage could lead to network disruption.

That said, the city of Lagos is a strong example of a Nigerian city that is investing in solutions to cope with potential network chokepoints. In order to alleviate capacity concerns, Nigeria has decided to build four new hubs in the coastal states of Bayelsa, Cross River, Ondo and Rivers. These hubs will help reduce network vulnerabilities and aid the process of laying land cables to the rest of the country. It should also help accelerate the deployment of network infrastructure and make the process more cost effective for the operators responsible for providing the infrastructure.

Nigerian National Networks
As outlined in the National Broadband Plan, one of the government’s key promises is to create a national network extending across 60 cities, including the capital Abuja, Lagos and the more rural areas in the north of the country. This includes partnering with African telecommunication providers to deploy the consumer side of the strategy and to improve broadband availability.

Again, it is relevant to analyse Lagos. Home to 12% of Nigeria’s population and 60% of the country’s commercial output, the need for sufficient infrastructure is crucial, especially as the city is home to many international organisations that connect to West Africa’s financial exchanges.

As well as the large cities, equally important are the more rural northern and central regions of Nigeria. To handle these areas, Nigeria is considering a series of network towers and a large engineering workforce to improve network availability and to ensure efficient power is distributed effectively.

Even with all of the above measures in place, it is still a little early to pass judgment on the success of the plan. Streamlining the country’s workforce via digital methods and using enhanced connectivity to revitalise entire sectors will likely lead to socio-economic improvements. The global appeal of Nigeria as a business centre is also improved. The ’30% by 2018’ broadband penetration target might turn out to be slightly too ambitious. What is apparent however, is that Nigeria will undoubtedly transform over the coming years, and it will be incredibly interesting to watch its evolution as a digital hub.

By Anthony Kingsnorth: Chief Operating Officer – Custom Connect

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