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Nigeria: Nigcomsat – Gateway to Digitalising Africa?

May 18, 2007 • Top Stories

With the successful launch of Nigeria ‘s Communications Satellite, NIGCOMSAT in far away China, Efem Nkanga, appraises the benefits and implications of the historical launch for Nigeria in particular and the African continent as a whole.

Nigeria made history last week and reaffirmed its position as the giant of Africa when it launched a satellite project that will revolutionise telecommunications, broadcasting and broadband multimedia services in Nigeria and Africa.

The project called Nigeria Satellite communications, NIGCOMSAT is an icing on the cake to the tremendous gains made in the telecoms sector and a testimony to the benefits of the liberalisation of the telecoms sector spearheaded by President Olusegun Obasanjo six years ago.

The programme, a brainchild of the Federal Government is no doubt geared at digitalising the Nigerian economy and promoting technological advancement in Nigeria and Africa that the whole world has been hankering for. The launch of the satellite is a major milestone in the nation’s quest for deploying science and technology to promote sustainable national development and improve Nigerians’ quality of life.

That a feat has been achieved can only be appreciated against the backdrop of where Nigeria as a nation is coming from. From a connected network position of less than four hundred lines six years ago, the nation’s connected lines has jumped to an amazing 38 million lines, making it the fastest growing market in Africa and the third fastest in the world.

The liberalization of the sector, apart from the increase of telephone lines witnessed, has also brought in foreign direct investments running into millions of dollars for Nigeria . It has helped in creating jobs and has stimulated the economy a great deal because the sector is one that stimulates other sectors.

Now with the launch of NIGCOMSAT, carrier rocket, Long March 3-B, which blasted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province and entered the orbit accurately on May 14, the stage is set for Nigeria to consolidate on its growing profile as the technological hub of Africa and an emerging player in the global terrain.

That NIGCOMSAT is the first communications satellite for Nigeria and the first of its kind in Africa is not in doubt. NIGCOMSAT, is a super hybrid geo-stationary satellite designed to operate in Africa, parts of the Middle East and southern Europe.

One unique benefit of the programme that a lot of Nigerians are interested in is that the satellite program will enable Internet access to even the remotest rural villages, a major quest of stakeholders in recent times. It would also enhance government’s economic reforms, particularly in the areas of e-learning, e-commerce, tele-medicine, tele-education, and rural telephony.
The project, according to experts, will also help African users save more than $900 million spent for telephony trunking and data transport services, 660 million U.S. dollars in phone call charges and broadband access which is more than 95 million U.S. dollars spent each year, as well as create more than 150, 000 jobs for Nigerians.

Apart from these unassailable benefits, the programme is also expected to play key roles in e-commerce by improving government efficiency and promoting the development of the digital economy in Nigeria and Africa. Other benefits of the launch of the nation’s own satellite, according to experts, is that it will bring down the cost of GSM and Internet services in the country as a result of the availability of cheaper satellite bandwidth that the launching will enable. This will help Nigeria break free from its over-reliance on oil trade and transform itself into a knowledge-based economy.

NIGCOMSAT is also expected to provide for virtual education, telemedicine as well as video conferencing. The commercial benefits of the Satellite project to Nigeria is one that experts are excited about. The Managing Director of Nigeria Communications Satellite NIGCOMSAT, Ahmed Rufai, had before the launch last week had disclosed that Nigeria will earn about $1.05billion which is N128billion yearly from NIGCOMSAT.

He stated that a major part of the earnings will come in from the sale and leasing of transponders from NIGCOMSAT. According to Rufai, each transponders will be sold for between $60-70 million. NIGCOMSAT currently has forty transponders, with 28 active and 12 inactive. NIGCOMSAT will amongst other things according to Rufai enable job outsourcing through the provision of a robust high bandwidth for two-way broadband links between Nigeria , Africa and others parts of the world. It will lead to the bridging of the existing digital divide by providing platform for small/medium scale ICT service providers to partake in the global ICT business that is estimated to be more than $1.2 Trillion.

The creation of a digital economy enabled by the satellite launch will put affordable access to the information technology at the reach of Nigerians. This will help ensure that every Nigerian man, woman or child at work, at play, in school, in the market, farmers, artisans, marketers and small businessmen all have access to the internet. This is a welcome development given the fact that although about 38 million Nigerians are connected, connection to the internet still stands at about two million or less in a population base of over 140 million people.
The launch of the satellite will positively impact on the lives of the average Nigerian in every way, be it at school, at work, or wherever. Enumerating the benefits, Rufai reiterated that,it will enable real time on-line banking, easy access to government institutions, high courts in the states, all the Accountant-Generals’ offices in the states and local governments; all the embassies domiciled in the country etc. A real opening up of endless possibilities for ICT advancement will be the order of the day in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Communication Satellite is aimed at introducing information and communication technology (ICT) through electronic transaction, particularly rural telephony. The satellite said to be performing well, has captured over 2000 images covering the entire country and different parts of the world. NIGCOMSAT will be used also in tackling some natural resources management, settlement mapping and transportation planning, gully erosion mitigation, desertification early warning, deforestation monitoring and Niger-Delta environmental change monitoring etc. It is also expected to produce the high-resolution imagery needed in urban and rural development planning and infrastructural development in the country and has a life span of 15 years. Nigeria will also launch two additional satellite by 2010. One facing America and the other facing Asia .

NIGCOMSAT will no doubt assist the country in realizing its targeted Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Space Technology according to experts guarantees the availability and speedy access to real-team data and geo-partial information, as well as the availability of relevant infrastructure and backbone for information communication.

The contract for the NIGCOMSAT project which was signed on December 15, 2004 in Abuja between China Great Wall Industry Corporation and the National Space Research and Development Agency was said to have cost the Federal Government over N40 billion. China was awarded the deal after it outbid 21 international rivals to secure the multi million U.S. dollar deal.

The cost of the satellite include items such as construction, insurance, value added tax as well as the price for building one ground control station in Abuja and a backup control station in Kashi, China . The satellite has four gateways to be located in South Africa , China, Italy and Northern Nigeria. The satellite will change positions in orbit until it is finally fixed at a longitude of 42 degrees east. It is expected to be put into use by Nigeria before the end of the year and has a lifespan of 15 years. It will be monitored and tracked by a ground station to be built in Abuja , the capital of Nigeria, by the Chinese firm, Great Wall Industry Corporation, and a ground station in Kashgar, in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The excitement generated by the launch is all pervasive and various experts in technology have been commenting on it. Prof Turner Isoun , Minister of Science and Technology described it as the signature of Nigeria in the global terrain, while Robert Ajayi Boroffice, the Director General of the National Space Research and Development Agency described it as the beginning of Nigeria ‘s march to greatness. Also commenting on the launch, Leo Stan Ekeh, the CEO of Zinox technologies, a known expert in the Information Technology IT and a pioneer of the made in Nigeria brand of Zinox computers in his comments on the launch described it as a project that will open up the Nigerian economy because it will reduce the bandwidth size and create an efficient network.

He stated that the satellite can be used to map out the nation and enable an efficient tracking system which means that the nation will have an automated tracking system that will direct its citizens. Apart from this Ekeh added is that it will because congestion and create efficiency in the life of Nigerians. Another benefit according to Ekeh is that crime rate will be drastically reduced cause with satellite, one can track one’s house or estate, it will ensure the defence of the nation and enhance security across the nation’s borders, pipeline vandalization will be a thing of the past because those causing the damage can be tracked and apprehended. Ekeh however had a note of warning for the authorities. He stated that even though the satellite enhances a smart economy because its an integrated infrastructure, he however emphasized the need for the government to aggressively invest in IT to leverage on the launching of the satellite. This he added the government can do by encouraging local and state governments to establish resoursing to him has ensured that people don’t have a hope for the future. He emphasized that except people are ICT driven in all spheres of endeavour be it in agriculture, music, education, medicine, etc the nation will still not get the best out of its investment in satellite. According to him, Nigeria launching its own satellite is not a guarantee that it’s a successful nation. What will make a difference and ensure that the huge investment in the satellite is not a wasted effort is for the government to massively work at making Nigeria IT driven .

This Ekeh added is the key that will ensure that the satellite project is not a wasted investment.

Source: This Day

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One Response to Nigeria: Nigcomsat – Gateway to Digitalising Africa?

  1. ojo oluwafemi joseph says:

    you did well with this article. nice job.GOD bless u,in jesus name,AMEN.

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