By Florence Onuegbu
Lagos – The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it will boost investment in the telecommunications industry, while leveraging opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said this on Wednesday in Lagos during the Stakeholders’ Sensitisation Workshop on the Implications of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement for Nigeria’s Communications Industry.
The two-day workshop organised by NCC in collaboration with Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN) was themed:”Improving Nigerian Communications Industry Competitiveness for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Initiative”.
Danbatta, who was represented by NCC Director of Licensing and Authorisation, Mohammed Babajika, said that Nigeria-based communications businesses should harness the potentials of the AfCFTA Agreement to their own advantage.
He said that Nigeria joined the list of African countries that signed the trade pact when President Muhammadu Buhari on July 7, 2019, endorsed the AfCFTA Agreement at the African Union (AU) Summit in Niamey, Niger.
AfCFTA is an initiative of the AU, with the main objective of creating a single continental market for goods and services, in addition to facilitating free movement of investment and people across the entire African continent.
”The Federal Government’s aspirations to advance Nigeria’s economic development through continuous encouragement of pro-trade, pro-business, pro-investment and pro-export measures are in sync with the mandate of the NCC.
”NCC’s mandate is to stimulate investment and economic activity by protecting the interest of the government, investors and consumers within the Nigerian Communications ecosystem,” Danbatta said.
He said that there was the need to always improve the competitiveness of the over 70 billion dollars Nigerian Communications sector market for the Continental Free Trade Area.
Danbatta said that the workshop would draw attention of industry stakeholders to the need to fully appreciate the business implications of AfCFTA.
According to him, the workshop will encourage industry stakeholders on the need to seek and exploit opportunities that will emerge in the operational phase of AfCFTA.
The Chairman of NCC Board, Sen. Olabiyi Durojaiye, said that the Nigerian Communications industry’s participation in AfCFTA was necessary for achieving the rapid socio-economic development agenda of the government.
Durojaiye said that the commission was committed to ensuring that the sector continued to improve on its contribution to GDP and by extension, the Nigerian economy.
He said that through its direct contribution to the GDP and its indirect contribution to the performance of other sectors, the telecommunication sector remained a facilitator of economic development.
According to him, NCC recognises that the Continental Free Trade Area arrangement means that there is now access to extend communications services to 1.2 billion people across the African continent.
”With a larger proportion of this population made up of young people, whose hunger for data and mobile services continues to grow, there is no limit to achievement by innovative operators/investors in terms of business opportunities.
”Just the way we recognize the opportunities for investors in the African market, we also know that there are challenges not to say threats.
”Operators and investors within the communications ecosystem must fully appreciate these dynamics, in order to ensure that they prepare adequately for them. Hence, the need for this Sensitisation Workshop,” he said.
The acting Director-General of NOTN, Mr Liman Liman, said that there was the need for strong regulatory institution in order to prevent unfair competition in the market.
Liman said that in order to be globally competitive, telecommunications infrastructure would require significant amount of investment both by domestic and foreign investors.