NCC rallies operators on AfCFTA, sees service extension to Africans - THE GUARDIAN
By Adeyemi Adepetun
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has rallied industry players to explore benefits of the Africa Continent Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which Nigeria recently signed. Specifically, NCC posited that Nigeria as the leading telecoms market in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), can offer the continent’s 1.2 billion people telephony services that will boost regional trade. The Commission however, said as much as there are huge benefits, Nigeria must also prepare for the challenges. With liberalisation of telecommunications as one key area of the continental agreement, NCC said operators in the country will need to invest more in infrastructure to remain competitive in the liberalized African market, which also offers them the opportunity of providing services for 1.2 billion people in the continent.
Speaking in Lagos, at a two-day workshop, which ended yesterday, the Chairman, NCC Board, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, said the Commission recognises the opportunities that come with AfCFTA, which according to him, if well explored can further strengthen Nigeria’s market.
“At the NCC, we recognise that the Continental Free Trade Agreement means that we now have 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 recognise 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.
Durojaiye added that the Commission will continue to improve the performance of the rapidly-evolving industry by encouraging more investments, engaging stakeholders on issues of common interest, and charting viable courses for the growth and development of the sector and economy.
Speaking earlier, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbata, noted that with the ratification by 22 member states of the African Union, the Free Trade Area is now the largest trading bloc in the world in terms of participating countries, since the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“What all these mean, therefore, is that with the AfCFTA, the hitherto business algorithm in Africa is going to change, as it will become difficult for any country to be regarded as the largest market in Africa, since the African continent is now going to be seen as one single international trade bloc,” he said.
Danbatta, who was represented by NCC’s Director of Policy and Authorisation, Mohammed Babajika, said the workshop was aimed at examining how it could improve the competitiveness of the over $70 billion Nigerian communications market for the Continental Free Trade.
On his part, the Acting Director-General, Nigeria Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTN), Liman Liman, who urged operators to explore the AfCFTA advantage, said there was a need for strong regulatory institution to prevent unfair competition in the market.Liman noted that to be globally competitive, telecommunications infrastructure would require a significant amount of investment both by domestic and foreign investors.