A renowned telecoms policy enthusiast, Mr Omobayo Azeez, has warned that the rising skills gap challenge in the Nigerian telecommunications sector is constituting a major threat to the future of the $75.6 billion industry.
He noted this while delivering a keynote presentation on ‘Bridging Skills Gap to Accelerate the Indigenous Telecoms Development’ at the just concluded second edition of the Nigerian Telecommunications Indigenous Content Expo (NTICE 2023) organised in Lagos by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
He said for the sector to continue to thrive, telecoms companies require professionals with skills in various areas such as cybersecurity, data analytics, wireless network engineering, software development, fibre optics engineering, IP networking skills, cloud computing, and VSAT engineering among others, but which are not sufficiently available at the moment.
“The current existence of the skills gaps puts a strain on telecom firms, limiting their ability to expand, innovate, improve customer services or develop new products,” Azeez said.
According to the Convener of Policy Implementation Assisted Forum (PIAFo), while the sector is growing in geometric progression, the workforce that shoulders its day-to-day operations and support is rather depleting, a development he described as a ticking time bomb.
He said: “Available data show a high global demand for tech skilled-workers particularly in the telecoms sector. This is why the situation is even scarier for a low-middle income country such as Nigeria because high-income economies that desire similar skilled labour will always have their way enticing away capable hands and talents from here.
“This is happening already,” he said, adding that in 2022 alone, operators in the sector lamented losing over 2,000 trained telecoms personnel in Nigeria to other countries.
According to Azeez, operators are finding the gaps difficult to fill as prospective applicants often lack the required knowledge and skill set to deliver, while trained workers are leaving.
“This has hampered the rate at which operators recruit. For instance, operators across the GSM, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Value-Added Services (VAS), Fixed Services and other subsegments of the sector have only employed additional 679 workers in the last three years, which cannot serve licensees in the sector even at a one-to-one ratio.
“Whereas, the talks around 5G, edge infrastructure, internet of things (IoT) and smart city initiatives all demand more capable hands to innovate and undertake professional tasks to achieve the future aspiration of the sector.
In his address, Azeez, who doubles as Team Lead, Business Metrics Limited, highlighted causes of the current skills gap in the sector.
According to him, they include defective educational systems, inadequate training programmes, poor remunerations, japa syndrome, global high demand for tech-skilled workers, government policies, and rapid technological advancements.
He encouraged industry stakeholders to leverage the National Policy for the Promotion of Indigenous Content in the Nigerian Telecommunications Sector (NPPIC), among other local content policies to develop homegrown talents with skill capacities that are globally competitive.
“While effective collaboration is required between government, operators, and educational, research and training institutions to bridge the gaps, the process should begin with operators by putting in place training and internship programmes within their organisations to meet their immediate needs.
“Operators should also review employees’ remuneration and welfare packages to retain already groomed talents before they are enticed with better offers in foreign markets because labour follows the money. Expatriate quota requirements and succession plan should also be adhered to,” he added.
He further underscored investments in employees’ training and capacity building to maximise available talents, adding that investments in the workforce should be prioritised the same way as Capital Expenditure (CAPEX).
“It would be a gross injustice not to acknowledge young Nigerians for their ingenuity, skills and entrepreneurial spirit, but the current skills gap identified in the ICT and the telecoms sector must not be ignored and should be jointly tackled before it escalates from an operating threat to an existential one.
“Therefore, we should commit to grooming and retaining talents to attract more investments and secure the digital future of the country,” Azeez concluded.
Nigeria’s 5G Network Subscriptions Soar to Half a Million, Broadband Penetration at 47.01%
The Executive Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, revealed that Nigeria’s Fifth Generation (5G) network subscriptions have surpassed half a million users.
Broadband penetration has surged to 47.01% as of July 2023, marking a significant leap in the country’s telecommunications landscape.
Speaking from Kano, Prof. Danbatta highlighted the remarkable achievements of the telecoms industry since 2015. In July, he reported that 5G subscriptions had surged to over 60,000 in the nation.
Also, he emphasized the nation’s ambitious goals, aiming to achieve 50% broadband penetration by the close of 2023 and a remarkable 70% broadband penetration by the conclusion of 2025.
In a statement, Prof. Danbatta stated, “Moreover, the telecommunications sector has undergone a substantial transformation, with its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growing from 8% in 2015 to an impressive 16% quarterly as of the second quarter of 2023, signifying its growing significance to the Nigerian economy.”
He further elaborated, “Furthermore, the authorization of additional telecommunications companies to operate within Nigeria’s telecoms sector has led to a remarkable upsurge in investments. In 2015, the sector attracted $38 billion in investments, a figure that has now soared to an astonishing $75 billion and continues to rise daily. Notably, the NCC’s sale of 5G C-Band Spectrum has generated over $847.8 million in revenue for the Federal Government.”
In related news, the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, emphasized Nigeria’s commitment to bolstering telecommunication connectivity in unserved and underserved communities.
Minister Tijani stressed that connectivity serves as a catalyst for progress and highlighted the nation’s eagerness to establish partnerships aimed at bridging the digital divide.
Nigerian Communications Commission Reports Remarkable Growth in Telecom Sector
Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has revealed impressive figures showcasing the robust growth of telecom investments in the country.
During a recent media interaction held in Kano on Saturday, Danbatta disclosed that the telecom investment inflow in Nigeria had surged from $38 billion to an astounding $77 billion by the second quarter of 2023.
Also, he highlighted that the telecommunications sector had contributed 16 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the same period.
Danbatta attributed this growth to a combination of factors, primarily “thorough sustained regulatory excellence and operational efficiency by the commission.”
Since taking office as the EVC of NCC in 2015, he noted that the sector’s contribution to GDP had more than doubled, from around eight percent to the current 16 percent.
In addition to this, Danbatta underscored the industry’s achievements, stating, “We have witnessed explosive growth, improved regulatory standards, and digital innovation that have generated global recognition.”
He further revealed significant milestones in telecommunications usage, with 218.9 million telephone users, 159.5 million internet subscribers, and 88.7 million broadband users in Nigeria within the reviewed period.
However, Danbatta acknowledged that several challenges still hampered the full potential of broadband deployment in the country. These challenges include issues related to the right of way, fiber cuts, high capital requirements for deployment, multiple taxations, and complex regulations.
Nevertheless, Danbatta assured stakeholders that the NCC was committed to addressing these obstacles and navigating through regulatory complexities, digital divide, and literacy issues.
As part of their initiatives to enhance communication and emergency response, the NCC announced plans to establish emergency communication centers in all 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Furthermore, the commission had increased research grants for universities from N20 million to N30 million, benefitting three universities thus far.
Danbatta explained that the NCC aimed to provide accessible and affordable telecom services as an enabler for the country’s economic advancement.
However, he also highlighted some ongoing challenges, such as the wilful destruction of NCC facilities and the burden of numerous taxes imposed on telecommunications companies.
Despite these challenges, the NCC remains committed to engaging with the media industry and the public to ensure transparency and to keep everyone informed about its activities.
Nigeria’s Largest Telecom Operator, MTN, Enhances Broadband Reach with 10MHz Spectrum Approval
MTN, Nigeria’s leading telecom operator, has received approval for an additional 10MHz spectrum allocation within the 2.6GHz spectrum band.
This development is poised to significantly bolster broadband coverage across all 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory.
Karl Toriola, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, said, “This additional spectrum will empower us to uphold our commitment to delivering high-quality services to our valued customers while actively supporting the Federal Government’s agenda to expand broadband access nationwide.”
This valuable spectrum allocation was acquired from OpenSkys Services Limited, a reputable indigenous Nigerian telecommunications company licensed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to provide telecommunication services on the 450MHz frequency band.
The 2.6GHz spectrum band is designated for the deployment of terrestrial mobile broadband services.
According to a report by the GSMA, this spectrum band serves as an ideal complement to the 700MHz-800MHz spectrum bands, forming a formidable combination capable of delivering cost-effective nationwide mobile broadband coverage, encompassing both rural and urban areas.
As of December 2022, broadband penetration in Nigeria stood at 47.36 percent. The Federal Government of Nigeria has set a target of achieving 70 percent broadband penetration by 2025. MTN Nigeria’s acquisition of this broadband spectrum allocation is poised to equip the ICT giant with the capabilities required to offer enhanced broadband services to meet the surging demand for widespread and uniform mobile broadband services nationwide.
In the words of Karl Toriola, “This additional spectrum will empower us to uphold our commitment to delivering high-quality services to our valued customers while actively supporting the Federal Government’s agenda to expand broadband access nationwide.”
MTN believes that the integration of this spectrum allocation will lead to a significant enhancement in the customer experience, aligning perfectly with their dedication to delivering exceptional services.
Also, this acquired spectrum will equip the telecommunications operator with the tools needed to deploy advanced broadband technologies, thereby contributing to the realization of Nigeria’s broadband objectives.
A report by the GSMA underscores the pivotal role of broadband penetration, particularly in developing countries, in driving an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This highlights the urgent need for continuous development and investment in broadband infrastructure, exemplified by the inclusion of the 2.6GHz spectrum band.
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