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Emerging Technologies As Game Changer In 2023

Emerging technologies are technologies whose development, practical applications, or both are still largely unrealized

The adoption of emerging technologies like 5G, Blockchain Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Big Data, among others in different sectors of the Nigerian economy, contributed in no small measure in driving technology innovation that led to economic growth and increased GDP in 2023.

Most sectors of the Nigerian economy adopted and implemented emerging technologies like the 5G Technology, Blockchain Technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) Big Data Analytics, and Internet of Things (IoTs), to drive innovation and business growth.

In the banking and finance sectors, Fintechs capitalised on such emerging technologies to develop payment solutions that revolutionised the banking and finance sectors. Some of the payment solutions were developed to block financial leakages and to enhance online transactions that led to business profitability in the banking sector, a development that increased Nigeria’s GDP growth by 2.54 per cent in Q3, 2023, higher than the 2.25 per cent growth recorded in the same Q3 of 2022, according to figures released in November 2023 by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

In the e-commerce sector, emerging technologies were also adopted and deployed in 2003 to drive online sales and job creation. Both small and large enterprises, no longer have need for physical shops because Flutterwave and other Fintech Companies developed platforms that allow businesses to trade online without having a physical shop. They developed payment solutions that allow buyers to shop online and make payment online through their internet connected mobile devices, without going to any physical bank.

In the telecoms sector, emerging technologies were also adopted and implemented that led to increased broadband penetration, increased market share on the part of telecoms operators, and increased teledensity, as well as improved telecoms services across networks and reduction in online fraud, through SIM card registration and linkage to National Identity Number (NIN) as directed by the federal government and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

But despite all these achievements, the telecoms sector suffered a huge setback in 2023, as a result of multiple taxes imposed on telecoms operators, increased cost of doing business in Nigeria, coupled with the accumulated USSD debt, owed telecoms operators by money deposit banks, which amounted to N200 billion by November 2023. Other challenges include incessant closure of telecoms site by government agencies and the refusal by government agencies to grant Right of Way (RoW) permission to telecoms operators for network expansion.

ICT Contribution to GDP

A report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in November 2023, showed that Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.54 per cent in the third quarter (Q3) of 2023. The growth rate according to NBS, is higher than the 2.25 per cent recorded in the third of quarter last year and higher than the second quarter 2023 growth of 2.51 per cent.

NBS disclosed that the performance of the GDP in the third quarter of 2023 was driven mainly by the services sector, which recorded a growth of 3.99 per cent and contributed 52.70 per cent to the aggregate GDP.

Although Agriculture and the Oil Sector contributed meaningfully to GDP growth in 2023, the non-oil sector, where ICT plays prominently, contributed over 95 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP in 2023.

According to the report, in terms of share of the GDP, agriculture, and the industry sectors contributed less to the aggregate GDP in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the third quarter of 2022.

The report also showed that Nigeria in the third quarter of 2023, recorded an average daily oil production of 1.45 million barrels per day (mbpd), higher than the daily average production of 1.20mbpd recorded in the same quarter of 2022 by 0.25mbpd and higher than the second quarter of 2023 production volume of 1.22 mbpd by 0.23mbpd.

The NBS report however stated that non-oil sector grew by 2.75 per cent in real terms during the reference quarter (Q3 2023).

“The non-oil sector was driven in the third quarter of 2023 mainly by Information and Communications Technology (Telecommunications); Financial and Insurance (Financial Institutions); Agriculture (Crop production); Trade; Construction; and Real Estate, accounting for positive GDP growth,” the bureau said un a statement.

NBS said this is higher than the share recorded in the third quarter of 2022, which was 94.34 per cent and lower than the 94.66 per cent recorded in the second quarter of 2023.

5G Technology Spread

5G Technology, which is an emerging technology, had a slight spread in 2023, following its commercial rollout in 2022 by MTN Nigeria, the first GSM operator to roll out its 5G network in Nigeria.

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Based on the issuance of 5G license to successful bidders of the 3.5GHz spectrum by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the 5G licensed telecoms operators continued to roll out their 5G networks across the country, with lots of promises to the consumers on the benefits of 5G, also known as the fifth generation network.

MTN, had in September 2022, rolled out its 5G network in seven cities, which include; Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Owerri, and Maiduguri but as at December 2023, the telecoms company has spread its 5G network across 20 cities in the country.

In June 2023, Airtel rolled out its 5G network in four cities, which included; Lagos, Ogun, Rivers and Abuja. Another telecoms operator that has also launched its 5G network in Nigeria is Mafab Communication Limited, even though it has no distinct rollout plan, because it has no telecoms network of its own, but intends to ride on the telecoms network of an existing operator to roll out its 5G services to Nigerians.

Although both MTN and Airtel had earlier promised during their commercial launch of 5G network that they would cover the entire country with 5G within one year of rollout, only few states have been covered by both operators as at December 2023. Among the few states already covered, not all cities and towns in those states can boast of full 5G coverage, as there are skeletal coverage in most cities claimed to have been covered by both operators.

Speaking about the ambition of MTN to increase its 5G network rollout to more states and cities across Nigeria, the Chief Broadband Officer for MTN Nigeria, Onyinye Ikenna-Emeka, told THISDAY that 5G remained a technology enabler that would allow Nigerians easy access to high speed broadband connectivity. According to her, 5G allows for a massive number of connected devices at high-speed connectivity that is as high as one gigabyte with very low latency.

“At the inception of 5G rollout, MTN rolled out with 190 sites in seven cities, but at the last check this December, we have extended our 5G rollout to 1,600 sites across 20 cities, and we will continue to expand because we want Nigerians to have access broadband connectivity across the country, and we are very much aligned with the objective of the federal government to achieve 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2025,” Ikenna-Emeka said.

Access to Spectrum

One key infrastructure that will drive broadband penetration and 5G spread in a much faster way is the spectrum allocation, which has become a scarce resource globally.

In order to make spectrum easily available to countries for the spread of broadband and 5G across nations, member states of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Nigeria inclusive, at the close of the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) penultimate week in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, agreed on revisions to the global treaty governing the use of the radio frequency spectrum, both on earth and in space.

The agreement on updates to the radio regulations identified new spectrum resources to support technological innovation, deepen global connectivity, increase access to and equitable use of space-based radio resources, and enhance safety at sea, in the air, and on land.

ITU Secretary-General, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, who revealed this at the close of the conference, said: “WRC-23 puts the world on a solid path towards a more connected, sustainable, equitable and inclusive digital future for all, Key regulatory achievements on spectrum for space, science and terrestrial radio services build on the momentum of ITU’s ongoing work to achieve universal connectivity and sustainable digital transformation.”

According to her, a total of 151​ member states, signed the WRC-23 Final Acts. The Final Acts constitute a record of the decisions taken at the conference including both the new and revised provisions of the Radio Regulations, all appendices, and the new and revised Resolutions and ITU-R Recommendations incorporated by reference into the treaty by the conference.

The Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, Mario Maniewicz, said: “The agreements reached at WRC-23 are a testament to the unwavering spirit of cooperation and compromise among all of our members. Navigating the complexities of spectrum sharing to update the Radio Regulations has helped us forge a path that provides a stable, predictable regulatory environment essential for the development of innovative radiocommunication services for all.”

Nigeria has therefore joined the rest of the World to sign unto the Final Act WRC-23, which constitutes a record of the decisions taken at the just concluded World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC 2023).

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The Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, represented Nigeria and was joined by the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Aminu Maida and the Managing Director, Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NigComSat Ltd), Mrs. Jane Egerton-Idehen.

The WRC-2023 is a global, inter-governmental treaty conference, which is held every three to four years by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations-affiliated international organization for telecommunications.

Fintech Growth

Also, the year 2023 witnessed the growth of several Fintech companies that came up with different solutions that brought about innovation across different sectors of the Nigerian economy.

QorePay, a Fintech company, in December 2023, joined other Fintech companies that have launched various solutions in Nigeria, when it launched its Gateway Payment system that it claimed will revolutionise payment system in Nigeria and reduce online fraud in payment system.

Similarly, the sixth edition of the Nigeria Fintech Week, which held in Lagos this year, and organised by Fintech Association of Nigeria (FinTechNGR), in partnership with Jackson, Etti & Edu; MainOne; and infobip, the FinTech players present, made renewed promises to use emerging technology solutions to further drive technology innovation, resilience and diversification in the financial technology space.

The COO of FinTechNGR, Dr. Babatunde Obrimah, said: “There is need for resilience in the areas of governance, structure, compliance, and risk management.”

Participants stressed the need for organisations to invest in young talents that are technology savvy and willing to learn new technology skills.

Speaking during one of the panel sessions, the Country Manager and Area Business Head, West Africa at Mastercard, Mrs. Ebehije Momoh, stressed the need for organisations to invest in young talents that are technology savvy. According to her, Mastercard as an organisation has continued to invest in people to raise talents among Fintechs.

Managing Director of SystemSpecs Technology Services, Mr. Demola Igbalajobi, who represented the Founder and CEO, SystenSpecs, Mr. John Obaro at the panel session, also talked about the need to train and re-train people in the technology space to acquire new skills in emerging technologies.

US Consulate General in Lagos, Mr. Williams Stevenes, in his goodwill message, said the United States government remained interested in developing technology skills and trade in Nigeria. According to him, trade and investment are key priority areas for the US government in developing the Nigerian economy, and pledged the support of US government for the Nigerian Fintech Week.

In his opening remarks, the President, FinTechNGR, Ade Bajomo, spoke on issues around the theme of this year’s Nigeria Fintech Week: ‘Fintech-Resilience, Innovation and Diversification’.

Challenges

Despite the achievements recorded in the telecoms sector in 2023, the sector had its own challenges that negatively affected the growth of telecoms and ICT development in the country.

Most agencies of government, in 2023, were bent on imposing multiple taxes on telecoms operators, a development that was resisted by the telecoms operators in 2023, which led to incessant closure of telecoms sites by government agencies in some states of the country like Kogi State.

Again, telecoms operators were owed huge sums of money by deposit money banks, under the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) agreement, reached between telecoms operators banks, which accumulated to over N200 billion.

The telcos who lamented the non-payment of the money, said such money would have been invested into the telecoms industry for network expansion that would have improved service quality across networks.

Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said the USSD arrangenent, through which the banks were indebted to telecoms operators has accumulated over the years to reach over N200 billion as at November 2023, up from N130 billion in September this year.

Adebayo therefore urged NCC to quickly intervene in the matter without further delay, as the accumulated debt had started affecting the operations of telecoms operators across networks.

Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Aminu Maida, in his opening remarks at a stakeholders’ forum in Lagos, promised to deepen investments in the telecoms sector, which he said, had contributed immensely to the GDP growth of the Nigerian economy.

Maida equally promised to work with telecoms operators to improve the quality of service in the telecoms sector, in order to serve the telecoms consumer better.

ALTON has threatened to go to court to challenge the banks, should NCC delay in intervening in the matter.

Source: Thisday

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