Airtel Seeks NCC Support for SMEs to Drive Economic Recovery

segun ogunsanya airtel nigeria

By Adedapo Adesanya

Airtel has advocated support from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to stimulate economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 era.

This came as the commission reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring accelerated licensing of new spectrum that would usher in new technologies which include 5G, broadband satellite services, high altitude platform services, and others.

This assertion came at a virtual webinar organised by the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) tagged Nigeria’s Telecommunication Industry-Post COVID.

Speaking at the event, Mr Segun Ogunsanya, the Managing Director of Airtel, in his presentation, said that the SMEs were most hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Airtel had created incentives and discounts for them to support their businesses.

This, he said, was the company’s ultimate objective to reduce the digital divide between those who have access to the internet and those who do not.

According to him, access to the internet is key and imperative because it acts as a leveller that provides information opportunities to small and big businesses alike.

Mr Ogunsanya said that contrary to conventional thinking, the telecommunications industry recorded a decline in its revenue in the first month after the lockdown.

President Muhammadu Buhari announced a total lockdown in Lagos State, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory in March 2020 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The said that the pandemic had transformed the conventional ways of carrying out businesses, with online engagements becoming more popular.

“The impact has been huge on social and economic activities but we thank the authorities for creating a good environment for the virus to be contained very quickly.

“The telecoms industry is not isolated from the main economy and you can see the impact on the five key areas of the GDP.

“There was an initial reduction in consumer spending on telecoms services and products and a rise in the demands for data services at the initial stage of the lockdown.

“We got a decline in the second quarter and a lot of pressure is being put on us to increase capital expenditure as a result of increased backhaul requirements,” he said.

Mr Ogunsanya urged telecommunications industries to live up to their key responsibility of creating the right access either through mobile broadband, fibre or wireless connectivity to improve the future trend of businesses in the country.

“We need both fibre and wireless because it’s slightly more difficult to leave fibre but easier to spread the wireless access.

“We have seen a shift from coverage and capacity to customer experience, but data requires a lot of bandwidth.

“We’re focusing more on the kind of experience we’re giving our customers,” he said.

Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the commission, Mr Umar Danbatta, noted that “We will create additional areas of investments with the opening of new spectrum, especially for broadband deployment in both urban and rural areas, and facilitate fibre deployment through initiatives such as the information communication.

“NCC is committed to the provision of infrastructure, transparency and ease of doing business in Nigeria,” he said.

Mr Danbatta, represented by Mr Babagana Digima, Head, Digital Economy Department, NCC, added that some operators had reported an increase in data usage and volume of calls.

This had, in turn, raised the demands for better network connectivity and improved internet coverage, especially in the rural areas, he said.

He said that the telecommunications industry was committed to the delivery of better service and internet infrastructure that would provide quality service and experience as well as address customers’ complaints.

“Some of the complaints raised by the customers during the pandemic were attributed to poor mobile network signals’ absorption and low internet speed.

“The immense contribution of the telecommunications industry during this pandemic is undoubted because it has managed to keep people connected, informed, entertained and enlightened about the disease which has helped in curtailing its spread.

“Governments worldwide, especially in developing countries like ours, have since recognised the need for telecommunications’ infrastructure.

“The pandemic has laid bare the urgency of such interventions,” he said.

Also, Mrs Bisi Adeyemi, the Deputy President of NBCC, stressed the importance of the telecommunications industry on small businesses due to the evidence of more reliance on data and voice connectivity.

“People across the world have had to rely on technology to deal with the new realities of working from home.

“It has, therefore, become necessary to evaluate the impact of the industry on creating an enabling business environment and economic growth,” she said.

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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