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NCC Seeks Robust PPP to Drive Digital Infrastructure

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NCC

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has called for more innovative Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) approaches aimed to make telecommunications infrastructure safer, more resilient and robust in Nigeria.

This was made by Mr Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, while delivering his keynote address at two-day Virtual Information Communication Technology & Telecommunications (ICTEL) organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) themed Disruptions, Resilience and Governance in Digital Economy.

He said the agency was always exploring means to attract more investment into the sector.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that the next frontier for enriching digital economy globally is through sustained investment in broadband or high-speed Internet access.

Speaking on Exploring Public-Private Collaboration for a Robust Digital Infrastructure, Regulations, Investment and Policy, he said that the concept of PPP has become one of the commonly used models of collaboration among stakeholders to fast track socio-economic development whether at the global, regional and national levels.

According to him, in 2017, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) signed a joint declaration in Geneva, “on the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, industrialization, infrastructure development and innovation”.

The UNIDO and ITU, driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 member states and over 700 private sector entities and academic institutional membership, planned to strengthen country-level collaborations.

The two agencies, Mr Danbatta said, “resolved to contribute to global, regional and national efforts toward achieving SDG9, and particularly through action plans that are designed to attract public-private partnerships and investment.

“The collaboration between ITU and UNIDO, thus, represents a very important commitment from global organisations to deliver measurable and sustainable solutions within countries, towards achieving the SDGs, with a focus on “infrastructure, industry and innovation,” through a PPP arrangement.

“It is on record that this kind of partnership is helping to fast track the realization of SDG9 with derivable quantifiable benefits to industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises in emerging economies.

“Similarly, it is particularly of interest that the African Development Bank (AfDB), in a White Paper on PPP Framework released in September 2020, was emphatic that the infrastructure gap in African countries acts as an impediment to their economic growth and development”.

According to the White Paper, the gaps impact not only the economic situation of the citizens of Africa but also the countries’ global competitiveness.

The paper also estimates that poor infrastructure shaves off 2 per cent of the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates.

“Suffice it to say that, the role of public-private partnership in infrastructure development in Nigeria cannot be overemphasised because an adequate, robust and functioning infrastructure is the bedrock of communal and societal development.

“Therefore, to meet future challenges, our industries and infrastructure must be upgraded by evolving an enduring PPP model that services all the sectors of the economy.

“Objectively, the high level of infrastructure deficit and its attendant effect on socio-economic development in Nigeria explains government’s concern and search for an alternative means of providing infrastructure for Nigeria’s teeming population.

“Thus, in 2005, the Federal Government established the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) with a clear objective to accelerate investment in national infrastructure through private sector funding; and to assist the Federal Government of Nigeria and its Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) to establish and implement effective PPP processes.

“It is gratifying that state governments have also adopted variants of PPP models in order to tackle the challenge of infrastructure in their respective jurisdictions”, the EVC recalled.

The NCC boss added that if the telecom and ICT sector is the real ‘infrastructure of infrastructure’ as it is often referred to because of its impact, efficiency and effectiveness on the growth of other sectors, it stands to reason, that the telecom sector is the most important sphere PPP should be adopted.

Interestingly, a 2012 World Bank report already documented how PPP projects have been used to provide broadband access nationally, regionally, or in rural areas to improve broadband access to unserved and underserved locations.

Indeed, the World Bank equally revealed in its 2021 report PPP that the PPP scheme is also helping in key areas of supporting the development of innovative policies, actions, standards and technologies in order to connect the unconnected in any nation, create jobs, enable efficient natural resource utilisation, and electronic waste management.

“The report also states that Public-Private Partnerships have also served as organising principles to facilitate product interoperability, reduce the digital and gender divides, and support growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

“In Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is particularly noted for its faith in strategic collaboration and partnership as a central principle of its stakeholders’ relationship management and regulatory activities.

“Our daily regulatory processes are marked by consultations with a wide spectra of stakeholders as well as strategic partnering and collaboration with both private sector players and other sister public sector organisations”.

He said that following the liberalisation of the telecoms sector in 2001, the Commission has continued to facilitate investment inflow into the country’s digital space through licensing of many private sector players, who are deploying services in a different segment of the nation’s telecom market.

“This has resulted in rollout of massive infrastructure ranging from the deployment of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) and laying of thousands of kilometres of fibre optic cables to every nook and cranny of the country.

“Hence, the sector has grown significantly in investment with significant access to an array of voice, data and other kinds of enterprises.

“The commission has also continued to enhance existing infrastructure through the licensing of a category of private sector players known as Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo), who are to deploy fibre optic cable on a wholesale basis across the country with broadband Point of Access (PoA) in each of the 774 Local Government Areas of the country.

This InfraCo scheme is running on a PPP arrangement, where the government provides a counterpart fund as a subsidy to stimulate faster, more robust and resilient broadband infrastructure rollout across the country.

While broadband penetration in Nigeria has reached 45 per cent at the moment, from less than 6 per cent in 2015, and by that fact stimulating digital activities in the country, there still exist access gaps which the Commission is making efforts to bridge.

It is noteworthy that the hitherto existing access gaps of 217 identified in the country have been reduced to 114 through increased collaboration between the Commission and stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem.

“Hence, the InfraCo project being implemented by NCC and other similar regulatory initiatives which has PPP component are in line with policy expectations of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025; the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020-2030; the NCC Strategic Management Plan (SMP) 2020-2024, as well as a number of regulatory instruments and frameworks which envisioned the PPP model as a central organising principle for fast-tracking the development of Nigeria’s telecoms industry”, he said.

The EVC said that NCC is renowned for its tradition of engaging in robust stakeholder consultation on the development of its various regulations and policy initiatives.

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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Fake News: WhatsApp Introduces #YouSaid Campaign

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WhatsApp #YouSaid Campaign

By Dipo Olowookere

A campaign aimed to educate users on ways to verify the information they come across before passing it on has been launched by WhatsApp.

This initiative, #YouSaid Campaign, according to the popular messaging platform, will help reduce the spread of false news in Nigeria.

“At WhatsApp, all personal messages are protected with end-to-end encryption because the safety and security of our users and their messages are important to us,” WhatsApp Public Policy Lead, Akua Gyekye, stated while commenting on the launch of the campaign.

“While we remain committed to creating a safe space for our users to communicate privately, we encourage everyone to verify any information they receive and confirm whether it is true or false before sharing it with other people.

“Regardless of the person you received the information from, as soon as you share any information, it becomes something people think #YouSaid.

“Our hope is that this campaign will open up a conversation on the importance of verifying information and thinking carefully about what people read, trust and choose to share,” Gyekye added.

It was gathered that the campaign offers tips for WhatsApp users to spot false news and take responsibility in minimizing its spread, by encouraging people to think carefully and check authoritative sources before deciding to share any information with their friends and family.

The four easy ways to reduce the spread of false news on WhatsApp include understanding what a ‘Forwarded’ message means, fact-checking information with other sources, looking out for messages that look different, and reading the message objectively.

WhatsApp explained that any message that has the ‘forwarded’ label (an arrow or double arrow icon) did not start with the person who sent it as they will also have received it from someone else before passing it on.

A double arrow icon and “Forwarded many times” label will be displayed when a message has been forwarded more than five times since it was originally sent and will restrict sharing to just one chat at a time.

This is because false news can go viral, and photos, audio recordings, and videos can be edited to mislead the reader but when a story is reported in multiple places and from trustworthy sources, it’s more likely to be true.

However, users have to look out for messages that look different. When such are received with misspelt words, wrong dates, awkward layouts, unrelated pictures and web addresses (URLs), they are a sign that the information could be false.

In all, users are advised to review the facts before sharing information as stories that seem hard to believe are often untrue.

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African Expansion: Equinix Acquires MainOne for $320m

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Equinix MainOne

By Adedapo Adesanya

Leading digital infrastructure company, Equinix, has announced its expansion into Africa through the acquisition of MainOne, a leading West African data centre and connectivity solutions provider, with a presence in Nigeria, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

The acquisition is expected to close in Q1 of 2022, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including the requisite regulatory approvals.

The transaction has an enterprise value of $320 million and is expected to be AFFO accretive upon close, excluding integration costs, marking the first step in Equinix’s long-term strategy to become a leading African carrier neutral digital infrastructure company.

With more than 200 million people, Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and, along with Ghana, has become an established data centre hub. This makes the acquisition a pivotal entry point for Equinix into the continent.

Founded by Ms Funke Opeke in 2010, the company has enabled connectivity for the business community of Nigeria and now has digital infrastructure assets including three operational data centres, with an additional facility under construction expected to open in the first quarter of next year.

When completed, this acquisition will extend Platform Equinix into West Africa, giving organisations based inside and outside of Africa access to one of the world’s fastest-growing markets.

Speaking on the deal, Mr Charles Meyers, President and CEO of Equinix said, “The acquisition of MainOne will represent a critical point of entry for Platform Equinix into the expansive and rapidly growing African market. MainOne’s leading interconnection position and experienced management team represent critical assets in our aspirations to be the leading neutral provider of digital infrastructure in Africa.

“Growth of data consumption in Africa is amongst the fastest in the world, and our customers are looking for a trusted partner to pursue the opportunities presented by broad mobile adoption and greater connectivity across the region.

“MainOne’s infrastructure, customer relationships, partner ecosystem and operating capability will extend the reach of Platform Equinix and bolster opportunities for customers in Africa and throughout the world.”

On his part, Mr John Dinsdale, Chief Analyst & Research Director, Synergy Research Group added, “Africa has been the missing piece in the Equinix jigsaw, and this acquisition of MainOne will be a great first step onto the continent. The demand for data centre services in Africa is strong, with Nigeria at the epicentre of exponential economic growth in West Africa.

“Nigeria is Africa’s largest country by both population and economy, and its growth drivers include rapid mobile adoption, increased data consumption from its young population, good subsea and terrestrial connectivity, and a strong enterprise market. This is advancing the region toward a more digitalized economy and driving data centre growth and expansion to provide much-needed digital infrastructure.”

Speaking Ms Opeke, added that “Equinix will accelerate our long-term vision to grow digital infrastructure investments across Africa. I thank our founding shareholders led by Mr Fola Adeola, MainStreet Technologies, AFC, PAIDF, FBN, Polaris and AfDB for investing in the MainOne vision to bridge the Digital Divide in Africa.

“With similar values and culture to what we have jointly built-in twelve years, Equinix is the preferred partner for our growth journey. The MainOne team is excited about the partnership created through the acquisition, and we look forward to building our next chapter together.”

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Interswitch Champions ePayments Ecosystem Growth

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ePayments Ecosystem

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Interswitch has thrown its full weight behind the 2021 Annual Committee of e-Business Industry Heads (CeBIH) retreat as part of its commitment to champion the epayments ecosystem growth.

This is the fifth consecutive year the leading integrated payments and digital commerce company is sponsoring the programme, which is a platform through which the committee examines key innovations in the payment industry over the past year and discuss insights and trend for the coming year.

This year’s retreat is slated to hold on December 2 and 3, 2021, in Abeokuta, Ogun State and would be attended by various stakeholders in the sector.

The 2021 Annual CeBIH Retreat tagged Innovative Digital Banking will focus on issues around the growth of digital payments in Nigeria and how technological innovations such as digital currencies, blockchain, 5G network, contactless payments, among others, will dominate the payment industry in the coming years.

Interswitch as a key industry stakeholder will be instrumental in spearheading these discussions, especially with its recent efforts around blockchain technology and other solutions around contactless payments.

The digital payment company has been an ardent supporter of the committee and its objectives, underpinned by a shared objective of enabling further development of the digital payments ecosystem in Nigeria.

This sponsorship highlights its interest in fostering deeper collaboration between banks and fintechs within the industry ecosystem.

Speaking on the forthcoming retreat, Mr Akeem Lawal, Managing Director for Transaction Switching & Payment Processing at Interswitch reiterated the importance of Interswitch’s participation in industry events such as the CeBIH Retreat, where critical issues, trends and analysis around the payment ecosystem are discussed.

He described the retreat as a necessity for industry players to assess the current state of things and make calculable projections for the future, with the aim to improve and deepen Nigeria’s payment system.

“This retreat remains important for stakeholders in the payment industry and offers an opportunity for Interswitch to be introspective about the steps taken to improve the payment system in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole,” Mr Lawal said.

“We at Interswitch remain committed to supporting and participating at platforms that share our vision to drive greater financial inclusion and prosperity across Nigeria and the Africa continent.

“Platforms such as the CeBIH annual retreat provide Interswitch and other industry players the impetus to engage with key stakeholders and collaborators from the banking system with a view towards improving our offerings to our customers viz-a-viz market demands, global trends and insights from the operating environment,” he added.

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