TELL ME MORE

Nigeria 2015 | TELECOMS, IT & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Segun Ogunsanya, Managing Director & CEO of Airtel Nigeria, on changes in customer demands, the regulatory environment, and the National Broadband Plan.

Segun Ogunsanya
BIOGRAPHY
Segun Ogunsanya is Managing Director & CEO of Airtel Nigeria. Prior to his current role, he was the Managing Director and CEO of Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Limited, which is fully owned by Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company Inc. He has over 24 years of rich industry experience across multiple countries, and is a graduate in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Which services and innovations will you bring to the Nigerian market?

In terms of our subscriber base, Airtel is the fourth largest telecoms company in the world and has a major presence in India. In March 2014, Transparency International (TI) voted this the fourth most transparent emerging market in the world. In Nigeria, we are the second largest operator with over 26 million subscribers. Naturally, our ambition is to reclaim market leadership in the highly competitive Nigerian telecoms market and, already, we are renowned for our revolutionary approach. In December 2010, we took the market by storm when we launched the innovative 2good value offering, a mobile proposition designed to empower customers toward realizing the full potential of our network. It is also on record that we have the widest 3.75G coverage in Nigeria, and were the first to complete a 4G LTE trial in the country. We also rolled out the high-definition voice service to deepen customer experiences on our network. It is very clear that the next main frontier in the Nigerian telecoms sector will be the data revolution, and we are taking steady steps to ensure we lead the market when it happens. In short, whenever someone thinks about internet or data, we want to be the first name that comes to mind.

How has consumer demand changed, and how will it evolve in the future?

Years ago, the customer demanded SMS and voice, but now you see that the demand is strongly moving toward data. When you have a country where over half the population is under the age of 25, this doesn't come as a surprise. They use WhatsApp, Viber, and other messaging applications to communicate, which in effect has also changed the way we view customer behavior.

What improvements to the telecoms environment do you foresee? Should regulations further support the private sector?

From the government's perspective, we need to step up the pace of energy sector reform. On the regulatory side, we are working with the Ministry of Communication and the National Communication Commission (NCC) to reform the legislative landscape. For some reason, we are subjected to charges levied by different bodies—the federal government, state governments, local governments, communities, and others. Telecommunications is basically seen as a source of revenue, which in practice means that, periodically, we are levied arbitrary charges. We are working withthe Ministry of Communication and the NCC to formulate a more predictable environment. However, we are not shying away from developing local communities; we simply want a predictable and cohesive environment. Sometimes, we do not see any relationship between the rental charges we pay and the value we derive from those communities. At the end of the day, we are a business, hence I would like to see all the stakeholders come together to play a stronger role in addressing this issue. Another area of concern relates to the laying of fiber for our network. For fiber to be laid, one needs access to dig and lay the cable in the ground; a hugely difficult undertaking. If all stakeholders come together, we can work out a solution to these challenges to make it easier for Airtel and other players to achieve their ambitions.

Where do you see the next challenges and opportunities?

Nigeria is a blessed country with a population approaching 170 million people; quite large in relation to a relatively small area, which is a delight for any company or investor. It is not only the sheer size of the population that is of interest, but also its composition, with over 50% of the population less than 25 years old. These are the people who account for the bulk of consumption, and who drive growth in most sectors of the economy. We are beginning to see many Nigerians who had hitherto moved abroad returning home, and many skilled individuals returning with solid skill sets and know-how, which is changing the landscape of Nigeria. I think the best is yet to come.

What advantages does the National Broadband Plan have?

The National Broadband Plan was drafted by stakeholders and the government. There is the no requirement for the commitment of any telecoms company; it is a voluntary project to create a connected society. This is a strong value-added service, and the government has avoided creating a sense of obligation as companies voluntarily contribute in the interests of the economy.