BACKBONE CONNECTIVITY

Nigeria 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, Federal Minister of Communications Technology, on initiatives to further develop the ICT sector and upcoming investments in the sector.

 Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu
BIOGRAPHY
Hon. Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu is a Minister from Oyo State, Nigeria. He enrolled in the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, in Osun State in 1974. At the end of 1978, he had obtained a first class degree in law from the same university. In 1983, he was elected as a member of Oyo State House Assembly in the Second Republic. In 1983, the military government took over from the civilian government and he retired into private legal practice and writing. He became a member of the National Political Conference in 2005. In 2016 the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him as Minister of Communications.

What does India's USD4-billion investment in Nigeria mean for the country?

We are extremely excited that Indian companies are committed to investing no less than USD4 billion in this country. The India deal came about during the last telecoms conference in Geneva, where I had the privilege of addressing the Indian business community. Today, India is a valuable partner; most know that we have a comparable business environment to that of India. In the last few years, Nigerians have gone to India for specialized ICT training, and we are working hard to establish an ICT university in Nigeria that will take off in 2018. It will be the first in Africa, and India can partner with us to establish that university. Admissions will be open to everyone from all over the world, particular Africans, since it will be the first of its type.

Is the ministry mostly targeting international investors?

We focus on international investors all over the world. I have had the privilege of attending several international conferences on ICT and telecommunications development, as well as cybersecurity and similar issues. I always seek to raise people's awareness of the many ICT opportunities in Nigeria.

Nigeria is among the top four countries in Africa in terms of the digital revolution. What role do you see ICT playing in the future?

We will continue to improve and increase our work. For example, we currently have a policy in place that makes our system of governance completely electronic. This is an e-government policy. South Korea has been particularly helpful and given us a great deal of training. Batches of trainees are regularly sent to South Korea for one-month training. South Korea has also built a training facility for Nigeria, which required an investment of more than USD1 billion, to ensure that Nigerians are sufficiently skilled, particularly for civil servants who need to participate in the e-government revolution. Apart from that, we have a policy in place that ensures that all communities in Nigeria are connected with a fiber-optic cable. We are open to all investors, and any company that invests here can be assured of quick company registration, as well as favorable fiscal policies that encourage business and easy repatriation of profits within a short time.

What is your outlook for Nigeria for 2018?

In 2018, our ICT university will be fully established. We also expect more investment in the area of backbone connectivity, which should have fully matured. We have been in talks with many international investors to deploy satellite communication for our rural telecommunications. It will take time for cyber connectivity to spread to all areas; however, India has produced a technology whereby each village has just one center and all the surrounding buildings are connected to that one location. It will not only be satellite based, but solar based, and thus even where there is no electricity it will be active. We are working on all these projects to ensure that people in rural settlements are not excluded from development. Another important area that we are working on is the reform of our postal service, Nipost. We hope to transform Nipost into a multi-service organization. One of those services would be to establish Nipost Bank, which would be able to provide banking inclusiveness for rural dwellers. Secondly, we are considering using Nipost for e-government services. People in rural areas who want to use e-government services could do so at Nipost facilities. Today, there is only one passport office in each state, for example. With the e-government services that we want to introduce through Nipost, one can apply for passports from the local postal agency. That is another push we are hoping to make in 2018. The point is to reintroduce Nipost as a transport and logistics service.