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With the recent rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP to $510 billion, the world woke up to news on Sunday, April 6, 2014 that Nigeria had shot up to the size of the Polish and Belgian economies, and most notably, ousted South Africa to be ranked Africa’s largest economy.
This indeed may not have caught economic observers around the world unawares as the increasing significance of the MINT nations had generated several discussions around the potential steady shift in the economic balance of power from the developed world to the developing nations.
Coincidentally, Jim O’Neill, a former chief economist and head of asset management at Goldman Sachs best known for coining the acronym BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) had at the launch of the Airtel Premier club a few weeks ago spoken on the potentials of Nigeria which if properly harnessed will see the country rank among the top economies of the world.
In his address at the Airtel event which he themed, Nigeria- How the ‘N’ in MINT is going global, O’Neil highlighted the place of Nigeria’s population in the current global agenda. He recognized and commended the effort made by Airtel Nigeria at setting the platform for the critical discourse and charged the Telco to take lead in the drive towards national productivity.
O’Neil further stated that for Nigeria to achieve economic greatness and become one of the biggest economies by year 2050, it must harness her huge youth population and prioritize education and agriculture driven by mobile technology.”
Taking O’Neils words into perspective, it is certain that the large population size of the MINT nations serves as guarantee for the steady supply of a young work force and most certainly consumers of technology for many decades to come.
The UN predicts that the global population which stands currently at 7.2 billion will reach nearly 11 billion by 2100. Over half of the growth foreseen from now and 2050 is expected to be in Africa, where the population will double from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion. By 2050, a quarter of the global population will live in Africa, and Nigeria has been identified as the country to lead Africa’s steady population growth. According to the United Nations, Nigeria will become the third most populous country in the World by 2050.
On the back of all these, the importance of connectivity and mobile technology cannot be overlooked as telecommunications has been identified as a recurring decimal for GDP growth in the MINT. Policy makers are therefore charged to pay attention to policies and programmes that will ensure people in the remote areas have access to mobile technology and ICT.
Taking a cue from South Africa, telecommunication firms are in partnership with the Department of Basic Education providing mobile internet connectivity across 893 schools, with 40 ICT centres established as teacher-training hubs. Tablets have also been used to reduce the country’s challenge of textbook delivery delays. Learning content has also been disseminated using tablet computers, all based on the unique needs of the schools.
At a recent Forum at the London School of Economics, Segun Ogunsanya- CEO of Airtel Nigeria had opined that what will change the current technology ecosystem in Nigeria and Africa is the realization that technology is a must and not an option. Also extending his opinion, he stated that just as education, mobile technology and ICT should be added to the list of international human rights because without access, Africa cannot be lifted out of poverty.
To further buttress his points, he made reference to the recently published Pyramid Research report which shows that over 60% of Nigerian consumers agree that the use of mobile services had improved their lives whilst over 35% stated that “mobile phones had “dramatically’’ improved all aspects of their lives”. A further 80% of respondents saw financial gains through savings in communication spend, reduction in transaction challenges and ability to generate additional income through staying connected. Businesses have gained in productivity, enhanced communication and improved performance.
Since 2010, Airtel has invested almost $2billion (over $1.7billion) dollars to expand its network capacity in Nigeria. In March 2012 the company kick-started its market-leading 3.75G service across Nigeria.
As at today, Bharti Airtel is ranked the 4th largest mobile services provider in terms of customer base worldwide and has its operations in 17 African Countries. With over 26 million customers in Nigeria, it has grown to become the second largest telecoms operator in the country.
Against this backdrop, it is clear that Airtel is prepared and looking ahead to tangibly ensure telecommunications can serve Nigeria’s population as she advances towards 2050.