Nigeria currently spends huge portion of its foreign exchange earnings on importation of bandwidth due to the increasing demand.
The minister for science and technology, Ita Ewa, who disclosed this said as the country moves towards becoming an information society, the relaunch of a new communication satellite will ease this burden to a large extent.
Mr Ewa was speaking on Thursday in Abuja at the NIGCOMSAT’s stakeholders’ conference for NigComsat-1R. “Nigeria alone is spending more than $450 million annually on importation of bandwidth from Europe and America to facilitate internet access, telephony, and broadcasting for the development of the economy,” he said.
He said with the launch of Nigerian owned communication satellites, the money would be saved and used and diverted to other sectors.
The minister noted that Africa has become an important continent with huge economic prospects, but is currently experiencing huge demand for bandwidth.
“The market of Europe and North America are more or less saturated, while Africa offers a new and virtually untapped market. Sub-Saharan African alone contains 10 per cent of the world population but only 0.2 per cent of the one billion telephone lines,” Mr Ewa added.
The minister, who was represented by Abdulwahab Jimoh, director of ICT at the ministry, said Nigeria is poised to take the advantage of untapped assets in the ICT sector in the continent through the re-launch of the satellite.
While noting with concern that NIGCOMSAT-1, launched in 2004, was de-orbited in 2008 due to solar array challenges, the minister said the loss was deeply felt because, in the absence of back up satellites, a vacuum was created in the services rendered by the company.
“So it is with great anticipation that we now await the launch of the replacement satellite, NigComSat-1R, scheduled for the end of this year. It is being planned that this launch will be followed later by NigComSat-2 and 3,” Mr Ewa said.
He stated that with the launch of the new satellite, there will be opportunities for new business and development and growth in Africa.
“One of the social-economic benefits will be youth empowerment through business outsourcing, as obtains in the Asian countries,” he further said.
This, he added, will translate to a new source of employment and wealth creation for the citizenry, noting that satellite technology affects every aspect of our lives through e-banking, e-governance, telecommunications, broadcasting, e-commerce, among others.
Apart from creating jobs and revenue, the minister said the satellite has great capacity for improving the quality of life as a result of its applications in broadcasting, internet services, telephony, remote monitoring, public security and safety.
The managing director of NIGCOMSAT, Ahmed Rufai, said the company is determined to go to the next level by providing a satellite platform that will be the pride of all Africans in general and Nigeria in particular.
“The NIGCOMSAT-1 replacement is about 90 per cent complete and that all is set to justify government’s interest, and stakeholders resolved to see to the reality of this launch,” Mr Rufai said.
He allayed fears of stakeholders on the re-launch of NIGCOMSAT-1R, as the federal government has given directive to procure and launch in due course NigComSat 2 and 3 as backups to starve off crisis that may follow any breakdown.