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Artificial intelligence as matters arising



By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

As we grapple with the vagaries of life in general and the challenges arising therefrom ,technology is fast taking over our way of thinking and the actions we take as human beings.

This is the era of artificial intelligence whereby robots have been scientifically created to take over some or many of human activities.

Only recently, a full church service took place in Germany and robots were in charge of all departments from the beginning to the end.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is machine-displayed intelligence that simulates human behavior or thinking and can be trained to solve specific problems.

AI is a combination of Machine Learning techniques and Deep Learning. Types of Artificial Intelligence models are trained using vast volumes of data and have the ability to make intelligent decisions. Now we know.

According to Statista, revenue from the Artificial Intelligence (AI) software market worldwide is expected to reach 126 billion dollars by 2025.

Gartner says that 37% of organizations have implemented AI in some form. The percentage of enterprises employing AI grew 270% over the past four years.

Servion Global Solutions, says that by 2025, 95% of customer interactions will be powered by AI.

A recent 2020 report from Statista reveals that the global AI software market is expected to grow approximately 54% year-on-year and is expected to reach a forecast size of  USD $22.6 billion

Artificial Intelligence technology is now used to create recommendation engines through which one can engage better with customers.

Dawood Patel, CEO of Helm, comments: “AI and ML have demonstrated impressive ca­pabilities in automating tasks, processing large amounts of data, and making informed decisions.

Think of those chatbots that handle customer service inquiries or help you reboot your internet when it’s down, AI has undoubtedly enhanced various domains.

“However, beyond the sur­face of things like sentiment analysis, AI lacks the ability to comprehend emotions, empa­thy, and the intricacies of hu­man relationships which are essential for it to be able to do its job. It’s important that we continue to harness the emo­tion and empathy required or we are in danger of becoming a robotic society.

“Understanding emotions and interpreting personal touches are quintessential human traits that arise from our complex neural networks and emotional intelligence. AI might be able to recognise fa­cial expressions, but it cannot understand the depth of emo­tions that underlie them.”

Only humans can perceive these nuances and adapt their approach accordingly to build meaningful connections.
“One of the greatest con­cerns surrounding AI is the potential threat to jobs. While it is true that some routine and repetitive tasks may be auto­mated, the integration of AI and ML will lead to the evo­lution of existing jobs rather than mass unemployment.

“As AI takes over mundane tasks, it frees up humans to fo­cus on more creative, strategic, and high-level responsibilities which cannot be undertaken by machines. Much like cer­tain jobs implemented with AI could not be fulfilled by humans,” explains Patel.

An example of this would be a conveyor belt in a factory where AI-powered diagnostic tools can analyse the quality of fruit (or if a pizza has been perfectly topped with cheese) with impressive accuracy.

While AI can assist in de­tecting items that are not up to standard for export or resale, it cannot replace the expertise and intuition of a seasoned medical professional for example. This person will understand and consider a pa­tient’s lifestyle, and emotion­al well-being before making a diagnosis and prescribing a treatment plan.

“Instead of replacing doc­tors, AI serves as a valuable tool here to enhance their abilities and streamlining the diagnostic process, supporting the doctor.”

As AI continues to advance, it will create new job opportu­nities that require uniquely human skills. The develop­ment and maintenance of AI systems will require skilled professionals with expertise in data science, Machine Learn­ing, and computer program­ming.

Additionally, AI’s integra­tion across various industries will demand individuals who can understand, interpret, and leverage AI-driven insights to make informed decisions and drive innovation.

“For hardworking people who seek growth in their ca­reers, the rise of AI represents an opportunity rather than a threat. Embracing AI technol­ogy and acquiring the neces­sary skills to work alongside it can open doors to new and challenging roles. These roles may involve human-AI collab­oration, strategic planning, creativity, and problem-solv­ing – the aspects of a job that demand the human touch. This is what excites me,” Patel.

The future of AI and ML is undoubtedly promising, but it is crucial to recognise the indispensable role of humans.

“Emotion, personal touches, and human nuances are qual­ities that define our humani­ty and set us apart from ma­chines. Rather than replacing humans, AI will augment and elevate our capabilities, lead­ing to the evolution of jobs and the emergence of new opportu­nities,” concludes Patel.

Recommendations are made in accordance with browsing history, preference, and interests. These help in improving relationships with customers and their loyalty towards any bran

For instance, Virtual shopping assistants and chatbots help improve the user experience while shopping online whereby Natural Language Processing is used to make the conversation sound as human and personal as possible. Moreover, these assistants can have real-time engagement with your customers.

Credit card frauds and fake reviews are two of the most significant issues that E-Commerce companies deal with. By considering the usage patterns, AI can help reduce the possibility of credit card fraud taking place. Many customers prefer to buy a product or service based on customer reviews. AI can help identify and handle fake news.

Although the education sector is the one most influenced by humans, Artificial Intelligence has slowly begun to seep its roots into the education sector as well.

Even in the education sector, this slow transition of Artificial Intelligence has helped increase productivity among faculties and helped them concentrate more on students than office or administration work.

Some of the applications in this sector include but not limited to Administrative Tasks Automated to Aid Educators.

Artificial Intelligence can help educators with non-educational tasks like task-related duties like facilitating and automating personalized messages to students, back-office tasks like grading paperwork, arranging and facilitating parent and guardian interactions, routine issue feedback facilitating, managing enrollment, courses, and other topics.

Digitization of content like video lectures, conferences, and textbook guides can be made using Artificial Intelligence.

These can apply different interfaces like animations and learning content through customization for students from different grades.

Artificial Intelligence helps create a rich learning experience by generating and providing audio and video summaries and integral lesson plans.

Without even the direct involvement of the lecturer or the teacher, a student can access extra learning material or assistance through Voice Assistants. Through this, printing costs of temporary handbooks and also provide answers to very common questions

Artificial Intelligence has a lot of influence on our everyday lifestyles.

Automobile manufacturing companies like Toyota, Audi, Volvo, and Tesla use machine learning to train computers to think and evolve like humans when it comes to driving in any environment and object detection to avoid accidents.

The email that we use in our day-to-day lives has AI that filters out spam emails sending them to spam or trash folders, letting us see the filtered content only. The popular email provider, Gmail, has managed to reach a filtration capacity of approximately 99.9%.

Our favorite devices like our phones, laptops, and PCs use facial recognition techniques by using face filters to detect and identify in order to provide secure access. Apart from personal usage, facial recognition is a widely used Artificial Intelligence application even in high security-related areas in several industries.

Artificial Intelligence has been very popular in Navigation

“Based on research from MIT, GPS technology can provide users with accurate, timely, and detailed information to improve safety. The technology uses a combination of Convolutional Neural Networks and Graph Neural Networks, which makes lives easier for users by automatically detecting the number of lanes and road types behind obstructions on the roads. AI is heavily used by Uber and many logistics companies to improve operational efficiency, analyze road traffic, and optimize routes.

Robotics is another field where Artificial Intelligence applications are commonly used. Robots powered by AI use real-time updates to sense obstacles in its path and pre-plan its journey instantly.

Robotics are now prevalent in Carrying goods in factories, essential medical equipment in hospitals and warehouses, Cleaning offices and large equipment, Inventory management among others.

Artificial Intelligence is now in Human Resource management whereby companies use intelligent software to ease the hiring process.

Artificial Intelligence helps with blind hiring. Using machine learning software, you can examine applications based on specific parameters. AI drive systems can scan job candidates’ profiles, and resumes to provide recruiters an understanding of the talent pool they must choose from.

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ITU and the race to fund SDGs in 2030



By Sonny Aragba-Akpore.


The International Telecommunications Union,s ( ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference (PP) due for Doha,Qatar in 2026 holds very significant milestones for the global digital telecommunications body.

For one thing,it’s going to be the first of such conferences to be hosted by the Doreen Bogdan-Martins led Executive Council of the ITU.

2026 is also the year the ITU earmarked for the collation of the funds to connect the rest of the unconnected world under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Only last month,at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS),Geneva,Switzerland,donor countries raised funds that have increased the available moneys for the SDGs to over $50billion accounting for more than 50% of the anticipated $100billion for the projects.

ITU , the UN Agency for Digital Technologies, announced on May 27,2024 a donation of a $4.8 billion in investment commitments toward global connectivity.

The announcement brings the total pledges aimed at closing the digital divide through ITU’s Partner2Connect Digital Coalition (P2C) to $50.96 billion, over half the $100 billion goal set for 2026.

The pledges to Partner2Connect, ITU’s platform to advance universal meaningful connectivity, were announced during the opening day of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)+20 Forum High-Level Event in Geneva, Switzerland.
The new commitments announced at the WSIS Forum event were pledges that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance digital access, adoption and inclusion.

A visibly excited,ITU Secretary General,Bogdan-Martins told the gathering in Geneva that
“Closing the digital divide requires a team effort, and today we scored a huge win for global connectivity,” she said adding “I am thrilled to see these amazing new commitments and that we have united P2C and WSIS to break through the halfway point in our goal to help bring the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone, everywhere.”

UN documents say “the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to transform our world. These are calls to action to end poverty and inequality, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy health, justice and prosperity.”

SDGs were born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro,Brazil in 2012. The objective was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world.As part of the declarations,SDG agenda took root in 2015 and will run till 2030.

SDG Digital highlights that the funding gap of over $3.7 trillion for the SDGs should focus international efforts on enablers—such as infrastructure and connectivity—as well as the pooling of resources through collaboration including the private sector and the utilization of diverse financing methods.
There are hopes on the horizon as SDG Digital received new commitments to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

As part of the strategy to sustain the drive for funds to bridge the digital divide,ITU,s PP 26 in Doha is expected to bring the fund raising push upto date.

In 2023, the number of people not connected to the Internet decreased to an estimated 2.6 billion or 33 per cent from the estimated 2.7 billion people offline in 2022. Only 67 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.4 billion people, were online in 2023, the ITU said.

“This improvement in connectivity is another step in the right direction, and one more step towards leaving no one behind in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Bogdan-Martin, in a statement.

“We won’t rest until we live in a world where meaningful connectivity is a lived reality for everyone, everywhere,” Bogdan-Martin added.

According to early estimates, growth in Internet connectivity remains the strongest in low-income countries where data indicate that Internet users increased by about 17 per cent over the past year. However, less than one-third of individuals are connected to the Internet in these countries.

UN assessments on the progress so far explained that half of the 169 SDG targets is either weak or insufficient at the 2030 Agenda’s halfway point. 30 % of the SDG targets have either stalled or gone in reverse.
“With digital transformation demanding joint efforts between the private sector, financial institutions, civil society, the UN, governments and young people, SDG Digital brings together experts, policy-makers and business leaders to explore the achievements, gaps and solutions on how digital technologies can support the 2030 Agenda.”

Last week ,Qatar , the host country of the next International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-26), announced the nomination of Mr.Ahmad Abdulla AlMuslemani,an engineer and President of the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA), as Chairman-designate for the local organizing committee (LOC).

The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP) is the highest decision-making body of ITU, the PP-26 will take place in Doha, Qatar, from November 9 to 27,2026.

“ITU’s next Plenipotentiary Conference in Qatar will set the stage for a digital future where human-centered technology drives progress and inclusion for everyone,”Bogdan-Martin. said adding “Under Eng. Ahmad Abdulla AlMuslemani’s leadership, I’m confident that PP-26 will make great strides in advancing ITU’s mission to connect the world meaningfully and sustainably.”

Delegates representing ITU’s 193 Member States meet every four years at the Plenipotentiary Conference to set out the organization’s strategic and financial plans. They also elect ITU’s senior management team, the Member States of the ITU Council, and the members of the Radio Regulations Board.

The decision to host PP-26 in Doha was adopted by consensus by ITU Member States in October 2022 at ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference 2022, in Bucharest, Romania.
In its bid to host PP-26, the country noted its strong infrastructure for information and communication technologies as well as its status as a world leader in organizing and hosting major events, including high-level global and regional conferences across a variety of sectors.

As CRA President, AlMuslemani leverages over 18 years of rich experience in the information and communication technologies sector to strategically shape regulatory policies and digital infrastructure development.

His leadership plays a crucial role in aligning Qatar’s digital transformation initiatives with the National Development Strategy and Digital Agenda 2030.

AlMuslemani holds a Master’s degree in Communication Systems from the Swiss Institute of Technology and a Master’s in Management from HEC Paris in Qatar.

He also obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Ohio State University, USA. His combined technical and managerial expertise spans Big Data, the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, and notably, the deployment of 5G networks, which are pivotal in enhancing connectivity and technological access throughout Qatar. This expertise will undoubtedly add significant value to the PP-26 discussions.​​

Mr. Mohammed bin Ali Al Mannai, Qatar’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, said: “This appointment underscores Qatar’s commitment to shaping the future of global communications and ensuring equitable access to information and communication technologies for all. We are confident that AlMuslemani’s extensive experience will be instrumental in guiding the conference towards impactful resolutions and fostering a collaborative environment for the ITU member states.”

As Chair-designate, AlMuslemani will work with ITU and its Member States to prepare for PP-26, which will guide the organization’s work through 2030 in overseeing global radio spectrum allocation, creating global technical standards, and advancing sustainable development through connectivity to digital technologies.

“Qatar has a proven track record of successfully organizing and hosting major international events.

We are confident that Qatar will be an exemplary host for the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. It will be our honor to welcome the global ICT community to Doha, where we will share our rich culture, heritage, and hospitality. This conference presents an invaluable opportunity for us to collectively advance the global ICT agenda, fostering innovation and cooperation that will shape the future of digital technologies worldwide,” said AlMuslemani.

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*By Tunde Olusunle*

When he flung Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, (SLS) out of the window of the Emir’s palace in Kano four years ago, Abdullahi Ganduje would have least imagined what is playing out today. Ganduje was the “Lord of the Manor” in Kano State, the all-powerful chief executive. Recall video clips of Ganduje allegedly stuffing wads and packs of crisp, mint-fresh dollar bills into the bottomless pocket of his *babanriga* ahead of the 2019 general elections. They were reportedly gifted to him by some contractor ally of the erstwhile Kano governor who was repaying a good turn. Graphic and unassailable as that short motion picture was, former President Muhammadu Buhari who rode into office on the camelback of now suspect integrity in 2015, volunteered a baffling defence for Ganduje. He swore Ganduje was most probably participating in a *Kannywood* movie, the way the film industry up North is described. Buhari who has never been known to operate a tablet, nay a notepad, suggested that advanced technology could actually simulate what we all saw in that short clip!

Ganduje was the prototype *alagbara ma m’ero* as we say in Yoruba. This interpretes as the “maximally muscular, minimally reasonable.” He fought a few other prominent Kano leaders during his heydays in Government House. Recall he carried his unabated squabbles with one of his predecessors, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso to the State House, Aso Villa, during the early weeks of the Bola Tinubu government. Told on one occasion that Kwankwaso was in a particular section of Aso Rock same time as he was in the complex, a vexed Ganduje said Kwankwaso should consider himself fortunate. He said he, Ganduje would have slapped Kwankwaso if he sighted him in the Villa! That would have caused a scene in Nigeria’s seat of power. I’m now just imagining how Tinubu would be trying to restrain Ganduje, in the forecourt of the office of the President, while Vice President Kashim Shettima will be pulling at Kwankwaso’s *agbada* in a bid to manage the situation.

Ganduje reportedly considered Sanusi too independent-minded and outspoken for a natural ruler. Sanusi was governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), before being appointed Emir in 2014. He had always had a radical streak about him which culminated in his suspension as CBN head in 2014 for blowing the whistle on the theft of $20 Billion in accruals from crude oil sales. As Emir he considered aspects of the religious and cultural practices of his emirate repugnant. He opposed the “ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam” in some parts of northern Nigeria, which discouraged girl-child education, family planning, even inoculation against potential healthcare afflictions. He had reservations about the style of Ganduje as governor and didn’t put a veil over his dislike for the return of Ganduje to Government House in 2019.

He believed Ganduje shouldn’t have made it back if the poll was fairly and transparently conducted. March 9, 2020, Ganduje upended Sanusi. He was accused of negatively impacting the sanctity, culture, tradition, religion and prestige of the Kano emirate, and disrespecting the governor’s office. He was also alleged to have disposed of property belonging to the state and the misappropriated of the proceeds. It was a case of digging several manholes for a prey in a bid to ensure he falls into one of the several traps. He was summarily banished to Nasarawa State for effect. Sanusi sought reprieve in the courts which ruled it was an overkill to fling him to a remote community faraway from his family and more accustomed home in Lagos. Within a few days, Nasir El Rufai, Sanusi’s longstanding friend who was governor of Kaduna State, personally enforced the evacuation of Sanusi from Awe local government area in Nasarawa State.

For whatever his contributions were to the emergence of Tinubu as president after the 2023 polls, Ganduje believed he would be compensated with a ministerial slot in the former’s regime. Like Nyesom Wike, David Umahi, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, Atiku Bagudu, Simon Lalong, former governors of Rivers, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Kebbi and Plateau states, Ganduje dusted his curriculum vitae to pitch for a slot on Tinubu’s federal executive council. His five colleagues in the “2015 – 2019- 2023 class of governors” made the cut, not Ganduje. Tinubu spontaneously made him chairman of the All Progressives Congress, (APC], the vehicle which delivered him as president. Abdullahi Adamu his predecessor and former governor of Nasarawa State was, as has become standard practice in Nigeria’s notorious political rule book, schemed out and compelled to resign from office.

If Ganduje ever thought his chairmanship of the APC was going to be a walk in the park, he was thoroughly mistaken. Indeed, he’s grossed sufficient experience in his present office to know that there are sharp differences between wholesale insulation in Government House, and the inevitable overexposure of party leadership. Last April, a faction of the APC in Ganduje’s primary “Ganduje ward” in *Dawakin Tofa* local government area of his home state, Kano, suspended him from the party. Haladu Gwanjo, legal adviser of Ganduje’s ward led some party leaders to pronounce the suspension. They advocated the return of the national chairmanship of the APC to the north central zone, where Ganduje’s predecessor, Adamu, hails from. The young Turks canvassed due process in party administration, consistent with the “renewed hope” mantra of the APC. Ganduje made a hurried recourse to the law courts for momentary reprieve.

Thursday May 23, 2024, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was reinstated as Emir of Kano by Ganduje’s successor in Kano State, Abba Yusuf. His cousin and successor, Aminu Ado-Bayero, was unceremoniously removed from office. The splinter emirates created by Ganduje in his bid to whittle down Sanusi’s authority as prime monarch in Kano, were similarly dissolved. The edifice which Ganduje built four years ago was apparently built of straw and spittle. Governor Abba Yusuf is a product of the *Kwankwasiya* political tendency in Kano politics, a creation of Rabiu Kwankwaso. Those who know a little about Nigerian politics will recall that Kwankwaso’s emergence in our politics, predates the fourth republic. He was an ardent student of the *talakawa* political orientation, pioneered by the venerable Kano-born leader, Aminu Kano. Kwankwaso was Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives of the Ibrahim Babangida political experimentation of 1992 to 1993.

Whereas the *Kwankwasiya* movement had long been entrenched, it was not until the run-up to the 2023 elections that Kwankwaso adopted a new platform, the Nigeria National People’s Party, (NNPP), on which he is espousing the populist philosophy of the *Kwankwasiya* brigade. Abba Yusuf rode to office on the back of this invention. It was the same way Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu the famous *Biafran* war lord, established the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) in Anambra State. The party has remained a force in the politics of the state and indeed the south east. It has produced three Anambra governors in succession, notably Peter Obi, Willie Obiano and the incumbent Chukwuma Soludo.

Abba Yusuf has made no pretences about his disdain for Ganduje and everything he represents. Much as some of Yusuf’s early actions in office were generally perceived as wasteful, he nonetheless brought down as many edifices in Kano as bore the imprimatur of Ganduje. The “Kano golden jubilee roundabout” built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the creation of Kano State and structures built inside the *filin sukuwa,* (Kano race course), were hewn on Yusuf’s orders. The *hajj camp* which was reportedly bastardised by Ganduje who allegedly parcelled parts of it to his friends and associates was equally felled. There were suggestions that the value of the demolitions carried out by Yusuf could be in excess of N200Billion. Such is the anti-Ganduje sentiment in contemporary Kano State.

The way and manner the legacies of Abdullahi Ganduje are unravelling in Kano State should serve as a lesson to the shortsighted, incapable of seeing beyond the bridges of their nose. History is replete with the deconstruction of many leaders after their rulership and indeed keeps repeating itself in our sociopolitical experience. Those who are not circumspect, however, are too distracted by the allure and bliss of their immediate office, to think. They continue to drift, blunder and flounder, unmindful that time is their ultimate nemesis. Ganduje is just one year out of office, yet many of the decisions he made while in power for eight years are being unmade and thrown at his face like rotten tomatoes.

Until I joined him on the table he was seated at a wedding reception we both attended in Lagos a few weeks back, Rotimi Amaechi, governor of the oil-affluent Rivers State for eight years and Transportation Minister for another eight years was a lonely man. It turned out we flew back to Abuja on the same flight same evening after the event and sat not too far from each other. He opened the overhead locker atop his seat to bring out his luggage himself. Is anyone following the Yahaya Bello saga? He mindlessly trampled upon the hapless heads of his constituents in Kogi State for eight unbroken years? He left office last January and life has not been the same again. He has been declared wanted by at least one anti-graft agency. He will be arraigned in the rectangular, wood-panelled cubicle of the courtroom in a fortnight. A lesson for all.

*Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)*

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Internal haemorrhage as threats to telecoms services



By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

Without sounding a death-knell,telecommunications service companies are troubled.
Although,the big players display glamour and pictures of “all is well” what you see is
nothing but a facade as the companies are grasping for breath as a result of the internal haemorhage plaguing their service provision.
And unless government rejigs its policy on foreign exchange as a quick intervention, to cushion importation of equipment to boost services,many of the so called A grade players may go into worst shapes.
Operating Expenditure (OPEX) has more than doubled since 2021 and with dwindling foreign inflows through Foreign Direct Investments(FDIs), some telcos are now holding on to straw to survive.
The operators see their biggest challenges in their inability to provide quality of service and a result of recurrent vandalism of their infrastructure.
Every operator has become its own electricity power provider as supplies from national grid are now a pipe dream.Added to this, the spiral costs of diesel and its alleged incessant theft of same by unnamed persons creates bigger problems.
The rising cost of diesel is very worrisome as a litre that sold between 1200/1400 at pump landing at site is now as high as NGN 2000 per litre on site in some parts of the country.
Confirming the internal haemorhage,in the sector,an official who wants to be anonymous said part of the haemorrhage stems from significant high interconnect debts between players. Telcos are being owed alot of money thereby leading to terminal struggles for survival.
The telcos also list Political incursions as a major drawback hindering survival.
On the issue of Forex sources : “willing seller, willing buyer on forex, problem is bills that are being settled now due to long wait for forext transactions when Forex was at 700N =US1 and now being paid at the prevailing rate of 1,400+
High OPEX remains a major issue coupled with ⁠Low FDIs leading to concerns in industry sustainability.
They claim that the regulator is in a dilemma especially on tariff hike issues.
So Telcos are now on bent knees scrapping to provide services below cost.
And the Government looks elsewhere inspite of manifest inflation on every single item especially now that Infrastructure are experiencing decay and to replace same is slow and painful as telcos lament their inability to deliver robust Services .
To underscore a picture of this haemorrhage,
MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa (the only two telcos publicly traded) lost N479 billion to currency revaluation and recorded reduced profit margins in the first nine months of 2023.

In its financial report for Q1, 2024, for instance,MTN reported a second successive loss after declaring a loss after tax of N392.7 billion for the first quarter of 2024.

This is coming despite growing its service revenue by 32.0 per cent to N747.3 billion year-on-year, the telco recorded its second loss since it was listed on the Nigerian Exchange.

It noted that its net loss for the quarter further increased its accumulated losses and negative shareholders’ funds to N599.2 billion and N434.7 billion, respectively. It highlighted that its profit after tax adjusted for the net forex loss declined by 57.8 per cent to N47.1 billion.

“Further adjusting for the impact of the naira devaluation in OPEX, PAT would have been down by 5.3 per cent to N105.6 billion,” MTN said. The telco’s net foreign exchange loss stood at N656.37 billion.

MTN Nigeria’s chief executive officer, Karl Toriola, noted that severe macroeconomic headwinds overshadowed a solid operating performance. He said: “The operating environment in the first quarter remained very challenging, with rising inflation and continued naira depreciation off an already low base.” He stated that the naira’s devaluation and record-high inflation have impacted the operating environment for businesses in Nigeria.

The operators are agitating for tariff hikes as part of measures to sustain their operating expenditure.But that is half way through if all they get the regulator,s ,Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)’s nod.

The operators are trying to justify the tariff increase because “Consumer prices in other sectors have seen a steep rise over the last six years as they adjust to reflect macroeconomic realities. However, telco prices have remained flat and even declined. Contrary to the price trends in other sectors, telcos have had to adjust for the macroeconomic headwinds caused by an increasing erosion of margins. Other highly regulated sectors such as power and insurance have implemented price increases over the last year. Insurance prices have risen 200 per cent with power raising prices by over 40 per cent.”

They also decry the strong macroeconomic headwinds which have occasioned tough operating conditions, leading to a decline in CAPEX (Domestic) and Foreign Direct (Capital Inflow) investments into the industry by 30.37 per cent and 46.9 per cent respectively between 2021 and 2022.

These headwinds include inability to source foreign exchange and attract foreign direct investment because investors have become uncomfortable because of the grave economic uncertainty in the country.

Without meaning to link the crisis to a flip flop economy,the operators think unless something urgent is done,providing quality of service will not be sustainable because of the multiple effects of operating costs.

Owing to the macroeconomic crisis , resulting in increased cost of operation and overheads, most telecom companies in Nigeria have been posting losses, making it difficult for them to pay their Annual Operating Levy (AOL) to the Commission as and when due.

The operators are worried about the restrictive regulatory approach which is unconducive for the highly needed innovation in this evolutionary era of newer communication technologies.

“We invite the EVC to note that the convergence of telecommunications with digital and multimedia services has greatly reduced the revenue streams from traditional telecommunications services (voice, SMS, etc.)and to survive this digital era, telecommunications operators have no choice but to quickly evolve into digital and platform service providers which enable newer and advanced means and uses of communications technology and this is only possible in a regulatory environment that enables the development of innovative products and services, with a flexible regulator that is well-informed on the latest technology developments/requisite regulatory frameworks, and an appreciation for the reverberating impact of derailing this progression.” they lamented.

In 2023,MTN declared its first loss after tax of N137 billion. and Its retained earnings and shareholders’ fund fell to negative N208.0 billion and N40.8 billion, respectively.
For Airtel, profit before taxes result for the half-year 2023 was much worse, it dropped by a staggering 97.7 per cent – from $516 million to $12 million – compared to the results from 2022.

The report showed that Airtel had consistently grown its revenue in Nigeria since Q2 2018. The only time there was a drop in revenue between quarters was in 2020 when revenue dropped from $377 million in Q1 2020 to $341 million in Q2 2020. This $36 million drop in revenue is nothing compared to the decline seen in 2023.

Its revenue for Q1 2023 was $543 million, a $2 million drop compared to the previous quarter – $545 million in Q4 2022. By Q2 2022, the drop in revenue increased by $15 million, from $543 million to $528 million.

Although figures of losses sustained by the other unquoted telcos are unavailable,there are strong indications that all is not well.
Several of them are owing interconnect fees and generally unable and or late in payment of AOL.
Consequently,the late and inability to pay AOL to the NCC tells one of the bad stories of the situation on ground.
In general terms,the sector is believed to be wobbling and In fits.
Deposit Money Banks are also part of the telcos headaches as they are believed to be indebted to the tune of about Two hundred billion naira (#200b) in unsettled Unstructured Supplementary Service Bus(USSD) services rendered by telcos to the banks.
The telcos also bemoan the fate of their equipment and infrastructure across the country.
They had canvassed for comprehensive protections for their infrastructure by suggesting to government to make telecommunications equipment Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) but government officials say this is “Work In Progress (WIP) as the telcos wait in limbo.
Apart from these,they have had to contend with multiple taxations whereby the Federal Government,states and council governments put immense pressure on telcos for various taxes at different levels.
Apart from the taxes,Right of Way is an albatross that had defied any solutions and so the telcos have had to live with it.
The telcos say that
“notwithstanding the much-touted resilience of the telecommunications sector and its commendable double-digit contribution to the GDP, we wish to strongly impress on the NCC the pressing need to avert the grave risk looming in the industry’s horizon by taking clinical and definitive action towards repositioning the industry for growth and increased investments, because ultimately , it is our considered view that a thriving telecommunications sector will have a far-reaching effect on:
o Mobile Network Operators as they will remain going concerns who can carry on sustainable operations with the overall intention of value creation and enabling connectedness;
o The maximization of consumer welfare for Nigerians who, as the the NCC rightly noted, are the most critical stakeholders in the telecommunications value chain; and
o The Government itself, given that the net effect of a sustainable communications industry is bolstered investor confidence, increased contribution to GDP and, by extension, revenue growth in the form of payment of increased direct/indirect taxes and Annual Operating Levies” in that regard.

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