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Stakeholders seek adequate funding of telecoms, ICT investments

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Stakeholders at the 2019 Telecom Executive and Regulator Forum (TERF) on Thursday called for proper funding of telecoms and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) investments in the country.

The TERF 2019 was organised to address issues confronting the telecoms and ICT sector in Nigeria.

The forum had the theme: “Funding Telecoms and ICT Investment: How would the deficit in the Nigerian telecom infrastructure be financed’’.

The stakeholders said that fund required to be invested in the sector was quite substantial and with the existing instrument, it was not enough to make the required impact.

According to the stakeholders, the Central Bank of Nigeria Intervention Fund and the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) were avenues within the ambit of the law to source funds but unfortunately not much was got there.

Mr Mohammed Babajika, Director, Policy Competition and Economic Analysis, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said that issue of funding was critical in the industry and could not be sourced from government but the private sector.

According to him, what government does is to provide an enabling environment for ease of doing business.

He said that the NCC had a joint technical committee with the Central Bank of Nigeria where issue of funding was addressed but unfortunately they had not got any request from industry players.

“We are intervening in so many ways to see that our licensees have the necessary support from the CBN for forex to be given at the prevailing rate.

“For the Universal Service Provision Funds (USPF), the money sought by the industry is so huge that the USPF cannot cater for it,” he said.

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Mr Yusuf Kazaure, Managing Director, Galaxy Backbone, said that getting funds was essential in addressing the gaps and challenges experienced in the industry, saying that dialogue among stakeholders was essential in bridging the gaps.

“Money is not a problem, the issue there is a lot of house-keeping that need to be done. Industry players need to develop themselves to meet the requirements’’, he said.

In his remarks, Mr Aminu Buhari, the Chief Executive Officer, HD Tech, said that there was need for the country to be realistic on what the public and private sectorS should do.

According to him, there is need to have a collaborative framework that is transparent and has details of where the gaps are in terms of funding so that investors can spot that gap.

Mr Wole Abu, Managing Director, Pan African Towers Ltd., said that in sourcing funds, risks and security were tied together as the lender would want to get back his money.

According to him, cooperate governance will play a serious role in funding telecoms and ICT investments in the country, urging industry players to regulate themselves on funds sourced.

“A platform should be created whereby capital market operators are engaged with industry players to help in sourcing funds,’’ Abu said.

In his contribution, Mr Lekan Balogun, Managing Director, Bitflux Communications Ltd., said that the funds sought by industry owners, which were enormous, had to do with purchasing infrastructure.

According to him, there is need for industry players to come together and articulate what we want government to do for the industry.

He also noted that government needed to create an enabling environment in terms of processing, ease of doing business, so that it would attract the necessary investments.

Mr Yemi Oshodi, Managing Director, Information Connectivity Solutions Ltd., said that funding was a big issue that needed a Public-Private Partnership.

He said that there was need for government’s involvement to ensure that the telecoms source funds with ease.

Mr Martins Akingba from eStream Networks Ltd., said that the required funding of the industry could not be met by private investors.

“We have been paying too much lip service to internet penetration in the country and the critical connection and investments in country will come from the government,’’ he said.

Mr Soji Maurice-Diya, Chief Commercial Officer, American Tower Company Nigeria urged industry players to go to the regulators and see ways of ensuring the single digit interest rate as the current lending rate was high.

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