Nigeria - Country Commercial Guide
Information and Communications Technology

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-10-13

Overview

Unit:   $ millions

 

 

2018

2019

2020 (Estimated)

2021 (Estimated)

Total Market Size

108

NA

 

 

Total Local Production

3

4

 

 

Total Exports

0

0

0

0

Total Imports

104

 

106

180

Imports from the U.S.

69

109

95

120

Exchange Rate:  1 USD

362

360

379.5

410

Total Market Size = (Total Local Production + Total Imports) – (Total Exports)

Data Sources:  

Total Local Production:  Industry Contacts

Total Exports: NA

Total Imports:  UN Comtrade

Imports from U.S.:  UN Comtrade

Nigeria’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector stayed relatively active in 2020 as most of the nation’s industries embraced virtual work conditions. Data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) shows that telecommunications contributed as much as 12.45% to the GDP in the last quarter of 2020, up from 10.60% in the same quarter of the preceding year. This growth is attributable to increased demand, several years of policy implementation, and investment drive in the sector.

Nigeria is regarded as Africa’s largest ICT market with 82% of the continent’s telecoms subscribers and 29% of internet usage. Sub-Saharan Africa is also projected to be the fastest growing region with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.6% and an additional subscriber enrollment of over 167 million in the next five years. Nigeria is expected to account for over 55% of this. The NCC estimates that the country has about 76 million subscriptions on broadband (penetration of 40%) and 187 million lines in the voice segment as of May 2021, representing 97.9% teledensity.

The government of Nigeria (GON) recognizes ICT as the enabler for developing other critical sectors including education, healthcare, agriculture, and manufacturing.   In its drive to diversify the economy from oil and gas, the GON is encouraging partnerships between local ICT companies and foreign investors. To promote these partnerships and grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the technology sector, GON has supported creating government- or private-sector led incubator hubs, youth innovation programs, and science technology parks.

Abuja Technology Village, which serves as an example, received the Abuja government support to become a destination for research, incubation, development, and commercialization of ICT.  Construction has begun at the site, and the GON has granted Special Economic Zone status to Abuja Technology Village and other hubs to enable duty-free shipments and elimination of labor issues as a fiscal incentive to investors and entrepreneurs.

Prominent among the partnerships with the private sector are collaborations with local accelerators like iDEA and the Co-Creation Hub (CC-Hub) in Lagos.  These initiatives have attracted foreign investors like the Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator who recently participated in pitches by Nigerian startups, and New York-based Andela which established an incubation center in Lagos to recruit and train talented Nigerians to code and subsequently outsource them to foreign firms.

The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has overall responsibility for the ICT sector. The ministry also has purview over three different agencies including the NCC as the regulator for the telecoms industry; the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) regulates the broadcast industry; and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) is responsible for policy implementation.

GON in November 2019 launched the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030) aimed at repositioning the Nigerian economy toward opportunities that digital technologies provide and to diversify the economy away from dependence on the oil and gas sector. The program is based on 8-pillars for the acceleration of the Nigerian economy:

  • Developmental Regulation
  • Digital Literacy & Skills
  • Solid Infrastructure
  • Service Infrastructure
  • Digital Services Development & Promotion
  • Soft Infrastructure
  • Digital Society & Emerging Technologies
  • Indigenous Content Development & Adoption

As part of measures to achieve this objective, the NCC rolled out the National Broadband Plan for 2020-2025.

The Broadband Plan is designed to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria of a minimum 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90% of the population by 2025. As part of the initial broadband expansion plan, GON is seeking private sector infrastructure partners in expanding last-mile access. To deepen broadband penetration across the country, the NCC granted licenses to telecommunications infrastructure companies (infracos) to provide telecommunication broadband infrastructure across the various geo-political regions of the country, especially the rural populace. The infracos include: MainOne Cable Company (Lagos zone); IHS Holding Limited (north central and Abuja zone); Zinox Technology Ltd (southeast zone); BCN (northwest zone) and Brinks Integrated Solutions Ltd (northeast zone).

Nigeria aspires to become one of the top economies in the world and the country recognizes ICT development and broadband access as critical requirements to achieve this vision. This ambition, however, remains far from being accomplished as several hurdles have encumbered broadband expansion and investment opportunities for the sector.  Some of the major challenges that have affected the sector include long delays in the processing of permits; multiple taxation at federal, state, and local government levels; multiple regulatory bodies; damage to existing fiber infrastructure as a result of cable theft, road works and other operations; and right of way (RoW) charges implemented by several state governments. This typically leads to high cost of leasing transmission infrastructure. Following criticisms and outcry by several stakeholders, the GON has been pushing for the states to review RoW charges as part of promoting ease of doing business and attracting more investment. Currently, many states have started reviewing the charges above the GON-approved rate of 145 naira ($0.37) per linear meter. Some states are providing zero cost for laying broadband or any other telecommunications infrastructures as ways to boost digital infrastructure rollout to towns and communities.

Just like GON, several states have begun to implement policies and ICT projects that may help to attract ICT investments and create an enabling business climate for their regions. In June 2021, the Lagos State government announced its intention to construct West Africa’s largest technology cluster within the state. The measure is aimed at ramping up its promotion of technology infrastructure and expand the tech space to accommodate more startups.  Similarly, Edo State (southern region) also announced in December 2020 that it is developing the Edo Tech Park, an extensive piece of real estate that will be a self-sustaining tech campus at maturity. 

Several opportunities exist in the country’s telecom market as GON is committed to increasing mobile broadband penetration to 70% by end of 2021.  Additionally, they recently announced additional need of over 80,000 mobile base stations to achieve desired nationwide coverage while there are continuing efforts to promote infrastructure sharing.

Following the rapid growth and progress in the country’s ICT landscape, the country’s international connectivity improved from a single international submarine cable system with 340 GB total capacity installed in 2001 to a total of five cable systems with a combined overall capacity of over 40 terabytes.  However, much of this remains unutilized because of inadequate distribution infrastructure and channels to areas of need inland. This holds huge potentials for Nigeria as increasing data capacity will help government agencies and businesses in the tech ecosystem and implement digitization.

The future looks promising for this segment. The Nigerian mobile network operator and owner of the GLO 1 submarine cable already announced ongoing work to launch a second submarine fiber cable – GLO 2.  GLO2 is expected to have a capacity of 12 terabit per second and be the first submarine cable in Nigeria to land outside Lagos when completed. It is also intended to scale up for further expansion southwards, including to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Angola. Additionally, in mid-2019, Google announced its Equiano subsea cable, which will run from Portugal to South Africa, with an additional touch point in Nigeria. Google’s Equiano cable is expected to have nine branching units creating room for more international connectivity. In the Nigerian terminal point, it will further extend to Bonny Island in the country’s southernmost region.  Facebook had also announced its ‘2Africa’ project - the laying of subsea internet cables that will stretch 22,990 miles and interconnect Europe to about 16 countries in Africa with 21 landings points including Nigeria. Facebook notes that the cable, upon completion, will provide nearly three times the total network capacity of all the subsea cables serving Africa today as well as support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.

There are several other huge capital projects being championed by U.S. multinationals. Cisco Systems recently got the approval of GON to develop six internet of things (IoT) labs across the country, with the focus of building the necessary skillset among students. IBM is championing its Digital Nation Africa (IBM DNA) program focused on empowering youths on the continent. The platform is designed to provide digital knowledge with practical understanding and enhance digital careers.

The NCC completed a 3-month study trial regarding the deployment of 5G technology in Nigeria. The agency noted the role of 5G technology in providing the platform for new and emerging technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), and big data.  However, no license for 5G in Nigeria has been issued and therefore the mobile network operators (MNOS) cannot switch on such technology. While many telecom operators are anticipating a roll out of the technology soon, NCC is technology neutral as it does not license technology but assigns spectrum to operators for deployment of any service when allocated.

The Nigerian software market is far larger than the hardware industry and it is estimated to be $10 billion annually.  The growth of e-services and cloud computing has fueled the demand for data services, simultaneously creating the need for more reliable and high-quality broadband from service providers. The enterprise application software (EAS) market is currently dominated by products from Asia and Europe, with some imports from the United States, but the market segment for high quality products remains largely unsaturated.  

The four major mobile network operators in the country (Airtel, MTN, Globacom, and 9Mobile) continue to consolidate on their gains and strengthen their market share. As of May 2021, MTN dominates the GSM market with over 74 million subscribers (39%). This is closely followed by Globacom and Airtel with about 50 million subscribers (27%) each.  While 9Mobile has about 12 million subscribers (7%).

Nigeria has been able to maintain footprint in space especially through its communications satellite (NigComSat-1R) which was launched in 2011. The satellite is expected to be retired around 2025. In March 2021, NigComSat announced its call for expressions of interest (EoI) for competent manufacturers, contractors, vendors, and partners in the satellite industry. Firms will be pre-qualified for consideration in the implementation of the design, manufacture, launch, in-orbit test, and commissioning of a high-through satellite (HTS). The statement from the agency notes that it intends to increase its fleet of satellites to address a broad array of the communication needs of the country in the areas of broadcasting, broadband and internet services by procuring the manufacture and launching of an HTS. 

Leading Sub-Sectors

The expansion of internet connectivity is driving several segments of the ecosystem to record new or increased investments:

Fiber on air/fiber to the home (FTTH) is receiving high interest following the increased bandwidth capacity now available in the country. Local internet service providers (ISPs) in Nigeria are providing improved high-speed wireless to the home (WTTH) services.

Cloud computing is fast becoming a necessary aspect in the operations of large businesses and some government agencies in Nigeria. While there are several data centers across the country, Nigeria currently has about four enterprise-grade and multi-tenant data centers categorized as Tier III and Tier IV respectively. These provide any or all major data center offerings: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and back-up as a service (BaaS). Commercial activities within this segment of the market are expected to remain buoyant as the government is pursuing a data localization policy. The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), GON’s body responsible for data protection, is requesting all telecommunications companies host all subscriber and consumer data in Nigeria. Further, they request all ministries, departments, and agencies of GON to host their websites locally and under a registered.gov.ng domain and to host all sovereign data locally on servers within Nigeria. 

Fintech/digital financial services in Nigeria is gaining widespread use and acceptance as the government continues to campaign for a cashless economy. This is also being fueled by the increasing adoption of mobile phones. NCC is collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to allow mobile network operators (MNOs) be licensed and perform mobile money payment services.

With growing interest in online commerce, Nigerian Fintech operators are also gaining more traction. In October 2020, U.S. financial tech outfit, Stripe, announced the acquisition of Nigeria’s Paystack to accelerate online commerce across Africa. The acquisition, worth about $200 million is the culmination of a close partnership between Stripe and Paystack over the last several years. Flutterwave, another U.S. and Nigerian registered fintech startup, recently announced raising $170 million in a Series C funding led by U.S.-based private investment firm Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global. The extended virtual work and living environment experienced since 2020 has continued to fuel opportunities in the sector.

So far, digital financial services in Nigeria mainly revolve around savings, lending, and payments. The payments acceptance market, especially merchant and bill payment services, is fast becoming dominated by third-party aggregators and other nonbanks including switch operators. Major participants in the space are Cellulant, Flutterwave, Paystack, Systemspec, WebPay, Paga, etranzact, Quickteller, and Payarena.

Smart mobility is another part of the tech ecosystem that has gained some popularity. Following the launch in Nigeria of Uber’s ride-sharing service in 2014, several other models have been introduced and adopted including bike-hailing services. Smart mobility is forecast to be the next disruptive market force in the global transportation technology sector.  There are huge prospects for the vehicle technology industry in Nigeria, especially within the automotive aftermarket space including aesthetic elements and electronic features like GPS navigation systems, telematics, mobile electronics, camera systems, self-cleaning windows, security control, and tracking systems.

Opportunities

There are several investment opportunities in Nigeria’s nascent but diverse information technology sector for U.S. investors. Nigeria’s cloud service market terrain is still quite green as there are only a few participants currently involved in enterprise-grade deployments. Industry analysts see activity brewing for partnerships as well as equipment sales and technical services. Also, the digital financial services and financial tech sector is continually evolving with new players and product launches. This is spurred by both government policy to promote a cashless economy and the high number of digital natives in the ecosystem. 

Additionally, there is huge potential in the country’s fiber optic and broadband market given the continued expansion of Nigeria’s international submarine cable system.  The landscape currently has a combined overall capacity of over 40 terabytes with other projects proposed to be launched soon. This is already helping to generate interest in smart cities development.  Further opportunities may be explored in the satellite internet and television white space (TVWS) segments as the roll out of terrestrial fiber across the country may not provide the much-needed nationwide coverage, hence the need for alternative technologies. U.S. information technology companies, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and internet service providers (ISPs) may also consider the emerging needs for supply of required devices (antennas, solar kits, cabling, diverse range of wireless communication, and radio products for high-capacity data and voice delivery) in this space.  Clients may choose to have direct investment or partnering with local companies in Nigeria for any of these opportunities.

Challenges

Though Nigeria remains a major ICT powerhouse on the continent, there have been reports of a recent slow-down of the sector caused by rising exchange rates. Downstream effects include foreign exchange scarcity, wide disparity between the dollar and the local currency (naira), impacted investment, and increased cost of equipment procurement.

There has been continued debate regarding GON’s plan to regulate the use of social media. Nigeria currently ranks 120th in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index against 115 in the preceding year.

Significant and frequent policy shifts in GON positions toward ICT are common.  are still being noticed in certain government decisions/reactions. Ride-hailing services including Uber and Bolt have continued to face threats of stiff regulations in some of the country’s regions. In 2020, Lagos State government, citing safety and security concerns, imposed a ban on the budding two-wheel ride-hailing platforms – Gokada, Max.ng, and ORide. These firms were banned from operating in the city’s central commercial and residential areas. Most of the affected operators now focus on deliveries and other logistics businesses.

In June 2021, the GON imposed a ban on the use of Twitter in the country. The micro-blogging site was blamed for deleting a post by the President and not curtailing tweets supporting an independence movement in south-east of Nigeria. Analysts note that there are ongoing discussions to resolve the dispute.  Meanwhile, the app, which is very popular among Nigerian youth, had been variously used for online campaigns, social mobilization, and commerce.

Local Industry Events

Digital Africa Conference

Location: Online (https://www.digitalafrica.com.ng/)

 

NigeriaCom Conference

Location: Online (https://tmt.knect365.com/nigeria-com/)

 

Social Media Week

Location: TBD (https://www.smwlagos.com/)

Date: TBD

Ambrose will work with the following events:

Resources

Nigerian Communications Commission

For further sector information, e-mail: Ambrose Thomas, Commercial Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service, Lagos, Nigeria at: Ambrose.Thomas@trade.gov.