The Business Year

Hon. Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu

NIGERIA - Telecoms & IT

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Minister of Communications, Nigeria

Bio

Hon. Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu is a Minister from Oyo State, Nigeria. He enrolled in the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, in Osun State in 1974. At the end of 1978, he had obtained a First Class Degree in Law from the same university. In 1983, he was elected as a member of Oyo State House Assembly in the Second Republic. In 1983, the military government took over from the civilian government and he retired into private legal practice and writing. He became a member of the National Political Conference in 2005. In 2016 the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him as Minister of Communications.

"We are optimistic we will be able to meet our target of 30% penetration within the shortest possible time."

The Nigerian government intends to increase broadband penetration from 8-30% by 2018. What are the government’s strategies for realizing this goal?

The government should not be using its own resources for the purpose of investment in infrastructure. All the government does is provide an enabling environment for private sector participation. We are talking to everybody, local and foreign investors, to let them know about the opportunities that exist. Nigeria is an expansive country with a huge population, which translates into a major market for their businesses. Many local and foreign entrepreneurs have already made some investments in the sector and further proposals are forthcoming. Some want to use conventional broadband, by placing fiber optics underground, while others are even bringing the novel idea of placing the fiber-optic cables on the electricity poles around the country. We are happy with the regulatory environment that has been created, which, combined with the huge population and stable government, illustrate to investors that Nigeria is the place to go. We are optimistic we will be able to meet our target of 30% penetration within the shortest possible time.

You mentioned that broadband penetration will reach rural areas. How will this make an impact on the daily life of rural communities?

In expanding broadband from one city to another, a certain amount of the rural areas in between will get connectivity as well. We have governmental institutions all over this country, and we want all of them to take advantage of the opportunities that ICT presents. Life in the rural areas can change considerably with access to ICT. People there can become better educated, because they have access to virtual libraries and are able to communicate and create opportunities for new businesses. From my village, about 150km from Ibadan, around 800 vehicles come to the city daily to buy things, but if we have enough connectivity e-commerce will thrive and people will not have to make the daily journey to larger cities.

How do you assess the evolution of e-commerce in the country?

It is growing exponentially and many companies are keen to get involved. Three or four years ago, we had just one company involved, but today we have at least 10 and they are all doing excellent business.

How can new technologies help the government in its quest to promote greater transparency and reduce corruption?

Through the e-governance process, the government will be able to increase efficiency and fight corruption, and make the economy robust in the sense that it decreases the need to carry cash. ICT also provides us with more options in terms of payment systems. Even in terms of salaries, e-payments are easier and more transparent. Within the banking sector, digitization through ATM networks is speeding up banking processes. E-banking is possible through the use of smartphones and it is more efficient because people do not have to travel to a bank in order to make and receive payments. We see e-governance as a way of providing solutions to businesses, educational institutions, and the agricultural sector in particular, as well as mining and other aspects of governance.

What is the government’s strategy for fighting cybercrime?

We have an anti-cybercrime law in place, which connects all of the security agencies and gives each of them a role to play. We also benefit from strategies adopted at the international level to fight cybercrime in Nigeria. Cybercrime knows no boundaries so we are leveraging all of the strategies that are evolving to fight cybercrime globally.

This year we are focusing on the empowerment of women. How would you describe the role of women in the communications sector?

I am happy to report that in Nigeria today women are increasingly getting involved in the communications sector. Women form a key component of the ICT revolution, not just in Nigeria but around the world. I am happy that Nigerian women are not being left out. One of the pioneers in the ICT business in Nigeria is a woman, Florence Seriki, an engineer who heads a large company with branches around the country dealing with both software and hardware.

How would you describe the importance of ICT and communications in diversifying the economy and creating economic growth?

Nigeria has depended on oil and gas as a means of powering its economy for a long time. That became a burden because it prevented us from exploring other natural resources. More people are engaging in ICT over oil and gas or mining. This is purely due to the fact that investment in those resources can take generations to produce a ROI. In comparison, the ICT sector is non-exploitative and is not an extractive industry, and, therefore you do not need much investment when compared with others. Many countries that do not have natural resources are relying on human resourcefulness instead. Throughout the continent, countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa use and rely on ICT to develop businesses and drive their economy. Even though we are a late starter, we believe that we are realizing the potential that ICT can hold in diversifying the Nigerian economy. We have already started this process and believe it is something that will not stop.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

My expectation is that by the end of 2017 we should be able to develop more than 10 new technology villages and knowledge centers across the country. We will establish them, but they will be private sector driven. We need the citizens of Nigeria to take full advantage of these new institutions.

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