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Ndukwe reveals secret of MTN’s dominance of Nigeria’s telecoms space

By Chisom ADA

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ATCOn Congratulates Dr. Ndukwe
Chairman, MTN Nigeria, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe

The Chairman of MTN Communications Nigeria Plc, Dr Ernest Ndukwe has been speaking on why the foremost telecommunications services provider, MTN, has continued to dominate the Nigerian telecom space like a colossus.

Ndukwe, who spoke as a guest at the Virtual Digital Africa VIP Leadership Series on Tuesday, organized by Digital Africa Group, organisers of the annual Digital Africa Conference & Exhibitions noted that three factors: good finance, good management and discipline in terms of managing resources, separate MTN from the rest of the pack.

“I think it is important to say that MTN is a particularly disciplined company right from its roots; it has always been a well-run organization. It has not had the board squabbles associated with some of its competitions. The first board of MTN, some of them just retired last year. Meanwhile, one of their competitions has had various owners, various quarrels, and various issues,” he said.

Ndukwe, who is the Chairman of MTN Nigeria Board, said that nobody can be blamed for this position as the way organisations manage their affairs translates to the kind of position they occupy in the business environment.

“One thing that people don’t know also is that for the first five years of existence of MTN in Nigeria, it did not pay dividends to its shareholders. They recognized the importance of scale and were pumping in all the earnings, all the profits into building networks. They started building their own microwave links, they started building their own fibre optic links all across the country. It is all a matter of foresight and planning ahead.”

On the question of what local companies could do to be able to play effectively in the telecommunications sector, he said, “Let it be said that technology always changes and the best company today might not be the best company tomorrow. A few years ago, Facebook was not on the reckoning but today, it is a much bigger company.

“People might not make it in terms of new entrants in the area of telecommunications service delivery. This is because in most countries, there is a maximum number of operating companies that can profitably play in the market, after which the market gets saturated. There are definitely opportunities in the technology space; all that is needed is for operators to discover them and leverage.”

He mentioned Zinox Technologies as one other Nigerian technology company that has leveraged on the opportunities in the ICT industry to turn itself to one of the biggest ICT companies in the country that is well run and managed.

According to Ndukwe, “Zinox Technologies is another company that is well run; it is a company that is making a big mark in the country quietly and remains one of the biggest IT companies in the country today without anybody recognizing it. You may not be the biggest telecommunications provider but you can be the best in some other areas; you can be the next Facebook in Africa.

“When Zoom started, no person knew it was going to scale to the level it has now reached; thanks to Coronavirus pandemic. People should continue to look for opportunities and niche markets and go there because that’s where they can scale. There are many companies that are doing very well in the financial technology space in the country too.”

On 5G deployment in Nigeria, the MTN Board Chair stated that the network would require a lot of base stations, as well as large scale fibre deployment, adding that the role of policy makers and regulators is critical to timely deployment of 5G.

He expressed delight that some State governments in Nigeria have started clearing the huddles to seamless deployment of the technology in Nigeria.

“That’s why I am particularly excited and would like to commend the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy for his foresight with the Minister of Works and Housing who came out with this bright idea that they will give 2-year moratorium on Right of Way charges on Federal Highways in Nigeria, in order to encourage optic fibre rollout and installation.

“5G is a high speed network and countries have been struggling to have first mover advantages in order to benefit from the advantages that 5G will bring about. I think that if Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana decide that they want to be forerunners in this 5G business, then the regulatory environment must be such that it will be possible to earn those advantages early enough. The regulator in Nigeria, the NCC, is very committed to facilitating early deployment of 5G.

“I am happy that many states in our country have improved in their welcoming of ICT companies in their domains. In fact, as far back as when I was EVC, I came out with a slang- “Fibre without Borders”. I was actually dreaming of an Africa linked with fibre optic cable across countries. If that had happened, we would have been at the same level with some of the most developed countries of the world as far as harnessing the benefits of ICT is concerned,” Ndukwe said.