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Teniola speaks on A4AI’s report on data price drop and realities in Nigeria

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Data, Olusola Teniola, A4AI,
National Coordinator, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI - Nigeria), Olusola Teniola

Following the latest report by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) that Least Developed Countries (LDCs) like Nigeria, recorded decrease in price of broadband data in 2020, the National Coordinator of the body in Nigeria, Engineer Olusola Teniola, has called for decisive actions to protect the low-income earners.

He believes that full implementation of the National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 is a critical step towards further reductions in the price of broadband data in Nigeria as current realities show that subscribers who purchase huge data bundle are the most beneficiaries.

As the Immediate Past President of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and the National Coordinator for Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Engr. Teniola is as a key player in the sector for many years.

He also doubles as the President of Africa Digital Economy Forum (ADEF). In a chat with TechEconomy.ng, he gave a sense of proportionality of the A4AI’s report to the present realities in Nigeria:

What do you make out of the A4AI’s 2020 broadband price report? Is it relative to the situation in Nigeria?

Teniola:

There are two ways I am going to answer the questions. The first attempt is that A4AI focuses on 65 least-developing countries (LDCs). They are spread across continents of world and a number of the LDCs are located in Africa to which I am the national coordinator for Nigeria. I have my counterparts in Ghana, South Africa and other parts of Africa where the idea of having advocacy to ensure that the average price of accessing the internet is affordable to the masses. I strongly believe that the data presented by A4AI (and I am very much in touch with the research team) is up to date as far as year 2020 is concerned.

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Cost of 1GB of Broadband Data in USD (Nigeria):

A4AI

Source: A4AI

You asked a question: Is it relative to the situation in Nigeria? Yes. In fact, the data for Nigeria has been collated since 2014. So there is no reason Nigeria will not still be on that table or list. But since I assumed the role of the national coordinator for Nigeria (I took over from Dr. Ernest Ndukwe in November 2019) we have been quite active in working with Government, especially with the Nigerian Broadband Plan of 2020-2025 to try and address the issue around data.

But, let me state again, we are as a country have achieved the ‘1 for 2’ ADI – Affordability Data Index – that A4AI tracks year to year since I have been the coordinator.

Actually, it reflects that in Nigeria’s case for 1GB of data/month costs an average of one point seven percent (1.7%) of the monthly spend of a family’s monthly income. We use the GNI – Gross National Income – indicator and not the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And our minimum wage in Nigeria is between N18,000 and N30,000/month. There are some countries where it is above two percent (2%) or close to that.

Affordability as a % of Average Income:

A4AI

Source: A4AI

What factors did A4AI take into consideration during the study?

Teniola:

Now, there is a reality; that is why I like being part of A4AI. We are very empirical in our research. We don’t just compare apples with apples. What I mean by that is we don’t say, ‘Country A has that price, therefore Country B has better price. No. we look at the ability of citizens in Country A or B to be able to afford the price as indicated. That is the difference; it is about the affordability not the price. I could bring down the price to a certain level, but if no one can afford it except for the elites, you can’t categorically say my price is affordable.

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So, we match the income of the country and in the case of Nigeria, if you look at the number of those that are struggling – they have probably lost their jobs in 2020 due to the pandemic or the first quarter of 2021, you will find out that a lot of those who could afford the prices can no longer afford, even though statistics from the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, indicate the price has gone from N1000 per Gigabyte (GB) to around N487/GB per month.

Well, that is understandable but people are losing their jobs; we have been warned by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), we now have about forty percent (40%) of our population, representing 88 million Nigerians are below the poverty line. The poverty line threshold is $2/day.

How about the affordability level in Nigeria?

Teniola:

You can see that the propensity of Nigerians who are struggling to feed their family will focus on putting food on their tables and not purchasing data.

So, what we have found is that in Nigeria, yes, the price of data has dropped but it has favoured those that can afford huge data bundles. What that means is, if I purchase 70GB of data it is more than what some people earn in a month (in Nigeria). But when you divide it you see that the price is quite low per gigabyte. That is the reality or the situation we found ourselves in.

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We are encouraged that Nigeria has stabilized the affordability index at 1.7% but we can do better. We need to drop the index lower because there are people who could afford data in the past but can no longer do that this time due to the macroeconomic situation of the economy. It is not due to any fault of theirs but it is the reality.

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So, we have lots of work to do in the industry alongside the government and civic society we all should be able to ensure that the National Broadband Plan (2020-2025) is implemented as recommended by the experts that put it together to ensure that we now move from maybe N487/GB to around N390/GB by 2025.

In summary, a 2GB per month or 5GB per month shows that the affordability is still of a concern in Nigeria. You consider we have a young population who use smartphones with data-hungry applications 1GB doesn’t last long enough and therefore, that is another problem.

This is also why the issue of data depletion arises. Some people think the telcos are deliberately depleting their data not minding that the gadgets (apps) they are using consume a lot of data; these young people are hungry for data. That is the reality of Nigeria.

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