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Map of Nigeria (Courtesy of CIA's The World Factbook)
Map of Nigeria (Courtesy of CIA's The World Factbook)

Nigeria: The Long Road Ahead

Nigeria offers a good case study of a country that recognizes the importance of information and communications technology (ICT) in advancing economic growth and improving quality of life. But like many countries, Nigeria also faces many challenges in developing the necessary infrastructure and rolling out ICT programs that can contribute to the country’s economic and social developments.

Nigeria’s population profile is stark:

It is still too early to predict whether the process of wiring Nigeria will lead to direct benefits to society. The Nigerian government must simultaneously develop the know-how for building content, and the applications necessary for social, educational, political and economic interactions. These efforts are still uneven and separate, many of them led by foreign corporations with a commercial agenda woven into their corporate social responsibility projects.


  1. Overview of the ICT landscape in Nigeria|Overview of the ICT landscape in Nigeria
  2. Wiring Nigeria
  3. The impact of ICT on Nigeria
  4. Afterword

Overview of the ICT landscape in Nigeria

Nigeria has identified information and communications technology (ICT) as a key facilitator of economic growth. It has therefore spared no effort to overcome obstacles to build a comprehensive ICT infrastructure to fully capitalize on its economic benefits. These efforts include liberalizing and privatizing the industry, issuing unified licenses, and collaborating with foreign governments, including China and Korea.

Nigeria's policy of liberalization has attracted seven national long distance communications operators, 13 fixed wireless access network operators,[4] eight interconnect exchange operators, two Internet exchange operators and 562 Internet service/solution providers.[5] There are also 13 unified access network operators, and four 3G licenses were awarded in March 2007.[6] By 2010, Nigeria is expected to have about 40,000 GSM base stations and 10,000 CDMA base stations, up from approximately 10,000 GSM base stations and 2,000 CDMA stations today.[7] While Nigeria has about 71,000 Internet subscribers, it has 21.5 million mobile subscribers.[8] Mobile telephony is therefore a much more pervasive tool in Nigerian life than the Internet. Click here for a snapshot of mobile telephony in Africa.

The results of Nigeria’s liberalization efforts in the telecommunications sector have been mixed. On one hand, Nigeria’s ability to wire the country is impressive. On the other, Nigeria struggles to meet the attendant regulatory and governance challenges. This can be seen from:

Click here for more information on the main regulatory issues.

In August 2006, a Presidential Task Force was set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo. Its first mission was to study the existing Telecommunications and ICT structures. Its second mission was to recommend an institutional framework that will result in a more effective, efficient and harmonized performance of ministries and organizations involved in policy-making, regulation and implementation of government policies in the telecommunications and ICT sector. It is not clear how the work of the task force will be affected by the election of a new President in early 2007.

One notable development is the creation of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), a non-governmental organization, that is “dedicated to the promotion and growth of the Internet in Nigeria” in March 1995. Its areas of focs include:[14]

This shows that while the Nigerian government is the dominant force in the ICT sector, civil society is beginning to stake a claim as well.

Wiring Nigeria

Investments in the Nigerian telecommunications industry experienced phenomenal growth over the past few years. There was over a 50 per cent increase, from US$4 billion to US$8 billion between 2003 and the end of 2004.[15] Between 2001 and 2007, Nigeria attracted more than US$9.5bn, a substantial part of which is foreign direct investment (FDI). The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) noted that many of the major service providers plan to expand rapidly, with a further US$3bn in investment expected before the end of 2007.[16]

Snapshot of Nigeria’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Progress
In 1999, Nigeria had less than 700,000 telephone lines with just over 50% working. Private lines were allocated to the privileged few. Public telephone booths were nearly extinct. Mobile lines were limited to the very rich who could afford the bills.[17]
By the end of 2002, the number of telephone lines has increased to 2.296 million (702,000 fixed and 1.594 million mobile). Total number of deployed telephone lines grew to over 4 million lines (853,057 fixed and 3.149 million mobile) by December 2003.[18]
In 2007, telephone networks’ coverage of the country's major population centers is over 60%. Number of connected lines is about 38 millions, 97% of which are mobile lines, while the remaining 3 per cent are fixed lines.[19]
By 2010, Nigerians can expect 40,000 GSM base stations and 10,000 CDMA base stations. At least 40 cities have broadband coverage, with 3.5million of wireline, 30,000 km of optic fibre; 25,000 km of microwave. At least 10 major cities will have metro cable networks.[20]
For an update on the progress of Wiring Nigeria, please click here.

Nigeria must build out the infrastructure in order to realize the country's ICT plans, but this process is not adequate or sufficient to bring about the social and economic benefits of ICT. Nigeria still faces multiple challenges, especially in providing access and services to under-served rural areas. These challenges can be discussed as:
  1. [[Nigeria%27s Infrastructural Challenges.html#High cost|High cost]]
  2. [[Nigeria%27s Infrastructural Challenges.html#Poor service|Poor service]]
  3. [[Nigeria%27s Infrastructural Challenges.html#Under-served rural areas|Under-served rural areas]]
  4. [[Nigeria%27s Infrastructural Challenges.html#Lack of ICT expertise|Lack of ICT expertise]]

ICT's impact on Nigeria

E-mail is the most popular usage among the various ICT platforms. More than 80 per cent of print journalists use the Internet to help them do research and add depth and breadth to the news stories they write, while a third of all broadcast journalists download audio and video files from websites.[21]

The high hopes Nigeria places on ICT are reflected in its open adoption of ICT as a tool to fulfill its pledge to the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.[22] Unfortunately, Nigeria is not on track to meet its goals because the country lacks crucial elements in three areas: policy coordination between the federal, state, and local governments; funding commitments at the state and local levels; and staff to implement and monitor projects on health, poverty, and education.[23]

Another contributing factor may be Nigeria’s pre-occupation with infrastructure and keeping up with the latest ICT development. (Nigeria has already launched Africa's first commercial mobile broadcast service in Abuja in early 2007.) The rollout of the digital video broadcast- handheld (DVB-H) mobile TV puts the country at the cutting edge of the global digital television technology race, enabling consumers to view major programs live on their mobile phones.[24] However, such a direction is unlikely to help the vast majority of Nigerians, as more than 50% of Nigerians live below the poverty line[25] and 70 per cent of the country’s population live in rural areas.[26]

While Nigeria continues with its efforts to wire the country, ICT has started to make an impact on society, albeit a limited one. Examples include:

  1. Media
  2. E-learning
  3. [[How ICT is transforming Nigeria#Social engagement|Social engagement]]
  4. [[How ICT is transforming Nigeria#Gender empowerment and poverty alleviation|Gender empowerment and poverty alleviation]]
  5. [[How ICT is transforming Nigeria#Giving the agricultural sector a boost|Boosting the agricultural sector]]

Many ICT projects covering education, entrepreneurship and health are carried out with the support of international institutions like the United Nations and the World Bank, as well as major corporations like Microsoft Corporation, Intel Corp and Zinox. Such assistance has allowed Nigeria to roll out multiple projects simultaneously. But corporation involvement in early phases of development could limit the country in the technology and software that it can later deploy. Nigeria could also become beholden to these corporations, which might hamper its regulatory role in ensuring a level playing field in the lucrative telecommunications and IT market.

For more information on the support and sponsorship Nigeria has received from corporations, please click here.


Though Nigeria has publicly announced that it aimed to use ICT to achieve the UN’s Millenium Development Goals, the United Nationshas declared that "Sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to achieve any of the goals" from available statistical data.[27]

However, Nigeria has achieved some notable results from the application of ICT. In 2006 its Rural Telephone Project was recognized by the 3GSM Barcelona Conference fas the "'Best Community Use of the Phone."

In order to maximize the benefits ICT can bring, Nigeria must speed up its efforts to equip all its people with the knowledge and skill to use such technology, especially the Internet, in tandem with infrastructural development. This will ensure that when the infrastructure and ICT services are available, Nigerians will be ready to make good use of the technology, and not to under-use, mis-use, or at worst, abuse it to the detriment of the public good. Nigeria cannot afford to neglect this area of development, especially when 85 per cent of the 60 million adults in the country under the age of 35 can neither read nor write.[28]

[1] Nigeria 'needs poverty billions', BBC News, July 11 2007
[2] Efem Nkanga, Gains of Competition in Telecoms Industry, All Africa, April 26 2007
[3] John Onah, UNESCO laments level of illiteracy in Nigeria, Business Day Online, October 10 2007,
[4] The NCC conducted a frequency spectrum review earlier under which 12 companies lost the Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) licences issued them five years ago. Shina Badaru, 12 Companies Lose Fixed Wireless Licences, October 8 2007, All Africa, Factiva
[5] Nigeria's GSM subscribers to hit 44 mln: official, October 24 2007, Xinhua News Agency, Factiva
[6] The four successful 3G applicants are Celtel Nigeria, MTN Nigeria, Globacom and an unknown Alheri Engineering Company Limited, reportedly owned by the Dangote Group. Remmy Nweke, NCC Confirms Payment of 3G Licences, April 18 2007, All Africa, Factiva
[7] Adekunle Adekoya, Ag. Editor, NCC Targets 40,000 GSM Base Stations for Nigeria By 2010 - Ndukwe, September 29 2007, All Africa
[8] Continued high Internet and telecoms growth in West Africa, Balancing Act News Update, Issue no. 376, October 19 2007
[9] Funso Muraina, Telecom Firm Asks Court to Declare NIXP Illegal, This Day Online, November 5 2007
[10] AAGM: Nigerian Communications Commission /Operators - Who Blinks First?, October 17 2007, This Day (Nigeria), The Financial Times Limited Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, Factiva
[11] Jide Awe, Nigeria: Bridging the Infrastructure Divide, Jidaw.com, February 11 2007
[12] Stanley Nkwazema, AAGM: Stop Fresh Promo, NCC Cautions GSM Providers, July 20 2007, This Day (Nigeria), The Financial Times Limited Asia Africa Intelligence Wire. Factiva
[13] AAGM: NCC - GSM Operators're Poor Business Planners, July 2 2007, This Day (Nigeria), The Financial Times Limited Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, Factiva
[14] Nigeria Internet Group website, http://www.nig.org.ng//default.asp
[15] President Obasanjo’s stewardship 1999 - 2007: 8 Years in Office, Nigeria First: Official Website of the Office of Public Communications, March 19 2007
[16] Nigeria - Telecoms Renewal - Massive Investment In Telecoms Has Secured Nigeria A Top-10 World Ranking For Mobile Phone Growth, The Banker: Special Supplement, November 1 2007, The Banker
[17] Ibid. President Obasanjo’s stewardship 1999 - 2007
[18] Ibid. President Obasanjo’s stewardship 1999 - 2007
[19] Ibid. Adekunle Adekoya
[20] Ibid. Adekunle Adekoya
[21] Sikirat O Shehu, Impact of ICTs On Journalism Practice, All Africa, October 27 2006, Factiva
[22] Using ICTs As Tool for Achieving MDGs, Leadership (Abuja), allAfrica.com, October 17 2007, Posted to the web October 17 2007
[23] Background Note: Nigeria, US Department of State Bureau of African Affairs, October 2007
[24] Nigeria - Telecoms Renewal - Massive Investment In Telecoms Has Secured Nigeria A Top-10 World Ranking For Mobile Phone Growth, The Banker: Special Supplement, November 1 2007, The Banker
[25] Nigeria 'needs poverty billions', BBC News, July 11 2007 http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/africa/6292378.stm
[26] Efem Nkanga, Gains of Competition in Telecoms Industry, All Africa, April 26 2007
[27] Ibid. **Using ICTs As Tool for Achieving MDGs**
[28] John Onah, UNESCO laments level of illiteracy in Nigeria, Business Day Online, October 10 2007, http://businessdayonline.com/National/508.html