Nigeria, with the largest population, economy and consumer market in a rising Africa, shows great market opportunities for those that wish to tap into Africa’s imminent boom in consumer spending. The country is expected to have the world’s second fastest-growing middle class, which are to reach 15 million households in 2030, and with the young urban population Nigeria provides a vibrant telecom scene. The number of smartphone users is expected to increase to 35 million by 2017. The Nigerian economy showed strong growth up on till 2015, when the growth slowed down due to the effects of the fall in the global price of crude oil, leading the authorities to adopt an expansionary 2016 budget with the aim to stimulate the economy. This has affected the hardware and mobile sales, the two main drivers of growth in the ICT sector, as it has decreased both the population, corporate and the governmental purchase power. Regulatory figures indicates that the mobile sector contracted by 1.5 % in the first quarter of 2016 and the hardware segment with 29.5 % in US dollar terms in 2015. Even though the mobile sector contracted, the mobile app usage is currently growing at an exponential rate and the ICT in general still holds 8.5 % of the national GDP. Even though the outlook for 2016 is a slow recovery of the ICT market, BMI forecasts
suggest that 22% of the Nigerian households, a number that will increase to 34% in 2020, have an annual income sufficient to have the purchasing power for imported computer hardware. A strong governmental aim in combination with initiatives from private investors suggests that broadband internet connections will rise steadily, from an estimated 15.49 million at the end of 2015 to a forecast of 38.79 million at the end of 2020. Key growth factors of the mobile segment such as rapid network expansion to underserved areas, promotional offers, economic growth, rising income levels and future subscriber growth opportunities shows potential for resumed growth, although caution is advised as the immature IT marker is vulnerable to the volatility of the Naira.
Nigeria’s consumer market, with its great potential, has attracted significant investment both from private and public sectors in a wide range of industries. One example of this are local and international retailers such as SPAR and Shoprite who has announced plans to open ‘hundreds’ of stores across Nigeria within the next few years. This will exercise pressure for modernization in order to spur the adoption of solutions for effective customer management and efficient service to gain competitive advantages. Parallel with this there is an ongoing development towards increased e-commerce as network infrastructure is improved. With 300,000 online orders being made on daily basis Nigeria’s ecommerce market is valued at around 10 billion USD a year. This increase in e-commerce will be an important demand driver for IT solutions such as transaction processing and online security systems. Financial services, retail, and aviation sectors are therefor expected to ramp up their IT investments to remain competitive.
This development is very much aligned with the governments’ strong will to develop e-services, which constitute opportunities for foreign players since there is deficiency of skilled domestic workforce in these areas. These services include e-government, cloud computing, e-healthcare, e-learning, eagriculture, e-education, e-commerce, m-payment and services in charge of fighting cybercrime. There is also a growing demand for mobile enabled high-definition video, gaming services and internet based television in the middle-class market segment. Whereas the country may lack domestic skills in the development of e-services, the production of end user devices has remained stable with five PC assembly plants in Nigeria and a total production of 130,000 units, which indicates that 30% of all PCs sold in Nigeria are assembled in the country.
The Nigerian government is spurring the development of a stronger ICT sector by, for example, providing tax incentives and seed capital to ICT startups, a 120% tax deduction for R/D expenses incurred by ICT training companies and 5 years import duty waiver on computer components used for assembly of hardware. Apart from the government’s willingness to invest, there is also an expected increase of IT spending in Nigeria’s telecom sector. The telecom sector has shown strong subscriptions and value growth since the liberalisation of the market in 1999 and telecoms operators are presently the biggest users of BPO services in Nigeria.
There are a number of infrastructure development projects ongoing in Nigeria aimed to further the implementation of national broadband deployment and increase of internet access. Five undersea cable systems with more than 100 000 km of terrestrial fibre-optic cable, connecting Nigeria to Europe and the US boosted data capacity to over 12Tbps. The Nigerian Communications Commission has also granted Infrastructure Company licences for two operators in the Lagos region and the North Central Zone as well as announcing plans to allocate the five remaining licences during 2016. This will drive investment in high capacity fibre optic networks throughout both regions. Broadband internet subscribers currently make up over 79% of the internet population.
With Kenya and Ghana as role models Nigeria need to strengthen its domestic political institutions as well as to implement a coherent ICT policy umbrella in order for the ICT sector to really take off. The potential for cloud computing is however promising as network infrastructure improves. A number of the biggest telecom service providers have invested in metro fibre networks in key business districts of Lagos and Abuja and launched 3 datacentre in Lagos to provide necessary infrastructure for cloud based IT services. Inaction on product counterfeiting is highly problematic on the Nigerian hardware and software market and will continue to undermine the growth, with the greater prospect for reduction arising from cloud service provision rather than action by the government.
DEFINING THE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
The retrenchment in consumption as a consequence of the steep naira depreciation has hit the immature IT market hard, as it is mainly dominated by the hardware segment. Even though the Nigerian ICT market means high risk and unlikelihood to provide short-term rewards its sheer size presents long-term opportunities too good to resist. Vendors are willing to invest in order to position themselves for future growth and despite the current market volatility there are specific opportunities in Nigeria over the medium term, for instance in the expanding premium hardware market and enterprise sales in a few key verticals.
Mobile commerce is gradually taking off in Nigeria, though rather slowly. Key telecom service providers in Nigeria have however formed partnerships with financial institutions to comply with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s framework for m-commerce services, suggesting there are greater investments to expect in this area. Telecom infrastructure development in some parts of the country remains inadequate and as growth in urban areas falls, the rural markets is expected to be the next frontier, increasing the m-commerce potential even more as the access to cash in these areas are very limited.
With the rapid expansion of the IT sector and increased demand for security systems in combination with a number of sectors expecting to ramp up their IT investments, interesting investment opportunities for foreign companies are to be find in infrastructures and internet access providing, engineering services, software and content development, M-commerce, E-government, training and ICT related services. There are also some opportunities for companies in far stretched relations with the IT sector, for example, providers of surrogates to fossil fuels. Even though the prices of petrol and diesel has decreased the pressure on finding other power solutions remain high when telecom operators spend an estimated 288 million USD to purchase diesel for the 20,000 generators located in over 15,000 sites in Nigeria.
By MALAK SEKKAT Associate