In this interview, Kendall Ananyi, Founder and CEO of West African ISP, Tizeti, talks about the growing interest in broadband connectivity in Africa, especially with the launch of the Google Equiano undersea cable, the acquisition of MainOne by Equinix, and shares his views on what industry players are doing to drive broadband penetration.
TE: There is increased interest in broadband connectivity in West Africa, with the scale of the projects we are seeing. Equinix recently completed its acquisition of MainOne, Google is landing its Equiano international cable this month and we see other similar projects. What is driving this strong interest in the investments, opportunities and trends we observe?
Kendall Ananyi: Yes, the interest has been huge. Last month, we welcomed the first landing of Google’s international cable, Equiano in Togo, and learned that it will land in Nigeria this month.
It is Google’s third private and 14and co-invested submarine and indicates the company’s interest in driving internet penetration in Africa. And there are a lot of positive results from projects like this.
Equiano is expected to significantly lower wholesale broadband prices, meaning carriers can buy more capacity to transmit to their customers, drive new investment in the countries it lands in, and improve internet outcomes for millions of people.
But that’s not the only thing happening around the digital infrastructure space. If you look at the fixed broadband space, where I play, we just announced a partnership with Microsoft to enter Oyo State.
This partnership will allow us to deploy our low-cost wireless technologies to make it easier and cheaper for people, especially those in underserved communities, to access the internet and connect to the digital economy.
If you look at the vertical fiber infrastructure, Lagos State is building its unified fiber internet infrastructure with WTS projects. This shared fiber infrastructure is something we have been waiting for a long time as it will solve some of the issues with multiple infrastructures, right of way issues by allowing internet and mobile providers to access the already existing digital infrastructure, without breaking the bank. .
This shared infrastructure will accelerate the deployment of broadband services in Lagos. On the satellite side, early last year the Nigerian Communications Commission issued licenses to some major satellite companies, including SpaceX, and they will soon be in Nigeria.
When you look at the data center infrastructure space, MainOne’s MDXI has just launched its Lekki II data center, to drive infrastructure development to scale industrialization and Internet adoption , especially for cloud computing.
When you look at startup activity in Nigeria and the inflows of over $4 billion in FDI over the last ten years into Nigerian startups, across fintech, healthtech, etc., it It’s easy to understand how cloud infrastructure can enable these applications. Taken together, this points to an exciting time for digital infrastructure in Africa.
TE: So we’re seeing the numbers go up and the contribution of ICT to the economy improving. But in a broader context: Africa has had several broadband plans and policies. However, the number of Africans who still lack access to the internet and its development outcomes is around 540 million. How to bridge the digital divide? Where are the opportunities to leap forward?
Kendall Ananyi: You are right, a lot has been done but the gaps are still huge and there is still a lot to do. In Nigeria in 2020, the NCC launched the National Broadband Plan which attempts to achieve download speeds of 25 Mbps in urban areas and 10 Mbps in rural areas and bring down unlimited broadband prices less than 1% of the minimum wage. The broadband plan targets three hundred and ninety naira (NGN 390) per Gbps.
Our low-end product, Wifi.com.ng is already ahead as we charge around 500 NGN for 1.5 GB. Other telecom companies have also reduced their prices over time and improved internet affordability . Data really is life, and we have seen the rapid adoption of digital by many Nigerians.
COVID-19 has also accelerated some of these opportunities. Due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, many businesses have had to quickly adapt to remote working and online meetings.
As economic processes have embraced digital channels, so have social processes. This has skyrocketed the number of those who have internet at home, especially in states like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. This digital transformation has played a major role in sectors such as health, agriculture, education and commerce, and enables individuals, businesses and governments to access extraordinary socio-economic opportunities. However, there is still much to do.
Many Nigerian states lack efficient access to broadband and one of the challenges is access to capital. Without capital, broadband operators are unable to build new projects, especially in places that need it. There is an opportunity for pension funds and asset managers to invest in digital infrastructure.
Bloomberg in February that South Korea’s $200 billion sovereign wealth fund, Korea Investment Corp, plans to increase its investments in Silicon Valley startups as it seeks to capitalize on the developing metaverse and boost its exposure alternative assets.
The largest pension provider in the Netherlands, APG, with more than $719 billion in assets under management, is also said to be exploring investment opportunities in the foundations of the metaverse, particularly in augmented reality and reality technologies. Virtual. African asset managers can emulate these trends and invest in digital economy infrastructure.
We have already seen how the existing digital infrastructure has enabled all sectors and made IT and telecommunications the biggest contributor to GDP, job creation and economic opportunity. Pension funds and asset managers need to do a lot more because financing digital infrastructure projects has better lifetime value.
Unlike Ghana, Nigeria does not have a widespread open-access national backbone network, through which high-speed connectivity can be extended at reasonable cost. Although there are many fiber infrastructure in Lagos, Ogun, Rivers and Edo, but in other states it is not so much or not at all. In Ghana, CSquared, a Google company, has built fiber in many places and we need to reflect that kind of public-private partnership.
Equiano is coming this month and will meet about 5 other submarine cables including MainOne, but if the fiber infrastructure connecting the states is not built we may not see as much impact except in about 5 States.
We are currently present in 5 states and plan to expand to approximately 10 more states in Nigeria over the next 12 months. We will also be expanding into Togo this year since Equiano got started there.
Politically, when you want to improve broadband penetration in areas such as building base stations, acquiring sites and getting permits for it, there are opportunities for improvement. We must give the NCC a lot of credit for being extremely progressive in accelerating the pace of advancement of the telecommunications industry in Nigeria. For example, one thing the NCC has also done is access to spectrum – we saw the completion of 5G auctions last year with MTN and Mafab Communications.
This is a very exciting opportunity as with 5G a lot of equipment will be shipped to the country, improved site locations as the coverage area of 5G is much less, more space for installation of tower and more revenue generated for local communities. We have seen how things have changed with the first generation of broadband and over the next 18 months we will see a lot of activity related to that. So there are opportunities in all areas and we will also see improvements in healthcare, fintech, education, etc., especially with better broadband penetration.
AND : What are the similarities between the two countries – Nigeria and Ghana? You talked about interstate fiber connectivity issues and the right of way. How similar are these challenges between Nigeria and Ghana?
Kendall Ananyi: I would say they are au pairs because when you look broadly things balance out. For example, there is a more stable power supply in Ghana, which reduces expenses in this region compared to Nigeria where we have to use solar energy to equip the towers to minimize the high costs of diesel to power the generators. But in terms of permits, things have improved significantly.
Yes the cost is still there although it is a bit cheaper in Ghana due to the presence of fiber infrastructure to latch onto compared to Nigeria where the main fiber builds are in a few states such as Lagos, Edo and Ogun with growing activity in Port-Harcourt.
We need the kind of infrastructure and policies that allow that, beyond the right of way, to be able to roll out fiber and work with communities to have more fiber across Nigeria.
TE: What will the partnership with Microsoft do in Oyo State?
Kendall Ananyi: We announced our launch in Oyo State earlier this year and began installations this month. Our collaboration with Microsoft on its Airband project will complement Tizeti’s existing initiative in Oyo State and lay the foundation for a robust and thriving digital ecosystem for Oyo State’s large population of dynamic young people.
Oyo State has one of the largest numbers of tertiary institutions in Nigeria and an e-government focused leadership that is at the forefront of digital technology infrastructure development and capital development digital technology human.
We believe that our low-cost broadband service will complement the government’s efforts to foster the implementation of e-government, digital access and investment promotion, empower more Nigerians in Oyo State and stimulate economic activities.