Goodwill Message at The 14th Innovation Africa Digital (IAD) Summit 2016

Goodwill Message by Amina Oyagbola, MTN Executive at opening ceremony of The 14th Innovation Africa Digital (IAD) Summit 2016 holding at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, (GCON), President, Federal Republic of Nigeria

The Honourable Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu

Honourable Members of the Federal Executive Council here present

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the CEO, MTN Nigeria, I welcome you all. We at MTN are pleased to partner with the Federal Ministry of Communications, Galaxy Backbone and Extensia for this 14th edition of the 2016 Innovation Africa Digital (IAD) Summit. We also consider it an honour to share this platform with other distinguished speakers and thank the organisers for the opportunity to be part of a gathering of such far-reaching consequence.

Increasingly, there continues to be optimism in international circles about Africa’s potential for growth and development. Speaking from an ICT point of view in particular, I am sure you will agree with me when I say that the global enthusiasm about our continent’s prospects is fully justified.

In close to 2 decades, access to telephony services has grown and tele-density has soared by over 70 percent in many African countries. This truly impressive development has been underpinned by rapid investment in and significant deployment of digital mobile infrastructure by telecommunication operators in many African countries.

For instance, in Nigeria, the revolution in the ICT sector has provided well over $32 billion in foreign direct investment over the last 15 years. As part of that ICT ecosystem and guided by our recognition of the boundless potential of our great nation within the digital economy, MTN has invested over $16 billion (over N3 trillion) to date in fixed assets and facilities nationwide to build the most expansive network in the country.

Such investments in infrastructure have created an ICT backbone that powers various critical sectors of the economy such as Banking, E-commerce, Insurance, Oil & Gas. Small wonder that mobile and broadband infrastructure have been described as the infrastructure of infrastructures.

Indeed the ICT sector’s success story is well known. This summit is however more about prescriptions for future growth and success and that is why I believe that the theme, “Harnessing Africa’s Digital Growth” is apt and timely. It presupposes rightly that Africa is at a critical stage of its digital growth and increased efforts should be made to further develop the ICT sector and improve its contribution to the GDPs of African countries.

Here in Nigeria, we recognise the efforts of our Honourable Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu in this regard. His audacious vision to develop our ICT sector towards achieving a ‘SMART Digital Nigeria’ is truly commendable.

As we start today and continue the discourse over the next few days, I trust that we will interrogate several areas that present blue ocean opportunities as we seek greater competitiveness and productivity for our continent through ICT.

From Education to Financial Inclusion, Agriculture to Solid Minerals, E-government to Mobile Health, ICT is a fulcrum for ensuring maximum impact across key elements involving people, processes and productivity. ICT can re-tool and upskill people in every sector; upgrade processes for greater operational efficiency and enhance productivity for stronger growth while attracting further investment.

Financial inclusion as we know has been fueled by digital, facilitating the entry of millions of people from the informal sector who did not have access to formal financial services. As we continue to celebrate success stories in this regard such as Mpesa Mobile Money in Kenya and Diamond Y’ello Account here in Nigeria, we should be further energized by the figures which indicate the millions yet to be brought into the greater economic opportunity and socio-economic mobility facilitated by mobile and digital banking.

We also have an opportunity through this summit to share best practice and learning on ICT innovation; to embrace more success stories and replicate them across the continent. The example of India’s Technology Parks readily come to mind. The Indian government through its Ministry of Communications and Information Technology had established a society called the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) with the objective of encouraging, promoting and boosting software exports from India.

Today, the number of STPs (Software Technology Parks) has risen from 1 to 53, and India’s exports from STPS across the country are also rising at the rate of 8% to 10% annually, and this is expected to increase in future. The STP Scheme has been extremely successful in fostering the growth of the software industry.

Another example which comes to mind is the 2009 Kenyan project which birthed what is now known as the “Silicon Savannah”.

Permit me to come closer home and mention our own ‘Silicon Valley’ – the popular Computer Village in Lagos. The ingenuity and skills that abound there despite the absence of formal structure and support are impressive. If properly harnessed, this can become truly exceptional. Indeed, IT enthusiasts insist that the Nigerian software market will be worth over $300 billion in the next 10 years. This figure is more than the expected revenue from oil.

Similar stories abound around the African continent.

In our various countries, we can work to enhance public-private sector partnerships to support the establishment of our own ICT/Software Parks for instance; fast track capacity building and enhance efforts at improving the access and quality of Broadband.

Certainly, we have the human capital – our large population and high number of productive youth across the continent is a strategic resource and asset. By facilitating the requisite support systems, training and access to the latest and relevant tools, we can become a truly formidable digital hub.

Ladies and gentlemen, events such as this summit provide the opportunity to jump start the critical game-changing steps needed to make our objectives a reality. Beyond this summit, we must work to strengthen relationships and knowledge management platforms towards building the better (and more digital) future that we seek.

I am confident that this future is foreseeable and even closer than ever; one in which the transformational impact of digitization and mass adoption of connected digital technologies and applications will drive socio-economic development across Africa and the rest of the world.

As we join the organisers in welcoming all delegates to this prestigious summit, we at MTN are already preparing for what promises to be an exciting future for our continent, and we remain committed to working with government and other partners as well as leading and promoting continuous investment to achieve our collective goals.

To borrow a quote from American motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, ‘The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.’

We’ve already begun. Let’s keep going.

Thank you for your attention.

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