Nigeria’s GSM Market And The Global Economy
Besides the fact that God showered this country with abundant endowment with regards to mineral and natural resources, the most awesome gifts are the human capital resources and assets of this country. Even though for obvious reasons, the rest of the world is always trying to malign Nigeria and give her names – even those countries that owe their very existence today as a nation to the sacrifices that this country made – yet, there are very few of them that can do without this great country. One should ask : how come with all the stories of Boko-Haram, kidnapping, YahooYahoo, etc that are told of Nigeria every day, even though some of them are a bit garnished and seasoned with salt more than a pinch, yet a casual visit to our airports reveals a daily influx of foreigners into the country? The answer is very simple – the gains outweigh the risks.
The only problem we have is that those who have been manning the cockpit of the affairs of this country over the years are at best rookie pilots who either did not read their operational manuals or do not have a destination and as such do not have a flight map before take-off, consequently they do not know the potentials that this country has and are not interested in taking the nation to her deserved position in world socio-political and economic space. At worst, they are unscrupulous and unpatriotic leaders whose only interest is to bleed and milk the nation dry and left for dead. Sadly, we have had more of the later.
However, Nigeria is laden with potentials that define greatness for any country. We have the resources and a huge population of people who are creative, resilient, hard-working and ingenious. We have the market, a slice of which can satisfy the projections of any company – a market share which any serious company will give anything to have. China is a world power because they have the technology to produce and the population to consume anything and everything. Nigeria on the other hand has the population to consume everything but lacks the technology to produce anything. Meanwhile, Nigerians are creative, ingenious and hard working enough to develop a technological system that can be like China or even better if only there is encouragement from the government and an enabling environment to thrive.
Let us take a look at the GSM and mobile telephone market. Nigeria is among the last countries to join the GSM mobile phone community only in 2001. Before the launch of GSM in Nigeria every mobile phone had only one SIM. I can say this for certain because Nigeria is a country where second-hand goods popularly called ‘Tokunboh’ are consumed in great quantity and with fanfare.
Expressions like “London used”, “America Used”, “Direct Belgium” and “German Tokunboh” are popular phrases in Nigerian market lexicon. Shortly after the launch of the GSM telephone in 2001, the market was flooded with several brands of phones both new and used phones. Among all the phones that were imported into the country then, not a single brand or product was dual SIM.
However, shortly afterwards, people started carrying multiple phones about. While some were an avenue for status show-off, which is a normal lifestyle in Nigeria, majority were due to the unreliable and poor quality services and the extortionate tariffs of the service providers. Then our Igbo importer brothers and their Chinese technology partners went to work. Soon we had mobile phone handsets with two, three, even four SIM capabilities. Initially, this feature was among others the trade mark of the unbranded or fake products generally called “China Phones”. The big names like Motorola, Nokia, NEC, Panasonic, Ericsson, Sony, Samsung, Alcatel, etc could not be caught then with such a feature. They were the “original phones” for the big boys and big girls.
Then suddenly we started seeing some “original” dual SIM phones. Haba! What happened! It started like a joke with some small and low cost Nokia and Samsung phones, then like a wild fire it spread everywhere. Today dual SIM capability is an important marketing and advertising feature of almost every phone. All the big names have adapted and those that refused to adapt have been left behind.
The world mobile phone landscape and market has been changed by Nigeria and every other country is conforming. We are setting the world stage. This is just one example, there are several others. No matter what anyone wants to say about Nigeria and Nigerians, the truth remains that no serious country or organisation in business can ignore us. Our most important asset is not our oil, but our human capital assets. Look around you; Nigerians are achieving great feats in almost every sector of human endeavor today both locally and in the diaspora. That is the stuff we are made of. We make things happen.
The leadership of this country should begin to understand that if we have the right kind of realistic policies, the sincererity of purpose and the political will to implement them, we will not need to run from one country to another in search of foreign investment. All we need is to have the enabling environment put in place with the appropriate world class infrastructure and we shall be a highly sought after nation. We have everything that makes a nation great, yet we are looked upon like a miscreant nation in the comity of Nations just because we have bad leaders who breed bad followers.
Ifeanyi Akalonu, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Lagos