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Extreme Reaction To MTN May Lead To Fright And Flight, Hurt Ordinary Nigerians And The Economy

The Oasis Reporters

September 5, 2019

Who gets hurt the more when telecommunication masts get set ablaze ? Is it MTN that rents a space on the mast with other telecommunications giants, the Nigerian mast owners or the ordinary Nigerian citizens who suffer network interruptions ?

It is becoming apparent that criminality has entered the protests against South Africa, using symbols of South African companies doing business in the country as objects of hate with arson visiting the premises of such firms.

Deep seated ignorance has equally embedded itself in the angry reactions, which is rather hurting Nigerians themselves, with absolutely nothing touching the firms.

Take MTN for instance. It started operations in the country, less than 20 years ago. Before it arrived with Econet Wireless owned by. Zimbabwean born Dr. Strive Masiyiwa, Nigeria had 500,000 telephone lines, with less than 300,000 of them actually working.
MTN took the plunge in coming, because in its native South Africa, it was a distant number 3 network in terms of customer base. The biggest was Vodacom which was so self smug, it scoffed at the idea of coming to Nigeria that produced only about 4,000 MW of electricity, just about what a city like New York consumed daily. Besides, South Africa produced 50,000 MW. Its population was a third of Nigeria’s.

But MTN saw what Vodacom failed to see. Nigeria’s huge population of over 120 million back then. It saw potential in huge subscriber base. As of 30 June 2016, MTN recorded 232.6 million subscribers, making it the eighth largest mobile network operator in the world, and the largest in Africa. Active in over 20 countries, one-third of company revenue come from Nigeria, where it holds about 36.4% market share, with GSM subscription remaining the largest component in Total Active Mobile Subscription. As at the end of the fourth quarter of 2017, Nigeria recorded 144,640,677 GMS based active voice subscriptions nationwide.

This figure translates to huge tax revenues to the Nigerian government.

After paying for its license, MTN developed a business model that saw its appointed dealers paying about 5 million naira each before they could set up shop and collect products like Sim cards, recharge cards, Internet modems, etc. The dealer shops of almost 20 years ago are known today as Connect Partners who deposit over 10 million naira to commence business. That means all the Connect partners in Nigeria are not MTN properties, but stores belonging to Nigerian businesses. Burning any of them, means burning indigenous Nigerian businesses.

Besides, the mast that bring signals to GSM subscribers in any neighborhood no longer belong to MTN or other network operators. They are owned by those who set them up, but carry signals for any or all of GSM, CDMA, etc telecommunications firms for a fee. Therefore burning any mast is hurting the Nigerian owners, not necessarily MTN. So as xenophobic attacks are killing Nigerian businesses in South Africa, Nigerian arsonists are equally killing Nigerian businesses in Nigeria.

MTN has in less than 20 years grown its financial base tremendously with the help of a loyal customer base in Nigeria. Meanwhile technology is continually evolving. Just assume that GSM migrates to satellite telephony and MTN being very rich now decides to migrate all its Nigerian and West African subscriber base to their own satellite, or even a leased satellite hub perhaps based in Mauritius or the Indian Ocean with better voice quality and reduced data costs, then quits Nigeria by not using the then obsolete base stations, who loses ?
Tax revenues to the government would be lost forever, while MTN would take its Nigerian customer base wherever it goes. Then subscribers would buy airtime through their bank accounts. So how would the picketing or burning and looting work again?

So much for the security forces not doing more than enough to secure the economy against criminal hijackers of what would have been a better organized civil protest which would still have driven the nation’s revulsion against the criminality ongoing in South Africa, and saved the jobs and businesses in Nigeria .

Nigerians should stop destroying Nigerian businesses. Nigerians are partners with MTN in the country and even outside.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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