How 5G Will Boost the Digital Economy of Africa’s Most Populous Nation

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By Alkali Amana

The rapid transformation that comes with the internet has seen the prediction that two-thirds of the global workforce will be using the 5G platform by 2030. For Nigeria, the approval of the deployment of the 5G platform means the country has made it a reality for its workforce to join the stream of people to be using high tech for business and leisure. When deployed fully, the 5G network will enable faster digital connections, business interactions, and the chance for innovations to explore the opportunities provided by internet use in the country. In turn, the effect of these elements fused will translate into a powerful driving force for the nation’s digital economy.

The World Bank estimates that the digital economy is equivalent to 15.5% of the global GDP, growing two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years. Presently, digital economies are at the forefront of development and provide a unique opportunity for countries, such as Nigeria, to accelerate economic growth and sustenance, beyond what is existent already. Accordingly, the World Bank has posited that ‘as the biggest economy in Africa with one of the largest youth populations in the world, Nigeria is well-positioned to develop a strong digital economy’; which in turn will have a transformational impact on the country. Isabel Neto, the World Bank’s Senior Digital Development Specialist and co-author of the Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic 2019, explains the expected transformation succinctly when she said that ‘through innovations and investments, the Nigerian economy can harness digital data and new technologies, generate new content, link individuals with markets and government services, and roll out new, sustainable business models’. 5G technology is one of such innovations and investments that offers a unique opportunity to fulfil the expectations on its digital economy wellbeing.

With an optimistic view of the outcome associated with the 5G network, the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Adeolu Akande, noted that the full deployment of 5G technology would have a positive impact on Nigeria’s digital economy. However, for this to happen, Nigeria needs to focus on accelerating improvements in five fundamental pillars of a digital economy: digital infrastructure, digital platforms, digital financial services, digital entrepreneurship, and digital skills. It is here that the introduction of the 5G platform becomes handy as it promises certain qualities to build a sustainable digital future. The full benefits of deploying the technology for Nigeria’s digital economy include:

  1. Improved Digital Infrastructure:

Despite having the largest mobile market in Sub-Saharan Africa which is supported by strong broadband infrastructure and improved international connectivity, Nigeria has minimal fixed broadband infrastructure and connectivity in rural areas. This leaves a significant number of the most marginalized segments of the population without internet access.

5G wireless technology is meant to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users. Higher performance and improved efficiency empower new user experiences and new industries. The qualities the technology brings will provide the platform to deal with the problem of having access even in remote areas.

  1. Strengthen Digital Platforms:

The appraised qualities of 5G technology means better internet services and access to digital platforms such as websites, blogs and spaces that enable online activities will be provided. Strong public and private digital platforms support the provision of digital services and a thriving eCommerce platform. Fintech, for instance, is booming in Nigeria, with numerous startups and existing businesses turning over profit from the internet while attracting massive investment from outside the country. A key part of the services these Fintech companies provide is facilitating transactions in record time and with ease. It is estimated that about 60 million Nigerian adults are without access to a formal account, stalling the country’s journey toward financial inclusion. This is an area where the implementation of 5G will prove useful as it would create digital financial service (DFS) providers in Nigeria the platform to better exploit the huge potential of DFS that is still untapped.

  1. Improve the Policy Environment for Digital Entrepreneurship:

Adopting and deploying 5G technology means policies and regulations concerning digital entrepreneurship in Nigeria must be visited to be revised and updated, especially given its potential to become an engine of economic transformation in Nigeria.

The best way to go will be to leverage 5G to create an enabling environment with incentives more businesses and start-ups can capitalize on to build themselves. 5G technology is a call for Nigeria to harness the gift of digital entrepreneurship and to answer this call, relevant structures in the form of policies and laws must be in place to support growth.

  1. Close the Digital Skills Knowledge Gap:

The capabilities and skills required to use various forms of digital technologies remain limited to a small segment of the population in Nigeria. 5G technology represents an improvement in access to digital skills for the country. It can guarantee increases in higher-level education and the existence of accessible online training initiatives bringing digital skills to those who need them. Engaging in skills such as programming, web design, graphic design, data science, and analysis, etc are likely not to be tedious tasks given the elimination of slow internet and data connection. People will be encouraged to take up these skills and apply them as viable means of employment with which to survive.

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