Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Nigeria to build 90,000km fibre-optic to improve internet access — Minister

The Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, has disclosed that the Nigerian government is planning to build 90,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cable to ensure that the country has access to quality internet.

The Minister, while disclosing this at the breakout session of the 9th Nigeria-EU Business Forum on Tuesday in Abuja, also said the project will cost about $2 billion to provide everyone in Nigeria with access to quality internet.

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He said, “We plan to lead the investment with 90,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cable, which is going to cost us about two billion dollars. But the EU is the first to step forward and say they’ll be more than happy to support us in the necessary studies to ensure we can properly, not just raise this money, but also deploy the fiber.”

The Minister stated that the country is ready to maximize the potential of its youthful population to drive up trade, reiterating that the EU is Nigeria’s largest trading partner.

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“Trade is essential for the development of any nation. Trade makes the world go around, and I think most importantly, when we talk about trade, we are not just talking about imports here, we are also talking about exports. So we actually do sell to the EU, and I’ve had a good working relationship with the EU.”

“The ambition that we have as a nation, where the president has recognized that the opportunity we have to leapfrog development in Nigeria, will require that we think differently and do things differently, which is why as a government, we’re investing significantly in agriculture, for instance.”

“As a government, we are investing significantly in infrastructure because there’s little we can do without proper infrastructure to power what we want to see. But also, things around the rule of law and making sure that people can do business effectively in the country are something the president takes to heart and is constantly supporting.”

He added, “As a very youthful population, there’s also opportunity between our countries, even around the workforce, to ensure that even though Europe has an aging population, we have a very youthful population and there’s an opportunity there for Nigeria to support the future of work in Europe.”

Also, the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, Samuela Isopi, reiterated that the EU remains Nigeria’s biggest foreign investor with a stock estimated at €26 billion.

Isopi added that the stock represents one-third of Nigeria’s Foreign Direct Investment stock.

“The EU is Nigeria’s largest trading partner with a total trade of almost €35 billion in 2023, accounting for about one-third of Nigeria’s foreign trade and a balance of over €10 billion in favor of Nigeria.”

She said the forum highlights the importance of international partnerships in promoting sustainable economic development.

“Trade and sustainable investment are not only at the core of the renewed hope agenda, but they are also at the center of the partnership between the EU, its Member States, and Nigeria. And this is not by chance.

“The European Union is by far Nigeria’s largest trading partner with a total trade of almost €35 billion last year, accounting for about one-third of Nigeria’s foreign trade, and a balance – at over 10 billion euros – in favor of Nigeria.

“The European Union is also Nigeria’s biggest foreign investor with a stock estimated at €26 billion, representing one-third of Nigeria’s FDI stock. In collaboration with our Member States and with EUROCHAM Nigeria, the European Chamber of Commerce, we have carried out the first-ever mapping of EU companies present in Nigeria: and the findings are quite extraordinary.”

Isopi stated that the EU and its member states are also top development partners and primary grant donors, covering sectors that are critical to economic growth.

According to her, the European Investment Bank is increasingly active in Nigeria with an important ongoing portfolio, focusing on innovation, renewable energies, and private sector development, with new operations in the pipeline.

She mentioned that there are plans to deepen economic ties and promote additional investments by exploring the potential of a Sustainable Investment Facilitation Agreement.

“More could be done to boost our trade relations. On our side, we stand ready to engage, should Nigeria, as the only holdout in West Africa, reconsider its position on the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, an instrument in support of economic diversification and local added value, in line with Nigeria’s industrial ambitions.”

Meanwhile, the Deputy Director General, Directorate General for International Partnerships, European Commission, Myriam Ferran, said the commission is working with the government and the private sector in the fields of renewable energy, green transition, climate change, transport, digitalization, agricultural value chains, and enablers for human capital development, particularly in education and health.

“Our objective is to strengthen the links between the EU and sub-Saharan Africa, also in the multilateral fora and on the basis of value, and values apply in each and every way of doing things, in the way we conduct digitalization, and it’s why we want to intervene.

“We are very keen to support investment in infrastructure, but we’re equally keen to work with the government in data governance, protection of personal data, to make the use of digitalization human-centric and in respect of fundamental values.

“The rule of law is essential to any investment. So we also support all the reforms of the government to improve the business environment, to make investments easier,” she added.

The event’s highlight was the signing of an agreement for a €300,000 grant between the European Union and the European Business Chamber, aimed at supporting the Chamber’s further development.

“The funds will be allocated to various developmental projects, including capacity-building programs, member services enhancement, and initiatives aimed at improving the business climate in Nigeria.”

“Eurocham Nigeria will also use the grant to organize events, workshops, and training sessions that will benefit its members and the broader Nigerian business landscape,” Ferran said.

By Kazeem Biriowo, Nigerian Tribune

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