31 Jul 2013

Clickatell's take on the Nigerian and West African telecoms market...

Samson Isa, Is the Director of West Africa at Clickatell.

The Com World Series team caught up with Samson ahead of the NigeriaCom conference and exhibition, taking place at the Lagos Oriental Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria, 17-18 September to find out a bit more about his experiences and focus at the event.

Com World Series: How is your company positioned in Nigeria and what are its future objectives?

Samson Isa: Clickatell has established 3 Data Centres in 3 major regional offices in Africa namely; South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya to help it leverage the various opportunities in Nigeria and Africa; those Data Centres offers Messaging, USSD and VAS (Virtual Airtime Top Up-VTU, bill payments, Remittances etc. etc..). In addition to the actual-actual configuration of the prepaid infrastructure in the Data Centres, the Data Centres act as failover sites for another so we are able to achieve 100% uptime in terms of providing services to our customers in Africa and most especially in Nigeria. Also, our Pan African footprint will enable us to provide services to many Financial institutions (most especially Banks) in Nigeria that have Pan African footprint OR Pan African ambition.

Com World Series: What do you think are the top 3 major trends that are affecting your business in the region in 2013?

Samson Isa: - I think the Telecoms/Financial institutions regulators are working in silos and therefore they have not be able to articulate policies that will enhance the financial inclusion of the government of Federal Republic of Nigeria, so it is fair to say that we do have regulatory challenges.
- Literacy; I think the Financial institutions and MNO’s have not adequately educated customers on the major mobile money bearer the USSD in Nigeria, consequently, adoption has been very low.. I am also not oblivious of the high cost of ussd transaction pricing by MNO’s which I consider it a barrier to adoption.
- I think the increasing number of fibre companies in Nigeria and the subsequent completion of last miles will improve Network stability and subscriber confidence in the use of various telecoms technologies.

Com World Series: What are the remaining challenges in terms of connectivity and quality of services in the region and which technologies are most likely to resolve these issues?

Samson Isa: - I think MNO’s Network quality has been a major issue; there are lots of downtimes due to principally fibre cuts and unstable broadband and that affects the confidence of the average subscriber who is not very conversant with the technology.
- I think Virtual Airtime Top Up (VTU) will be a great airtime distribution technology that will revolutionise the telecoms distribution space because of its ease of usage, security and availability.
- Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) will play a major role in enhancing mobile money transfers/transactions because of its latency however stakeholders in the mobile money ecosystem must tackle the challenges of awareness and cost of using the bearer.

Com World Series: How are smartphones/tablets and cloud services impacting mobile/internet service providers in Nigeria?

Samson Isa: Smartphones/tablets have tremendously increased the internet penetration and usage in Nigeria. The proliferation of Future Phones with basic features of smartphones too has enhance internet penetration and improve data consumption. As a matter of fact, the data part of mobile network operators business will define the profitability and sustainability of some of the mobile businesses as voice revenue continue to drop.
I think Operators must consciously and deliberately continue to invest and come up with strategies that will make them very competitive in driving data; smartphones/tablets distribution is crucial in enhancing adoption and brand equity.

Com World Series: In your opinion, which companies are spearheading innovation in the region and what can be learnt from them?

Samson Isa: GT Bank stands out clearly in the financial institutions by using Apps to drive mobile money instead of the popular USSD. I think they should be commended for driving this technology. They are actually making a success of it.

Com World Series: Who are you most looking forward to meeting/hearing from and what do you hope to achieve from taking part in NigeriaCom?

Samson Isa: I think the convergence of technologies that has brought Financial institutions and Telecoms together should trigger a synergy between the respective regulators i.e. NCC and CBN; I would like to see a parley that will bring them together and other stakeholders to examine the mobile money sector and define the way forward. I would also like to hear the Mobile Operators on their future strategies; what major data strategies do they have and technologies that they will be driving in the coming years (2 – 3 years).
I would to love to hear some independent mobile money players-how they are surviving and pushing their businesses.

Find out more at NigeriaCom. Samson Isa will be speaking on Day 2 at 9:40 in the Panel on “Keeping up with Changing Habits in how Content is Consumed”.

Register here

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