14 Aug 2013

Looking out for consumers' rights and needs, meet CEON at NigeriaCom

Chukwuyere Izuogu is the Legal Counsel – Telecommunications Sector for CEON

The Com World Series team caught up with Chukwuyere 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?

Consumers Empowerment Organisation of Nigeria (CEON) is a research-based advocacy Non-Governmental and Not-Profit making Consumer Advocacy Group established in 1995 to strengthen Consumer Protection and Competition Regimes in Nigeria.
 For over 15 years, CEON has been carrying-out activities in its two core areas (Consumer Protection and Monitoring Anti-competitive Practices) in Nigeria through Research, Advocacy, Awareness Raising, Networking and Collaboration with the relevant stakeholders and Government Agencies. CEON currently enjoys good working relationship with select Federal Government Agencies like the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and Federal Ministry of Trade & Investment (FMT&I). CEON also have good visibility among International Donor Agencies like: DFID; IDRC Canada; ECOWAS Commission, Abuja; Ministry of Foreign Affairs Canada; DFID-ENABLE Nigeria, DFID-GEMS3 Nigeria among other donor agencies.
 Apart from our working collaboration with relevant local stakeholders and select Federal Government Agencies, CEON is also affiliated and a member of some select International Consumer Protection and Competition bodies like:UNCTAD Research Partnership Platform on Competition Law and Consumer Protection Policies (UNCTAD-RPP);  Consumers International (CI) The global campaigning voice for consumers with over 220 member organisations in 115 countriesAfrican Consumer Protection Dialogue (the `African Dialogue) – an effort on behalf of African Government, NGOs, and the U.S. Federal trade Commission to create informal opportunities to interface with each other, the U.S. and the rest of the world on consumer protection issuesInternational Network of Civil Society Organisations on Competition (INCSOC) – A Coalition of 135 members from 61 Countries promoting a Healthy Competition Culture around the WorldNetwork for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals (NATT) - A Network of 98 Organisations from more than 50 countries in the World advocating a tough, enforceable Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and End Water Poverty – An international civil society coalition that campaigns to end the global water and sanitation crisis. The coalition has over 180 member organizations in 45 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.

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

The voice market appears to be nearing saturation in Nigeria, hence interest in data is on the increase. Several international submarine cables have landed in Nigeria, though middle-mile and last-mile connectivity remains a challenge for consumers to benefit from the untapped bandwidth.  

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?

In the opinion of CEON, connectivity and quality of telecommunications services can be improved by mandating infrastructure sharing amongst licensees under the Communications Act. To this end, NCC should by rulemaking impose specific obligations on all licensees providing communications services to enter into infrastructure sharing agreements with competing licensees. This in CEON’s opinion will lower barriers to entry, facilitate network deployment and promote competition in the market for telecommunications services.
 Also and most importantly, infrastructure sharing impacts positively on consumer welfare as the resultant savings may be passed on to consumers in the form of improved quality of service and decreasing prices consistent with the core object of CEON.

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

Cloud services is still a still a new phenomenon in Nigeria. With respect to smart phones and tablets, access to the internet has greatly improved and consumers now have a range of various mobile content/apps to choose from, as it is no surprise that mobile devices are now the primary means of accessing the internet in Nigeria.

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

In our own opinion, we would say all the GSM service providers are trying hard to provide innovative service offerings to their various subscribers, however we beg of NCC to pay more regulatory attention by encouraging investment in the mobile content service providers using short code space as recent research from news media suggest the potential of the mobile content space to generate revenue in excess to $11.5 Billion by 2014 and also, innovation in mobile content services is likely to promote increased consumption of mobile content which drives mobile content service providers to invest in more innovation thus creating a demand driven “virtuous circle” of innovation and investment consistent with the object of the Communications Act.

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?

We intend meet with the regulator (NCC) and industry participants to achieve more visibility in our work as a consumer advocacy group. 

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