Nigeria’s telecommunications industry is one of the fastest growing of Nigeria’s economy – and is largely dominated by mobile phones.

August 2017 marked 16 years since the commercial launch of the Global System of Mobile Communications (GSM) operations in Nigeria, which brought an end to the highly criticised monopoly that the state-owned Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) then maintained over the country’s telecommunications and data services.

Despite the liberalisation of Nigeria’s mobile telecoms market, it is now largely controlled by just four operators – MTN Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria, Globacom and 9Mobile (formerly known as Etisalat Nigeria). The entrance of this quasi-competitive market has led to significant improvements to Nigeria’s telecoms infrastructure, increasing both the quality and coverage of services (BuddeComm, 25.07.2017).

The market, however, continues to hold many possibilities. With more than 50% of the population without access to a mobile phone or internet, there remain significant opportunities for potential investment – facilitated by key market trends, such as the growth of social media use, and increased access to cheaper technology.

Key Points

  • Despite the liberalisation of Nigeria’s mobile telecoms market, the sector remains largely controlled by just four operators – who have managed to exploit their dominant market share in order to outcompete smaller players.
  • The activities of all four of these operators have attracted allegations of malpractice and fraudulent behaviour.
  • Nigeria’s mobile phone market has experienced rapid growth, primarily due to the introduction of competition into the market as a result of the government’s liberalisation policy in the early 2000s. Increased competition fostered a rapid growth in Nigeria’s subscriber base, a reduction in tariffs, and an increase in the country’s network coverage.
  • In 2016, the telecoms industry contributed 9.13% to Nigeria’s GDP, and is expected to contribute more than 9.5% in 2017 (NCC, 24.10.2017). It remains a key sector with associated growth opportunities.