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High cost of smartphones threatens Nigeria’s 70% broadband penetration target

Nigeria’s bid to ensure that 70% of its citizens have access to broadband internet by 2025 is facing a serious threat with the rising cost of smartphones in the country. This is even as the global body for cheaper internet access, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) listed Nigeria among the countries with the highest cost of smartphones in the world, thus depriving many of its citizens access to quality internet access.

According to the latest A4AI report, smartphone prices are very high in the country relative to the monthly income of the average Nigerian. The report put the cost of the cheapest smartphone in the country at N25,000, noting that this represents 37.46% of Nigerians’ average monthly income, while the global average is put at 20%.

Checks by Nairametrics reveal that the cheapest 4G smartphone in Nigeria currently sells for about N35,000, while the country’s minimum wage is N30,000.

Through the National Broadband Plan (NBP 2020-2025), the federal government has set a 70% broadband penetration target to ensure that about 140 million Nigerians are having access to high-speed internet at speeds of 25 megabytes per second (Mbps) in cities and 10Mbps in rural areas.

Meanwhile, the National Broadband Plan Committee, headed by the chief executive officer of MainOne, Ms. Funke Opeke, had also identified the high cost of smartphones as a barrier to achieving these targets but highlighted strategies for the government to bring down the cost.

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What they are saying

While submitting its report to the government, the Opeke-led committee said: “Some of the factors identified as barriers to the low usage rate and adoption of broadband services include the high cost of services and access devices, low digital literacy, lack of local and relevant content, and poor perception of broadband value, amongst others. Effective utilisation of broadband services requires the use of capable devices such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, etc. The cost of these devices is typically higher than what a large segment of the population can afford.

“In view of the above, the government needs to take steps to fast-track the adoption of broadband services and access devices by incentivising local assembly of Smartphones with pioneer status and other waivers of duties, taxes, and levies – with a target of getting smartphones to Nigerians at below $25 by the year 2025. Adequate digital literacy programmes should be embarked upon to enlighten every Nigerian on the relevance of broadband to their lives and day-to-day activities,” the committee said in the broadband plan. 

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The team recommended that the government put in place incentives such as tax holidays and duty waivers to encourage Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to set up an assembly plant in the country.

What you should know

  • As of August, broadband penetration in the country stood at 44.49%.
  • This shows that there were 9 million subscriptions to fast-speed internet in the country. However, this does not translate to 84.9 million Nigerians as many individuals have multiple connections.
  • Despite the continuous expansion of 4G network by the operators, most of the broadband connections are still in the urban areas of the country as 4G smartphones are out of reach of many rural dwellers.

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