FG eyes $2bn to connect 774 LGs through fibre optics

The Federal Government, on Wednesday, said it has launched a $2bn fund to connect all of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas through fibre optics.

It said while the African Development Bank has pledged $200m, the World Bank, the African Export and Import Bank and the United States Export and Import Bank are among donors.

The FG revealed that Imo, Kogi and Zamfara are among eight states to benefit from the pilot phase of the project.

This was revealed by the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani, on Wednesday when he briefed State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.

Tijani said, “In the next six months, our goal is to reach at least eight of the states…and cover the entire country…we are setting up a $2 billion fund.”

Tijani stated that achieving total connectivity for the nation would require 120,000km of fiber optic cables, with the current status being only 35,000km of cables.

In a white paper published in January 2024, the Ministry emphasised the crucial need for expanding Nigeria’s broadband access through the development of national backbone and middle mile infrastructure, aiming for increased internet adoption and a 70 percent broadband penetration target by 2025.

It said the strategic importance of deploying at least 120,000km of fibre optic cables lies in superior connectivity, noting the disparities in coverage across regions.

To address the challenges of market viability and enhance digital inclusion, the paper ministry proposed what it called the National Broadband Alliance for Nigeria, a collaborative effort aimed at fostering broadband development, addressing low internet consumption, and positioning Nigeria for digital transformation.

This initiative, it said, is expected to drive economic and social development by improving access to education, healthcare, financial services, e-commerce and e-governance.

He explained the mechanisms for its implementation, saying, “The first thing we’re doing, which Mr. President is pushing, is leveraging existing infrastructure that we have within NIGCOMSAT, which is the satellite company. Most of you know that Nigeria is the only country in West Africa with a satellite.

“We’re also leveraging the fiber network of Galaxy Backbone to deploy connectivity to all the 774 local government Secretariat. Those who are following that project, which was announced about three weeks ago, would also see that we’ve actually started the connectivity.

“So a number of local government secretariats in Kogi State are now connected, a number in Zamfara are being connected this week, a number in Imo State are being connected this week. In the next six months, our goal is to reach at least eight of the states within the country to demonstrate the pilot and the goal is to then take it from there and cover the entire country.”

Tijani said if these local government Secretariats are the closest form of government to the people, and if connected, “we can help them use technology to serve the people better, but also to enhance security significantly as well.”

He added that the President had given his nod for the sourcing of $2bn to power the project.

The Minister said although less than $1bn would suffice, the extras are necessary to “drive down the cost of connectivity in the country.”

“Again, what drives connectivity in any country is the fiber optic network. This is the biggest foundation for connectivity. Nigeria is projected to invest in 120,000km of fiber optic cable to be able to cover the entire country. At the moment, we’re at about 35,000km.

“We’ve done the numbers working with the best companies in this space. It will cost us less than $1bn to complete the deployment of fiber optic cable. And the President has given the go ahead for us to source funds for that.

“So we are in the process of setting up a $2 billion fund. I said it costs less than $1bn. But the reason why we’re setting up a $2bn fund is to use the balance to drive down the cost of connectivity in the country. We want to ensure that all schools hospitals in the country are connected, and all government facilities as well. So we are in the process of setting up this fund,” he added.

The Minister said the African Development Bank has pledged $200m as talks are ongoing with the World Bank, African Export and Import Bank, and the United States Export and Import Bank, among others.

He noted, “We’ve already received significant interest from the African Development Bank who are looking to put about $200m into this. We’ve had an extensive and deep conversation with the World Bank on this as well.

“So, we do think we’re going to get more commitment. We don’t think the challenge is in raising the money because everyone understands the return on investment on any infrastructure-related investment, particularly on connectivity, is high.

“The model we’re taking, which is we’re using the special purpose vehicle, is to actually also crowd in investment from the private sector to be able to deploy the fiber optic network that we want to deploy in the country.”

On her part, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Dorris Uzoka-Anite, said Nigeria has become part of nine beneficiaries of a $1bn facility from the World Bank to set up digital infrastructure for e-commerce to tap into the $6.3tn global e-commerce sector.

She explained, “The WTO is partnering with the World Bank to give us support in digital trade. That includes hard infrastructure, that’s the fiber optic connectivity and soft infrastructure, software platforms and all of that.

“This will help us to improve e-commerce trading for MSMEs. The future of trade is digital. And if we can get our MSMEs, manufacturers and intrapreneurs to sell more through e-commerce platforms, it increases their reach, improves market access and improves their productivity.

“We are partnering with the Ministry of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy to roll out this. This is actually a $1bn facility by the World Bank given to nine countries and the WTO was able to accede to our request to participate in the rollout.”

Uzoka-Anite also revealed that the FG is partnering with the World Trade Organisation to develop the trade intelligence unit in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

“It will help us to actually harness information, analyse the data and be able to predict global market trends. When you’re able to predict global macro trends. It helps you to make informed decisions, formulate policies and help you to focus on areas of comparative advantage that give you the opportunity actually to scale or develop faster,” she noted.

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