INSIGHTS: Indigenous Content : This Is How NCC Is Making Waves In The Implementation of Telecoms Local Content Policy

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Earlier this year 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the National Policy for the Promotion of Indigenous Content in the Nigerian Telecommunications Sector, which is aimed at increasing local participation in the sector and reducing capital flight. The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, as the industry regulator is central to the implementation of this policy.

The Nigerian government recently came up with a local content policy specific to the telecommunications sector. This put a lot of responsibilities on the shoulder of the telecoms regulator, to which the Nigerian Communications Commission has responded swiftly to.

Expectedly, the commission, in its usual swift response to telecom issues swung into action immediately. In this regard, the commission has developed an action plan to help guide the implementation of the policy.

Working with the policy’s focus areas, which include manufacturing, software development, compliance monitoring, licensing, funding, people, and research and development for digital innovation and entrepreneurship, NCC has articulated several targets and high impact interventions, which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based to address the focus.

It is in this regard, the commission has developed an action plan to help guide the implementation of the policy.

According to the policy document, one of the policy’s objectives is to build the skills capacity of Nigerians and the indigenous telecom companies in order to access opportunities within the sector; to define minimum indigenous content levels for projects across the telecommunications value chain and to support the development of the local telecom startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem by making the licensing framework less cumbersome for new entrants and telecom startup.

In addition, the policy states that “telecom companies with foreign participation should have clear succession plans for Senior Management Positions with conscious actions at building the capacity and providing the opportunity for indigenes to attain senior management positions within the larger operators.”

The government said the policy’s objectives is also to develop indigenous telecommunication companies to become world-class manufacturers service providers.

According to the government it would incentivise the production of cables, connectors, masts and telecom tools in a way that meets global minimum and certification standards; support local manufacturing through relevant institutions, such as the Universal Service Provision Fund, USPF, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), etc, and encourage the establishment of vocational training institutes focused on the design, fabrication and assembly of telecom equipment.

In addition, it would encourage partnerships and collaboration between global Original Equipment Manufacturers, OEMs, engaged in the manufacturing of telecommunications equipment and indigenous players.

In addition, it stated that “telecom operators with foreign participation need to prepare and present to the Regulator plans for local manufacturing of foreign sourced software, equipment and devices.”

Presenting the commission’s roadmap for the implementation of the policy, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, recently disclosed that the commission had established the Nigeria Office for Developing the Indigenous Telecoms Sector, NODITS, as part of implementation of the government’s local content policy in telecoms sector. According to him, the office is saddled with the responsibility of implementation of the local content policy as well as the Executive Orders 003 and 005.

He added that other departments within the commission had also been equally saddled with responsibilities that helped to inculcate indigenous participation in the telecom sector. He further disclosed that under the auspices of the Research and Development Department, the commission had sponsored research efforts in several universities across the country.

“Notable areas of research conducted include Development of All Weather Solar Systems For Energy Optimization in a Mobile Communications Base Stations (at Ekiti State University of Technology), Design and Fabrication of Meta-material Inspired UWB/MIMO Antenna for the 5G-Sub 6GHz Application(at Taraba State University) and Intelligent Autonomous Multi-UAVs (Multiple Drones) Swarm Monitoring for Effective Surveillance and Situation Awareness in the Nigerian Telecommunications Industry (at Gombe State University). By these activities the commission seeks to identify with and harness local resources in Nigerian institutions of learning for the benefit of the industry,” he said.

The EVC declared that with the constitution of the NODITS, the industry should expect new Guidelines and Regulations bordering on indigenous content, local manufacturing of telecom equipment, outsourcing of services, construction and lease of telecoms ducts, succession planning in the telecoms sector, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, etc. as the need might arise.

According to the policy document, one of the policy’s objectives is to build the skills capacity of nigerians and the indigenous telecom companies in order to access opportunities within the sector

Danbatta added that the commission had already constituted a standing licensing review committee currently examining all its licenses in an efforts not only of modernising it to reflect the current realities of technology and development but also to consolidate, bundle or un-bundle individual licenses or even create new licenses.

Again, he said the commission had also identified several areas of collaboration with other Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations such as National Office for Technology Acquisition & Promotion, NOTAP; Small & Medium Enterprises Development Agency, SMEDAN; National Agency for Science & Engineering Infrastructure, NASENI; National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, and Rockefeller Foundation.

According to the NCC boss, there were plans towards direct intervention in line with subsisting policies e.g., in the local production of corrugated optical ducts (COD) to cater for fibre requirements in Nigeria and ultimately for export.

In conclusion, While the government has taken a bold step by coming up with the local content policy specifically for the telecom sector, efforts of NCC among others, will ensure a successful implementation. The need for collaborations and cooperation among the several agencies of the government in this regard cannot be over-emphasised.

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