Nigeria has secured a US$100-million loan from the Export-Import Bank of India that will be used to deploy solar-powered telecommunication sites and extend national broadband coverage.
At least 1000 sites will be installed across rural areas in Nigeria, beginning with Oyo state, over a period of 12 months, according to Nigeria’s communications ministry,
The loan was secured approximately six months after the official application, confirmed by Nigeria’s Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu.
Shittu said it would enable the country to achieve broadband penetration of 70% by 2021.
“It is very expensive to maintain current masts which require regular power supply which we don’t have in Nigeria, forcing operators to run their installations on alternative power supply (generators). We have shifted our focus to solar-based masts which will also have 50km radius so that if you have a land area of 100km, you will have two masts. It is cheap to maintain and all operators can depend on it, rather than having the rural operators to construct their own masts or lay their own cables,” he said.
According to the latest industry figures released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for May 2019, teledensity in Nigeria was 91% with 122.6 million active internet subscribers.
Broadband penetration dropped to 33.13% in May 2019 from 33.70% in April 2019, the country having lost about 1.1 million broadband subscribers within the one-month period.
Stakeholders expressed concern over Nigeria’s rising debt profile, with the EXIM Bank loan following closely after a separate US$150 million loan the country secured for electricity projects.
At the end of Q1 2019, Nigeria’s external debts rose to nearly US$26-billion.
Critics argued that telecoms operators should be incentivised to invest rather than the government securing loans to install masts.