Round peg in round hole: Ikechukwu Nnamani emerges ATCON President, set agenda

From Cyriacus Nnaji, Lagos

Telecoms Sector in Nigeria is set to witness an era of robust and efficient operations through advocacy as Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) elected Ikechukwu Nnamani as their president.

Nnamani who is the president, Medallion Communications, emerged ATCON head at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and National Executive Council Elections 2020 of the association which was held at Victoria Crown Plaza Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos on Thursday.

He has also set his agenda which encapsulated all that he will be doing to propel the association to greater height in the next two years.

The new ATCON President said that his core agenda for the association was to strengthen the membership. “The core agenda is to strengthen our membership, make sure that every member of ATCON gets good representation in area of advocacy. We are going to focus on the needs of our members and how can we promote it especially in areas where they are having challenges with government agencies, the regulators, to help out in that advocacy, because what we found out is that it is a lot easier when members come through the association to address issues affecting them than when they go alone.

“You suddenly notice that you are not the only one facing the same challenge. So when the regulator sees that more than one entity is facing the same challenge they take it more serious than when they see that it is isolated to one particular company. So that has been one of the advantages, you noticed that a few of our members gave testimonies how the association has helped them out in the area addressing challenges affecting, may be, on issue of right of way, especially and other regulatory challenges both local, state and federal,” Nnamani disclosed.

Nnamani added that another area of focus by his administration is in the area of Telecom Financing. He stated that a lot of the members have complained about challenges of getting access to the right means of debt equity and FOREX for importation of technical equipment. “The other area that is very key to us, which we also intend to pursue, is Telecom Financing, a lot of our members have complained about challenges of getting access to the right means of debt equity, or even FOREX for those that require importation of technical equipment and infrastructure. So we will be engaging with relevant government agencies on that.”

Nnamani also disclosed that the new executive will also work to strengthen the Secretariat to make it more efficient. “As an organization we will strengthen our secretariat, make it more active, more efficient in its operations and ultimately in the next two years that this particular Exco will work we intend to help grow the industry. We are discussing with our members, how do we extend communication service across the country, not just in the big cities?”

He added that his tenure will see to the uplifting of the members that are still struggling in their businesses. “Part of what we intend to do is also use advantage of some of our members that are already established to help out the ones that are still struggling, it is a major area we want to focus on. How do we ensure that people look at it as an industry thing, not just having one or two people that are doing well and others are not, so we actually intend to do that, because what we found out is that there was no platform for people to talk, sometimes, even among members there are challenges that should have been easily resolved if it is discussed under a common platform,” he said.

Speaking on Covid-19 and the role of the Telecoms Sector in the new normal, he said “From a head perspective, we were all unhappy with Covid, we actually wanted it to go away sooner than later. But the truth also is that it has, for our particular sector, it has made our services more important and more viable. The challenge is that before now, a lot of the plans most of us had like five years plan, we suddenly found out that those services are needed now. So there is a need to accelerate the process and timeline to implement some much needed critical infrastructure. So that again, goes back to the issue of having the right funding in place for that. But from a country standpoint and industry stand point as you noted, imagine if this Covid came 20 years ago, and giving the state of the telecom infrastructure that time, it would have been a disaster, but from the e-health solutions that members were able to offer, to even Fintech services that members were able to offer, to traditional phone, SMS and data services that our members were able to offer, the country at least was able to operate, so the new normal really is a digital normal and that is the truth. Covid only accelerated it, making that obvious to everybody and we feel, from the sector we play in, this is a call for our members to step up more and be able to offer more efficient services.”

On issue Communication Bank he said it is part of the agenda of the new Exco. “It is a key thing we intend to work on. It is actually among our agenda of this section, but we don’t want to tie it to just a bank because it could be in other formats. We are rather looking at it from a telecom financing standpoint, whether it leads to establishment of a telecom bank, fine, if it doesn’t, as long as finance is available in one form or the other. Not just the availability of the finance, but at the right structure. Today finance is available but it is very expensive, the terms and conditions , very few companies can meet it, in fact those that can meet those terms and conditions are those that don’t need the finance, so that is what we found. So it makes it very important to us that in one way or the other, the right means of financing is available.

“One of the things we are looking at, which is another way that the industry can grow, is through direct foreign investment. One of the things that have been helping our members is actually, how do you structure your company to be able to attract foreign investment, so that you are not only relying on local funding, but you can actually get inflow of funding from the outside,” Nnamani stated.

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