A country on the cusp


Fueled by the largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria surpassed South Africa in 2014 to become largest economy on the continent. Yet for those who see Nigeria's potential for competing on the world stage, it might also be Africa's most frustrating country. For all its promise, Nigeria is beset with infrastructure obstacles such as an insufficient power grid and horrific acts of violence perpetrated by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The development of a robust national ICT infrastructure is one way Nigeria aims to increase prosperity and stability. And thanks to a series of successful projects that have expanded the country's network capacities, the sector is booming. Companies have invested more then US$32 billion in Nigeria's ICT infrastructure, the Guardian newspaper reports. ICT consumer spending is on pace to reach US$167 billion in 2020, up from US$115 billion in 2010, according to Nigerian government statistics.

By 2019, Nigeria will have 182 million mobile phone subscribers—more than one per person, on average.

Source: Pyramid Research prediction

Most of the ICT boom is in mobile network projects. Pyramid Research predicts that by 2019, Nigeria will have 182 million mobile phone subscribers—more than one per person, on average. (The country's current population is about 175 million people.) But only 3.4 percent of households had a fixed-line (DSL or broadband) Internet connection as of 2012, according to a report by the not-for-profit organization Research ICT Africa (RIA). The gap is partly explained by the poor power grid and a shortage of computers, says RIA, but also by a lack of fixed-line infrastructure.

Project practitioners working in Nigeria's ICT sector say the dearth of infrastructure is partly the result of a difficult project environment. Lagos, Nigeria-based Ifeyinwa Anaele, PMI-RMP, PMP, is a project coordinator for MTN, a Johannesburg, South Africa-based telecommunications company that leads in the Nigerian market. She says indigenous companies have struggled to execute projects, both on their own and in conjunction with multinational organizations, because of a lack of project management acumen. “A lot of projects here are not managed by project management professionals. There's no specific methodology, and many times those projects fail,” she says.

According to Ms. Anaele, low stakeholder engagement and frequent conflict are among the consequences, not to mention the time and money devoted to doomed-to-fail projects that didn't receive a proper risk assessment.


“A lot of projects here are not managed by project management professionals. There's no specific methodology, and many times those projects fail.”

—Ifeyinwa Anaele, PMI-RMP, PMP, MTN, Lagos, Nigeria


“So often, people don't do risk plans. They don't plan the mitigation,” she says. “Everybody is running helter-skelter, and that means more money and more time, and more adjustments to the project scope.”

Indeed, a significant portion of MTN's Nigerian revenue is spent on network expansion (see “MTN's Broadband Buildout”), which RIA describes as proof of just how challenging the country's ICT infrastructure deficit remains. While Nigeria has seen an extraordinary increase in available broadband bandwidth capacity since 2010, thanks to four new submarine cables connecting to Lagos, “the area of difficulty remains the last mile,” says Clifford Agugoesi, editor, Africa Telecom & IT, Lagos, Nigeria.

In other words, the type of ICT infrastructure that could facilitate an enormous growth spurt is within arm's reach. What Nigeria needs now are project managers capable of seeing the job to completion. PM




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