How BeepTool Is Helping To Boost Nigeria’s Communications Economy
Nigeria’s 174 million people help drive Africa’s largest economy. The telecommunications industry is arguably its most vital sector for the Nigerian economy. Sometime last winter, the number of mobile phones in Nigeria surpassed the number of people. There are now 177 million mobile phones in the country.
That means people are communicating more than ever, both domestically and internationally. Meanwhile, multinational companies are swooping in to capitalize on these gains. And the Nigerian government is going out of its way to help these companies and domestic providers expand the communications infrastructure, including by granting large tax breaks.
This is, of course, good news. The Nigerian economy needs more of all kinds of infrastructure. But they can’t do it alone. For many Africans, the cost of mobile phone service is just too high. Frequently, they use their devices for only the most basic functions, including banking, Mobile Money and SMS. That’s great, but Nigeria can do better.
For budding small businesses, for farmers bringing crops to market, and for students building their professional networks, an inexpensive way to share conversations, files, images and video conferencing is becoming more and more essential. And as Nigeria’s economy joins the global economy, an international method of doing all these things — without going broke — is more important now than ever before.
The benefit of a service like BeepTool, then, is easy to understand. With international calling rates for less than a penny, it is the most low-cost communications solution yet developed. “Our argument is that if people could stay on WiFi 20 percent to 80 percent of their time or have already paid for data on their GSM provider, why should they also pay high rates for voice calls?” says BeepTool CEO John Enoh.
The logic is clear, and the economic benefits to individuals and to their enterprises is obvious. But there still are obstacles to moving forward. That’s where the infrastructure comes back into the picture. WiFi is not as broadly available as it needs to be in Nigeria, and data is not always reliable or strong. Most of the country still does not have broadband, but the government has a goal of reaching 30 percent broadband penetration by 2017. This is a positive step, but that will require a significant amount of investment from the public and private sectors. BeepTool is prepared to be a leading partner in this effort.
“Our foremost goal is to make communication affordable and accessible to low earners who are the bulk of the African population,” Enoh says. “If it had been possible we would have loved to offer the services free.”