With the latest Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC statistics, crediting it with over 46.5million subscribers out of 174 million telecommunications consumers in the country and more than 3,500 employees, many will surely marvel at the phenomenal growth of Globacom Limited since its formal launch on August 29, 2003.
Such astonishment is not far-fetched and derives largely from the fact that the company is not only fully indigenously owned but managed by Nigerians who in the past 16 years manifested that the country is endowed with men and women that can prove their mettle in their chosen careers despite the harsh operating environment.
Globacom Limited currently under the leadership of Mrs. Bella Disu (Executive Vice Chairman) though the fourth Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) network to be licensed, coming after MTN Nigeria (a South African company) and Econet, (now Airtel) and the federal government-owned MTEL, made an instant difference in the sector when it introduced lower tariffs and per second billing which made it possible for GSM users to pay for only the actual time spent on the phone.
Significantly, that master stroke came when it was still a status symbol to own a mobile telephone and Nigerians were told that per second billing for airtime was impossible by the operators and therefore consumers had to endure with the false claim.
So putting an end to that lie forced MTN and Econet to adopt the per second billing while the cost of acquiring a GSM line tumbled from over N40,000 to as low as N200 and further reducing the cost of airtime from N50 a minute to 5 kobo per second. This, almost immediately resulted in massive telephone penetration nationwide, a trend that has continued till date.
It is also because of the entry of Globacom to the sector that majority of Nigerians in both urban and rural areas who had access to telephones did so at the time when it was almost inconceivable that a local operator could compete effectively with existing telecommunication giant like the MTN with its parent company firmly based in South Africa.
Globacom, fully owned by Dr Mike Adenuga Jr., as it later turned out became a darling of consumers and a household name across the country thus surviving the stiff competition from the already entrenched networks and overcoming the harsh operating environment at the time.
Apparently unknown to some pessimists who were nursing fear of the trite, that the Nigerian factor might soon set in to derail the vision of the indigenous company, its owner, given his pedigree as an accomplished industrialist and astute business man held on tenaciously to his vision and mission for the budding telecommunication giant.
And in no distant time, the company started achieving many milestones among them becoming the first telecommunication company in the country to build an $800 million high-capacity fibre-optic submarine cable known as Glo-1, from the United Kingdom to Nigeria, the first of such venture. Thereafter it established such other strategic business units as Glo mobile, Glo Broad Access, and Glo Gateway.
In other words Globacom became a success story a few years after its birth despite the fact that stable supply of electricity which is critical for the Information Communication Technology, ICT sector and digitization to flourish and other needed infrastructure were lacking. It also had to source for scarce foreign exchange for the importation of needed equipment which cannot be sourced locally.
Again, recall that the tremendous impact made by Globacom at the end of its first year of operation in 2004, attracted the recognition of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) a feat that was then globally celebrated as a revolution in the Nigerian telecommunication industry.
But management and staff of the company have not rest on their oars and had successfully competed in the industry and extended operations to neighbouring countries like Republic of Benin, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Gambia and now a force to reckon with in the West African sub-region.
Back home, Globacom voice and data subscribers are almost unanimous on the revolutionary impact the network has made in the lives of citizens and businesses in Nigeria since inception.
Alhaji Gbadebo Olatokunbo, shareholder activist said Glo came as a “saviour to millions of Nigerians and many of our poor people that had the opportunity to use GSM today would have been denied the opportunity” but for the telecommunication company.
He rated Glo as having the best networks amongst the telecommunication companies in Nigeria today, adding that “you can get Glo’s signals anywhere and everywhere within Nigeria and most of its sale promotions are focused more on the less privileged ones and better life for all.
“Glo came with the mission to serve and empower Nigerians and make us happy, than with intention to make profits. We Nigerians owe Glo constant appreciation for their services to mankind.
“l am very proud that Glo is a Nigerian company while l hope many more of our wealthy citizens would go into other businesses that would lift the welfare of our citizens like Glo and l hope that our government shall give the necessary support to such Nigerian companies.
‘’Glo should look into how data usage would be spread to the less privileged people, in terms of bringing in less expensive-phones and lowering the data cost further.
Speaking in similar vein, another Glo subscriber and National President, Constance Shareholders Association of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Mikail said “Glo communication network has really turn around the system of communication in Nigeria by providing a high tech communication system throughout the country and at lower rates which is making other provider to emulate the company.
He said, the coming of Glo in Nigeria has made communication easy and at affordable rates noting that the network has helped in broadening the system of communication in different ways.
Being an indigenous company, Mikail maintained the telecommunication company has helped in creating job opportunities for the unemployed Nigerian youths.
“That is why Glo is now number one telecom provider that is highly demanded because their network is good and it reaches to rural areas. The company should not relent, they should make sure all villages in Nigeria get the benefit of easy communication to the outside world,” he added.
But the management of the company is mindful of the expectations of consumers and therefore very determined to remain focused fulfilling its mission and vision.
EVC Globacom, Disu while speaking on the company’s commitment to provide an enduring infrastructural backbone for the new digital economy that drives socio-economic development across all sectors in the economy (ecommerce, mobile banking), said the company is fully determined to offer digital solutions.
“The very easy way of doing this is what Globacom would be launching in the next few months which is Glo Cloud. And that basically offers you cloud storage to document digital solutions, offers you the ability to have your meetings by audio and video conferencing…For example if they have a file, stored in a cloud of storage, it would improves administrative efficiency and also reduces cost.
The company is also fine tuning plans to launch Mobile Money, after it secured a license to further take banking to the door steps of citizens. Nigeria which has a population of 190million people reportedly has registered bank accounts of about 30million which shows that our banking sector is grossly under serviced.
As in every human organization, Globacom has had its fair share of challenges ranging from vandalism of infrastructure, high cost of importing equipment due devaluation of the Naira, reduction in consumer demand as a result of dwindling purchasing power, interconnect debt to growing competition among service providers among others.
For instance the fierce price competition among telecom operators on their voice and internet data is said to have led to the contraction in the sector revenue over time.
While Nigeria’s data bundle prices are said to be the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, they are priced below actual costs which will harm the sector in the long run.
Also, Globacom has not shirked in its corporate social responsibility as it has continuously supported sports development, entertainment and culture. For many years, it has been the sole sponsor of the annual Confederation of African Football (CAF) Awards, which it elevated to a major event in the global football chart, bank rolling the African Voices on CNN designed to project game changers on the continent and promote the its brand globally on CNN’s platforms.
Finally both management and staff of Globacom have every reason to beat their chest for not derailing from the company’s mission in the last 16 years.
Thomas Inwalomhe writes from Lagos
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