The Communications Business
The Ministry of Communications in Nigeria has been in the news a lot lately, thanks to the recent back-and-forth between telcos and banks operating in the country and the general business of keeping the players in the space in check.
Once Dr. Isa Ali Pantami was revealed as Nigeria’s Minister of Communications in the new-look cabinet of President Muhammad Buhari who took office for a second term in May 2019, stakeholders in the communication technology space lauded the appointment. Many even tagged it as “one of the few things Mr. President got right in his cabinet selection.”
Prior to his appointment as the DG in 2016, Isa was a professor of Computer Information System at the Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
Before his appointment as a minister, Isa Pantami headed the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) NITDA, one of the agencies under the supervision of the communications ministry.
The fine work he had done at the agency meant that having four nominees on the communications minister list was just a formality, as he was always the favourite.
And once he took office, he wasted no time introducing a couple of frameworks for the technology space in Nigeria.
New Name, New Direction?
Pantami does seem like a man with a plan and this has already been reflected time and again during his short time in office. He appears to be proactive and in tune with the times.
Just yesterday, the Minister basically got the President to rename the ministry so as to reflect its overarching goals.
The Ministry of Communications will now be known as the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, per the President’s directive.
In a statement signed by a Deputy Director in the Ministry, Mrs Philomena Oshodin, the federal government said: “The ministry which supervises the ICT Sector has been renamed The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to further expand its mandate to capture the goals of digitalisation of the Nigerian economy in line with the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP), one of the key agenda of the present administration.”
According to the minister, the old name had become limiting and obsolete and did not reflect the trends as emphasized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Pantami said: “ICT contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stood at 13.85 percent in the second quarter of 2019. The change of nomenclature will propel the ministry to reposition its strategic objectives as laid out in the priority areas of this administration while accelerating growth and social inclusion.”
The minister made examples out of “global and African economies like Scotland, Thailand, Tunisia, Benin Republic, and Burkina Faso among others, who have adopted deliberate strategies and created Ministries of Digital Economy in line with global best practice, and especially the European Union which has a commissioner for Digital Economy.”
In a letter containing his approval, President Buhari “noted that the request is in line with global best practice which will further reflect the priorities of his administration. The approved name has been announced and adopted by the Federal Executive Council today, 23rd October 2019.”
What This Means
Pantami had his work cut out for him once he became Nigeria’s Minister of Communications but it seems he had it all figured out before his first day on the job.
Getting a name-change approval from the President is hardly a win but it could be thought of as the first step in a new direction.
The world has evolved from mere phone lines and cable television and there is a need for the present strategies of government ministries to align with the status quo.
It appears Pantami is positioning the ministry to better cater for the demands of the fast-paced digital economy and all hands will now have to be on deck.
Featured Image Courtesy: NigerianEye