The Buhari-led government banned Twitter operations in Nigeria on June 4, generating heated controversy across social media.
In what may go down as a precursor to looming full-blown internet censorship, authorities also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to begin the process of licensing all over-the-top (OTT) media services and social media operations in the country.
Meanwhile, Nigerians have quickly turned to virtual private networks (VPNs) so as to circumvent the Twitter ban.
There are about 40 million Twitter users in Nigeria, with an estimated 10 million daily active users. Several users now utilise a VPN to access Twitter, therefore, there has perhaps been at least 1 million additional downloads of VPN apps in the past 3 days.
Today marks the third day since the ban was effected, and it has negatively impacted businesses, brands, tech startups and the Nigerian economy at large.
Nigeria loses N7.5 billion in 3 days
According to NetBlocks, a watchdog organisation which tracks cyber-security and internet administration, each day of the Twitter ban costs Nigeria about N2.18 billion.
Netblocks estimates the economic impact of an internet disruption, mobile data blackout or app restriction using indicators from the World Bank, ITU, Eurostat and U.S. Census.
As of yesterday, the country had lost up to N4.35 billion. Invariably, the Nigerian economy has lost an estimated N6.5 billion in the three days since the Twitter ban took effect.
Tech startups find themselves shut out
The likes of Kuda, Cowrywise, Tizeti, Flutterwave and Piggyvest have stopped tweeting in the period the ban has lasted so far. These tech startups and other business brands could suffer from the Twitter ban.
Many of these brands generate the most engagements on Twitter (using spaces, threads, hashtags), which help attract customers, close sales and earn more revenue.
The ban also restricts opportunities for gig economy workers who source clients from Twitter and limits the chances of many job seekers trying to secure gainful employment. Many of the companies that would put up job vacancies on Twitter have stopped posting since the ban was announced.
Telecom operators will lose data revenue too. As active Twitter users decline, less internet data is expended on these networks and data earnings may take a hit.
According to the NBS, the ICT sector accounted for about 9.91% of Nigeria’s total N40 trillion GDP in Q1 2021.
Online merchants face sales decline
E-commerce merchants who advertise their items via Twitter could see sales decline drastically. This is because many prospective buyers may be unable to access Twitter or completely opt-out in the wake of the clampdown order.
In Nigeria, SMEs contribute 48% of the national GDP. They also account for 96% of businesses as well as 84% of employment, according to data from PwC.
The ban will also affect Twitter influencers who market services for clients looking to reach a wider audience with their service offerings. With the current situation of things, clients may be quite sceptical about even patronising these influencers in the first place.
GDP may contract by 0.2%
If the Twitter ban continues to linger, the Nigerian economy may lose up to N75 billion in the next one month, and N525bn by the end of 2021.
With SME and ICT revenue poised to fall, plus a reduction in broadband penetration, Nigeria’s GDP could contract by at least 0.2% by the end of June.
Amid the Twitter ban, Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has called on the government and Twitter to reach a compromise and find the way forward. Innovation Support Network, Nigeria’s largest community of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship support hubs, maintains a similar stance on the matter.
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