Nigeria loses 11.5m mobile users in 1 year as telecoms contribution to GDP drops

David Afolayan
Blockchain, Fintech and the Future of Banking by Austin Okere

Africa’s economic giant, Nigeria has witnessed a decline in its total number of telecoms services users by 11,502,559 (eleven million, five hundred and two thousand) within a period of 12 months (July 2020 and July 2021). That amounts to about a 6% drop in just about one year.

The reason for the decline may be largely owing to issues relating to the National Identity Number (NIN) requirement and the ban on registration and activation of new Subscribers Identification Module (SIMs) in December.

The suspension, which took effect on December 15, 2020, follows an order to the NCC by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami to carry out a comprehensive audit of the Subscriber Registration Database as pre-registered SIMs were being used to coordinate criminal activities in the country.

This hindered telecoms operators from activating new SIM cards or replacing damaged/missing SIMs of subscribers. Also, subscribers were unable to port to other networks.

Nigeria has lost 11.5m mobile subscribers in 1 year as telecoms contribution to GDP drops

This caused the total number of GSM subscribers in the country to drop below 200 million for the first time in February. As of July 2020, Nigeria had 199,307,796 subscribers. The total has since grown to 203,529,809 in August, 205,252,058 in September, up to 207,954,737 in October and 207,907,709 in November.

In December, the country lost about 4 million subscribers alone to 204,601,31. The total dropped by over 4 million to 200,213,994 in January, to 196,078,494 in February and 192,413,613 in March. The loss has slowed since to less than a million monthly since then.

Four months after the suspension, the Federal Government announced the restart of SIM sales and registration exercise from April 19, 2021, although the audit hasn’t been completed from publicly available information.  So, one wonders why indeed has the government resumed SIM registrations despite this being the case?

FG Cracks Down on Sale of Pre-registered Sim Cards, Orders NCC to Block Over 9 Million Sims

According to a statement from the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, the ban was lifted following the final approval of the Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration.

Still, the question remains, what is the outcome of that audit? And why has the government decided to lift the ban on SIM registration when it is yet to make public the outcome of that audit or say if the audit was even completed?

Technext’s Gbemileke tried to answer these questions in the article below:

Back to decline in July

According to the recently-released stats by Nigerian Communications Communications (NCC), the country has yet witnessed another month of drop in the number of telecoms subscribers in July 2021 by 400,000 (four hundred thousand) to 187,805,237. That amounts to a -0.11% decline overall from the 187,611,501 subscribers recorded in June.

This is coming just after one month of growth following 8 months of decline. An explanation for the decline is not exactly clear. But many users have complained that their NIN registration has not been activated by NIMC several days after registering at the telecom providers’ office locations.

Nigeria has lost 11.5m mobile subscribers in 1 year as telecoms contribution to GDP drops

This may have affected the onboarding of new users in general as this is a key requirement to having a sim card in Nigeria following the NCC embargo lift.

Noted instances on social platforms include cases where subscribers could not retrieve lines, students could not buy SIMs for UTME registration and business owners were unable to procure new SIMs for customer service agents and expatriates.

How the Service providers are faring…

MTN Nigeria is still the dominant network in the country with 73,123,732 users. The network has 39.01% of the total pie. The network lost 447,460 subscribers in July a little reduction from the 473,000 it lost in June.

Globacom follows with 51,137,799 total subscribers. That amounts to about 27.28% of the total pie. The company seemed to be the biggest winner in the circle. Glo’s total subscribers grew by 1,007,259 in July. This follows 349,000 subscribers growth in June.

Nigeria has lost 11.5m mobile subscribers in 1 year as telecoms contribution to GDP drops

Airtel closes follows with 50,301,237 subscribers. That amounts to about 26.83% of the total lot. The network lost 364,486 subscribers in July. This is a huge contrast to the over 638,000 subscribers it added in June,  the highest number of subscribers added by any telco.

Nigeria now has 139 million internet users

The report shows that the total number of internet subscribers in the country fell for the second consecutive month by 430,989 thousand to reach 139.74 million. The total of users declined by 317,215 thousand in June.

MTN continued its free fall by losing 586,240 internet subscribers to have 59,008,651 in July. The company also had a huge loss in June by losing 600,000 subscribers to hit a total of 59.59 million internet subscribers for the month.

Nigerians Spend Over 80,000 Terabytes of Data per Month, but not because it's Affordable

Globacom gained new 338,189 internet users to have a total of 38,214,155. This follows an addition of over 283,000 new internet subscribers in June. Airtel Nigeria lost a total of 182,682 subscribers in July to hold a total of 36,053,223. This is contrary to its addition of 115, 462 subscribers in June.

In sum

It appears Nigeria and Nigerians might just be reeling from an 8-months period experience of a stifling government policy that has not yielded any positive impact. Going by the impact the telecoms industry has made on the economy in over its 2 decades of existence in the country, this may also pass.

On the contrary, the shake-out may also be an opportunity for the country to truly realise its actual number of subscribers. Many analysts have argued that the previous numbers do not reflect the actual number of users as many users hold many sim cards with a port identity management system by providers and regulators.

These numbers may also be a reflection of the negative impact of the security situation of the country. Many users may have migrated, died, relocated to IDP camps, been robbed of their devices are unable to replace them or may not even have access to services in their locations.

The patterns in the following months will tell the complete story, maybe.

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