Aliyu Yusuf Aboki, the Executive Secretary of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA), has urged governments to ensure increased access to telecommunications services in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.
Aboki emphasized that over the past decade, telecommunications has significantly expanded market opportunities for millions of Nigerians and enhanced their productive capacities.
He also highlighted the role of digital tools such as applications, websites, and software programs in enabling more efficient and productive work among Nigerians.
Aboki noted that the telecommunications sector has created numerous digital economy jobs, especially for youth, which were nonexistent just a few years ago.
Speaking with The Guardian, Aboki stated that the digital economy is transforming livelihoods and creating extensive economic opportunities.
He emphasized that the potential of this economic transformation should not be hindered by increased taxes and tariffs.
Aboki emphasized that greater access to technology and telecommunications services leads to increased economic activity.
He advocated for perceiving telecoms as a driver for growth rather than solely a source of economic revenue.
Aboki argued that “stimulating investment, innovation, and technology adoption by SMEs and individuals would generate greater revenue for the government in the long run.”
He further explained that “lowering taxes and levies for telecommunications companies would provide them with additional funds to invest in their operations, expand networks, and enhance services.”
Aboki emphasized that this would ultimately keep prices low for consumers.
Aboki highlighted that governments worldwide consider the telecommunications sector as a significant source of revenue.
However, he stated that smarter governments focus on generating revenue from the broader growth across various sectors of the economy driven by intensive telecommunications use.
Foreign investment in the telecom sector has become a major source of foreign direct investment (FDI).
The economic growth resulting from the digitization of economic activities could eventually yield tax revenue equivalent to Nigeria’s oil revenue.
Aboki emphasized that evidence clearly shows that the expansion of the digital economy positively impacts economic growth. He warned that imposing high taxes that impede economic growth could delay the emergence of benefits and hinder tax revenue.
As a telecoms engineer, Aboki noted that wise policymakers and regulators continuously seek ways to reduce the cost of telecommunications services since they act as a multiplier for growth.
He referred to the Alliance for Affordable Internet, which recommended reducing taxes on low-cost devices in 2020 to lower mobile usage costs.
While acknowledging the role of taxes in generating government revenue, Aboki cautioned that they could have a regressive effect on income distribution. He explained that taxes, particularly those applied disproportionately to low-income households, could negatively impact them since they allocate a higher proportion of their income to these services.
Aboki emphasized the spillover effect of telecom services across various sectors, enhancing productivity.
He stressed the importance of considering the broader impact on overall growth, national incomes, and future revenues of those sectors. Hindering these sectors through negative impacts on the telecoms sector would impede their optimal growth.