Unreliable internet can be frustrating and I'll highlight two reasons. Besides losing my mind, there’s something else I will lose: my money. So many financial apps on my phone require a stable internet connection to work: Piggyvest (savings), AXA Mansard (investments), and Bamboo (stock trading).
Yet, approximately 33.5 million Nigerian adults (double the size of Rwanda) are ‘shut out’ of the internet because they live in areas with little to no internet connection. Try streaming a YouTube music video in some neighbourhoods in Nasarawa state.
For fintechs that depend on the internet to connect with consumers like me, these 33.5 million unconnected individuals are a potential market that remains out of reach. Expanding Nigeria’s population of internet consumers would mean unlocking new markets—every fintech's wildest dream.
But providing internet access is not exactly a fintech’s job description. That’s the job of internet service providers (i.e. MTN, Glo, Airtel, Smile and iPNX etc.) and the government. Indeed, we have these companies to thank for growing Nigeria’s internet subscriber base by 36% from 115 million subscribers in February 2019 to 157 million in Feb 2023 (bear in mind that one person can have multiple internet subscriptions, so growth in internet subscribers does not necessarily translate to growth in the number of unique internet users).
Still, setting up network infrastructure is very costly as it entails purchasing expensive network hardware (i.e. fibre optic cables, telecommunication masts etc.) and hiring skilled tech talent. In 2021, MTN allocated $1.5 billion to fund national broadband projects between 2021 and 2024.
While private sector operators typically have the war chest to offset these costs, governments