Today, Osun state officially cancels right-of-way fees, allowing telecom companies and internet providers to lay fibre optic cables for free. Ademola Adeleke, the governor of Osun state, disclosed the cancellation of ROW fees today as part of a digital economy policy. The state is betting that cancelling right-of-way fees–a contentious matter between state governments and Nigeria’s telecommunications commission–will improve broadband penetration.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, there were 3.5 million active internet subscriptions in Osun state in Q1 2021. The data doesn’t show the state’s 4G or broadband coverage. But what is clear is that any state that’s aiming to become a significant player in technology and wants to attract startups needs to have excellent broadband penetration. Yet it remains a challenge globally, with Nigeria only having 45% broadband penetration.
One of the critical starting points for the tech ecosystem in Lagos was laying fibre optic cables around Yaba. In 2013, Main One began laying a 27-kilometer fibre optic cable to cover the Yaba area; it led to many startups choosing to have offices there. Osun hopes to have similar results; it is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Oodua Infraco to immediately deploy Fiber Optics across Osun state. The first phase will cover 64 kilometers.
Osun state will localise the startup act
Waiving the right-of-way fees remains only one part of attracting startups to set up shop in a state. So Osun state is setting up an ICT policy for the first time, and essential parts of this policy will cover localising the startup act, Osun state Google mapping and focusing on the digital economy.
According to the Osun state governor, “As part of our digital economy drive, Osun is poised to be the first State to domesticate the Nigerian Startup Act. This will be my first Executive Bill I will be forwarding to the State Assembly after this event. The Act is programmed to ensure that new start ups promoters and entrepreneurs secure desired mentoring and financing. The law, once domesticated will enhance the goals of both the ICT and the Tech Innovation policy.”
The localisation of the startup Act is critical. Under the Act, startups will be eligible to receive funding from the startup investment seed fund and will receive other tax breaks. It means startups looking to launch in Osun will get fast-tracked business registration and regulatory support. It moves the benefits of siting your startup in Osun beyond fast internet.
Putting Osun state on Google maps
Osun state is also launching a Google Mapping project to ensure businesses and landmarks appear on Google. According to the governor, the state’s mapping coverage was below 30% in November 2022, and while the figure now stands at 50% today, it aims to keep increasing that. He believes that mapping is critical to the success of small businesses and e-commerce.
There’s also a plan for the state to host e-commerce giants in Nigeria alongside Google. It remains unclear when that will happen. In his speech, Governor Adeleke admitted that “all the above initiatives cannot see the light of the day without internet connectivity. I was told our state internet coverage is still very low. I am determined to change the narrative.” It’s worth watching how the state implements these policies and if they can attract tech startups to the state in the medium to long term.