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Why the Nigeria’s DSO process is slow

 In this interview, the Chairman of the Set Top Box Manufacturers Association of Nigerian (STBMAN), who is also the GMD of Gospell Digital Technology, Sir…

 In this interview, the Chairman of the Set Top Box Manufacturers Association of Nigerian (STBMAN), who is also the GMD of Gospell Digital Technology, Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa tells us how the switch over revolution in Nigeria will enhance the broadcast industry and create jobs.

How big is the set top box market?

 The set top market in Nigeria is big and well over 45million. However its biggest challenge is power. Today a lot of people can buy television but to watch the television is the problem. Therefore if local manufacturing is boosted, Nigeria will be saving over $500million yearly. 

After two pilots, tested and installed in Plateau state and FCT, have government continued to subsidize the set top boxes? 

Originally from government’s white paper, it plans to subsidize N10million set up boxes because it is a pact with the United Nations protocol. Besides government brought the idea of Digital Switch-Over (DSO) not citizens of which they are going to make a lot of money from it. By migrating from analog to digital, government will retrieve back some frequencies which will in turn create jobs.

Secondly, citizens will purchase the set up boxes but government have the responsibility to subsidize this set up boxes for low income houses and they should be able to sustain it.   Therefore government can make between 50billion to over 300billion from TV license all over Nigeria if even 30-35million people log on it. As such the benefits are huge. The process is slow but since government has affirmed their commitment in moving to at least 6 states by the end of next year, they should be switching over. So we are selling and manufacturing to the open market and we encourage government to make effort to subsidize. 

What are the efforts put in place by the states governments to align to the digital switch over? 

On our part, we have been visiting states encouraging them to acquire set up boxes in order to upgrade their studios and there has been huge corporation so far 

Looking at regulation, what part will government play in doing that? 

The NBC have already deregulated the industry and it has started issuing out license to people. So NBC needs to mobilised and given funds for monitoring in order to ensure quality control. With that, NBC will generate revenue because the more licenses they issue, the more revenue they generate. The boxes too are avenues for other states to interact with their people, since the boxes are addressable boxes, information can be accessed any day, anytime.

Also, Nigeria is losing out on the advertising industry as Ghana and Kenya has overtaken Nigeria in terms of advertising revenue, yet Nigeria has a larger population. This is because in these countries there are fewer manufacturers who can easily be identified. But it is not the case in Nigeria. But now the box has the capacity to perform audience measurement. Audience measurement means one can record with some mechanisms and matrix and will be able to account for the number and location of its viewers because of the ability of the set box to locate and give such data. So such data can be taken to a soft drink company to seek for advertisements and identify the locations and number of people that watch programmes which the drink will be advertised on and it will bring about increased revenue. So this is what the set top boxes will do, and the FG, NBC and other relevant agencies has kick started this process. 

Tell us about Gospell Digital Technology? 

Gospell Digital Technology is the first in the manufacturing of set up boxes in Nigeria while others assemble. It is a technology where computerized systems through robots or machines are placed on printed circuit buds. Printed circuit bud is what is used by every electronic device including cell phones  and the system that has been put in place by this technology is being able to place between 50-250,000 components in a circuit bud in one hour which is the unique feature of the technology that will provide jobs and services to other electronic accepting companies. 

Is the company employing indigenous people or foreign experts to manage the technology? 

The technology requires expertise so we employed the services of experts which is Skyworth. Skyworth is about the 3rd largest manufacturing set up box in the whole world. It is a business that is quoted in the Hong Kong stock exchange and it has a very strong history of quality control. Skyworth is producing the box as plans of the DSO and for us to partner with them to provide the technical know-how, it is a plus. However, our agreement with them is that in the next 2-3 years, they will hands off the experience to Nigerians. Today it is run by experts from France and China and young graduates from Nigeria. 

Based in Calabar, how does the company intend to transfer technologies, expatriates to make it a wholly indigenous technology? 

We intend to preserve as much as we can locally, while we continue enjoying foreign expertise. Thus, in terms of hired labour and to maintain good quality, we want to continue maintaining good relationship with our foreign partners, so we can train our people so that by the next 3-4years who can be proficient and be able to manage the machines and provide new services.  Also the cost of research is another thing, so when the foreign companies do it, we copy from them because it is cheaper to copy and we want to be able to have the capacity to copy. 

What is the acceptance of rate of the set top boxes?

They are acceptable but scarce. It is different from Muliti choice, Startimes, Gotv , TStv and others. Those are not free TV and are not digital terrestrial transmission company. Rather they are pay Tv boxes. Digital Gospell is a free Tv which provides quality entertainment and education to Nigerians free of charge via the free Tv set top box and it is done through Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT). It is a different model and the others are Paytv, all one needs is to get the box and the fee even if it will be charged will just be very little and what the Federal government is doing is free television. 

What challenge do you foresee in trying to manufacture these products?

The biggest challenge every manufacturer faces, I believe is the availability of foreign exchange. It is well established that nobody in Africa manufacture chips. Few companies in the world do that like Broadcom. Chips is the major component which we use in manufacturing electronics so the chips are imported and about 60% are imported. The only thing we do in Nigeria is the providing the cover sheet, marketing materials and a few other things. Therefore, we call on the Federal government through the CBN to make forex available to manufacturers in Nigeria because the digital switch over is a time bound process that has prospects of employment, and wealth creation and adding value to Nigeria.

Secondly, tax is a serious challenge, and for us to harness our capacity, we call on government to completely enforce the stoppage of the importation of fully build set top box whether for free to air or for Pay TV. The free zone should be totally overhauled as power supply is epileptic. Also, shipping of goods to the free zone is expensive.

Finally, there are numerous charges on the free charges that is why over 90% of operators in the the free zone have parked away because of the difficult conditions. Also NBC must come out with a full timeline in the whole 36 states which will enable us produce the boxes according to market demands. 

What height will digital revolution attain in Nigeria in the next 5yrs? 

I see it as a major catalyst in technology transfer as it will create enhanced broadcasting for even local households and create interactive television. Interactive television here entails an instance where a guardian can set up a TV to ask his wards questions to review and answer and by doing that will generate revenue. The box is a magic box to revolutionize Nigeria and the Federal Government through National Broadcasting Commission has been doing well in implementing plan but the only difficulty is its slow pace in implementing the plan. However, it is well commendable.


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