The Scrabble For Nigeria's Power Sector By Patrick Atuanya

In 2001, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vodacom, Alan Knott-Craig, infamously said-when GSM licences were being auctioned in Nigeria- that he would not bid because he did not like doing business with those who are “smarter than we are” - a veiled reference to the stereotypical view of Nigerians as scammers.
Barely four years later in 2005 Knott-Craig was singing a different tune, when he said in an interview that “losing the investment opportunity in Nigeria was a real disappointment for us as a management team.”
Rival MTN had no such qualms, and today it is Nigeria’s leading operator with 43 million subscribers as at June 2012 and making $2.5 billion in core profit in 2010 and again in 2011.
The lesson learnt (by prospective investors) from Vodacom’s bad judgment of not investing in Nigeria is a reason for the current scramble for a piece of Nigeria’s power sector.
In spite of the difficult operating environment and numerous risks, investors clearly see the upside for gain in Nigeria’s power sector, which has the potential to dwarf the revenues made in the telecommunication sector.
Nigeria is currently the largest telecoms market in Africa.
The country’s four GSM operators MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat had a combined subscriber base of 90.3 million at the end of 2011.
With Average Revenues per User (ARPU) per month in Nigeria, hovering in the $10 range, it means the four operators had revenues of about $10.8 billion (N1.7 trillion) in 2011.
Telecoms contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has increased from a negligible 0.5 percent in 2001 to 3.6 percent by 2009, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), website.
Analysts say the telecoms success has raised hopes for Nigeria’s moribund power sector, if the government manages to successfully privatise it.
“Nigeria has often surprised on the upside, and the success in telecoms is a classic example. People are looking at power in the same way,” said Fola Fagbule, Vice President of Origination and Coverage at Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a Lagos based investment bank.
Nigeria, with a population of 160 million people, is estimated to need about 40,000 Mega Watts (MW) of electricity over the next decade, but currently has less than 6,000 mega watts (MW) of available capacity, leading to costly blackouts that have kept the Nigerian economy from growing at its full potential for decades.
Nigeria needs $10 billion a year, or up to $100 billion of new capital investments over the next ten years to meet its power sector needs and it is hoped that privatisation will greatly improve service and output, with the government targeting 18,000 MW output by 2016.
The opportunity in the sector is what is leading to a scramble by local and international investors for a piece of Nigeria’s power assets.
Nigeria is working to sell off 11 distribution and six generation companies, as part of plans to privatise the power sector.
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 received technical and financial proposals from 54 potential investors interested in the privatisation exercise of Nigeria’s electricity distribution companies.
Oando Gas and Power, Honeywell, and Gumco were among local and international firms to submit bids for the acquisition of the eleven electricity distribution companies scattered across the country.
Preferred bidders for the 17 successor companies are due to be announced on October 23, the BPE has said.
“Anybody who doesn’t invest in Nigeria has only himself to blame, going forward, if he misses out,” said Aliko Dangote (Africa’s richest man) in an interview last month.
“I don’t really know of any place where you can make as much money as you make in Nigeria.”

2 comments

  1. i love my country

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  2. Anyone who invests in the Nigeria Power sector cannot regret it. It brings bigger returns than Telecomms. Someone can do without a phone but not without power. PHCN did not make it because of corrupt staff, just as Nigeria Airways or National Shipping Line or Nigeria Railways.

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