Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest economies, helped in part by its large population, developed infrastructure, and early adoption of many technologies. The African continent as a whole has some of the lowest levels of internet penetration on the planet, although it is closing the gap and Nigeria has been doing so faster than many other places.
In 2000, the internet penetration across the country was just 0.06%. By 2015, this had grown to 47.44% and by 2020, it had increased to 73%, an increase of 101,484%. In 2020 alone, internet connections grew by 22% across the country, with the ISP Globacom seeing its customer base grow by nearly double that. That’s more than many of its neighbors, including Egypt and South Africa which have penetration rates of 52.5% and 57.5% respectively.
With nearly 32 million registered Facebook accounts in Nigeria, it’s also the second most active on social media, behind only Egypt.
But despite having more internet-connected residents than almost any other country in Africa and a penetration rate higher than the global average, many Nigerians are still not taking full advantage of what being a netizen can bring.
A big portion of global internet traffic comes from entertainment apps and services, such as video and music streaming platforms and gaming. This opens up a lot of possibilities to users as they can gain access to content that would have otherwise remained unavailable.
The entertainment industry can support many people’s careers. Creative types can turn their interests into a business by starting a YouTube channel or a blog, while those interested in technology can find work supporting them.
In gaming, Esports has become a big business, with the industry generating around $1 billion of revenue in 2020 alone. Like in other sports, much of this money trickles down to players, some of whom earn millions each year in prize money in addition to sponsorship deals and streaming appearances.
This means that those that are skilled enough at games like Dota 2 and Fortnite can turn their passion into a career by taking part in some of the biggest and most lucrative esports events in history. At present, Nigeria lags behind the rest of the world in this regard, with few professional esports athletes competing on the world stage.
In Nigeria, like in many other parts of the world, cash is still king when it comes to the most preferred payment method. This is a huge inhibitor to ecommerce since it relies on electronic payment methods.
The main reasons for this are concerns about the risk of fraud and a lack of understanding as to how electronic payment works. The use of digital payments, particularly mobile systems, has increased in recent years, but only for smaller transactions.
That doesn’t mean ecommerce isn’t a lucrative industry. In 2019, Nigerians spent around $13 billion online, while the Ministry of Communication and Technology believes that this will increase more than tenfold to $154 billion by 2025. That’s quite an ambitious target, especially given the current growth of the ecommerce industry is believed to be around 25% per year.
Only around a third of Nigerians regularly use instant messaging apps, with the rest still sending messages via SMS. This means they’re not taking advantage of the cost savings that come from this.
Many business people don’t yet understand the benefits that the internet can provide to their business. In a nation that derives nearly 22% of its GDP from agriculture, farmers could help gain an advantage by using apps that give them the most up-to-date crop prices when they are attempting to sell them. Out of date price data can leave them out of pocket, particularly if commodity prices have shifted a lot in a day.
However, most don’t see the opportunities that accessing the internet could have on even small farms and businesses like these, instead, preferring to fall back on traditional tried and tested methods.
Over time, this will likely change. The biggest driver will probably be word of mouth, as a large proportion of Nigerians get their information about using the internet from their social circles. However, this does mean progress could begin to slow down in the coming years if there are not enough connections between rural and urban netizens.