There aren’t as many Nigerian mobile internet users as we thought

Two steps backwards.
Two steps backwards.
Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
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Nigeria’s telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), says mobile Internet users growth is starting to slip. It comes after the regulator tightened registration requirements for sim cards to help combat security and fraud challenges.

As of last October, it appeared Nigeria was rapidly closing in on hitting the milestone of 100 million internet users but instead there has been a regression with Internet user numbers dipping by a few million users to 93.75 million by February 2016.

This slide in growth comes after internet user growth more than tripled between 2012 and 2015 as mobile technology became mainstream in Africa’s largest economy.

The dip in internet user growth can be linked to the country’s recent clampdown on unregistered sim cards as Nigeria ramps up its fight against a deadly insurgency across its northeast region. The Nigerian government mandated the country’s major mobile networks to deactivate unregistered sim cards operational in the country as it argued that insurgents and criminals exploited the use of unregistered sim cards, to which no personal data is tied.

MTN, in particular, has been caught in the sim registration clampdown. Since last October, the firm has been embroiled in a sim card dispute with Nigerian regulators and its internet users have dropped by more than 5 million users.

But with Nigeria’s large young population and an Internet penetration rate still below 50% there’s every chance the growth in Internet users will soon resume after the mobile industry settles down with the new registration process.