Millions of Nigerians are set to benefit from innovative global mobile technology that helps to provide access to vital services for the poorest communities.
The news was announced by Harriet Baldwin, the UK’s Minister for Africa during a two-day visit to the country.
It’s estimated that 2.5 billion people in developing countries are still without mobile Internet, which is challenging for communities who need access to a range of essential services such as clean energy, water and sanitation as well as government services such as birth registration.
Visiting Abuja and Lagos, Minister Baldwin announced a £38 million partnership to support mobile technology trade body, the GSMA, improve access to essential digital services to over 26 million people around the world over the next three-and-a-half years.
In Nigeria alone, the Mobile for Development partnership, has supported mobile-enabled solar technology to help keep families in rural areas safe by allowing off-grid homes to have access to electricity. The lack of clean affordable power limits development, so UK aid has supported the development of a ready-pay power system which can be paid in instalments using mobile phones.
Energy company Lumos, working in partnership with Nigeran telecoms provider MTN, created and manufactured a solar power system that allows the 40% of Nigerians without access to electricity, to get access and pay via their mobile.
“It was great to return to Nigeria; it is a country of tremendous opportunity, but I know it has significant challenges,” said Minister Baldwin.
“The UK is working as Nigeria’s longest partner and friend to overcome those challenges and deliver for its citizens.
“From providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance to those caught in the North East conflict, cracking down on corruption and money-laundering, to harnessing the power of innovation and technology, the UK is helping ensure Nigeria has a bright, stable and prosperous future because when Nigeria prospers, Africa, the UK and the world prosper.”
The partnership with GSMA builds on UK aid programmes to boost digital and financial inclusion for women. A programme in Swahili has led to the development of Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby, which is a free text message service for pregnant women, mothers with newborns and their supporters. Subscribers receive messages covering topics from prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, family planning, malaria prevention and postpartum care.
During the visit, Minister Baldwin also met female entrepreneurs improving the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable families in Nigeria, from very small-scale rural farmers from the North, to heads of industry in Lagos.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest country by population and its largest economy. While visiting a UK aid supported ENGINE II school in Abuja, Minister Baldwin also heard how girls are being given the opportunity to develop life skills and empower them as future leaders.
She also visited the Cassa Nova’s Factory which exports its cassava crisps around the world – including the UK where they are stocked in some Sainsbury’s supermarkets. Bilateral trade between Nigeria and the UK reached £5.5 billion in 2018 and has potential to grow significantly.
She also met with the Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Lagos State Deputy-Governor to discuss improving trade and investment links, fighting poverty and a shared interest in developing a prosperous Nigeria.