Could the stupendous rise of brands like MTN Nigeria, Etisalat Nigeria and Glo Nigeria be one of the most hard-hitting and expert-shaming business miracles of our time?
I'm asking this question because way back in the year 2000, when Nigeria's teledensity (the percentage of our population with access to phone) was at a miserable all time low of 0.38% (and our entire active phone lines were just 530,000 against our then fairly staggering population of over 120 million), a bunch of world famous telecoms market experts declared that Nigeria was a so bad business destination. They predicted that we were perhaps too poor (or was it too unproductive?) to purchase and maintain up to 5 million phone lines.
But fast forward to 2015, Nigeria's teledensity had miraculously skyrocketed to a fearsome figure that's over and above 100%, (according to the latest NCC records) with total connected phone lines fast nearing an unprecedented all time high of 200,000,000 - one of the highest phone access rates in the world. Though there seem to be doubts in some quarters regarding the validity of our teledensity figures, yet I'm pretty sure that all the telecom companies which listened to those experts back then in 2000 are still mourning their errors now because missing Nigeria, as it turned out, also implied missing most of Africa.
The most exciting part of this rare business miracle, however, is the super impact the telecom sector, especially through its GSM operators, is making on our economy.
Just recently, Punch reported that MTN Nigeria alone has paid a whopping sum of N1.3 Trillion in taxes since inception, making it the sixth largest contributor to Nigeria's revenues amongst non-oil companies. This is apart from having helped our music industry rake in over N5 Billion in 2014 alone just through its caller tunes monetisation system amongst other similar revenue channels.
According to a 2013 Daily Independent report, no GSM operator in Nigeria has ever recorded a deficit in their balance sheet since inception. In fact, BizWatch reported just last week that MTN Nigeria's investment is worth $15 Billion USD; while BusinessDay reports that Etisalat Group's N698.9 Billion revenue in Q1 of 2015 was due to a strong growth in the Nigerian market.
Considering all these figures one may not help but think that anyone that works in any of these telecom companies must be killing it with a fat salary running into multiples of millions, right? Well, not so right, at least not in the case of contract graduate workers that make up most of what's popularly known as Call Center Agents.
While the high ranking telecoms professionals may give some of their counterparts in Oil and Gas a run for their money, in terms of fat salaries, the average take home pay of their lower placed Call Center Agents across the sector, is about N70,000 per month, which in my opinion is so not encouraging.
This, however, wasn't the case from the beginning. It all started with the recent rise in outsourcing which has made most if not all, the telecom companies to outsource the management and operations of their call centers in order to cut costs. And the impact of this move is so huge considering the fact that these call centers remain the first point of call for most of the new graduate entrants in the sector.
Though the Call Center Agents do receive bonuses, loads of free phone credits and medicals, yet the benefits offered them by the companies are not anywhere near what the full time staff, even in the not so high cadres, enjoy.
Showing some telecoms salaries according to levels
Entry: N792,000 - N1,770,000
One interesting thing about the way these leading telecom companies in Nigeria pay their workers is the fact that two employees hardly earn the same amount, even when they're at the same level and in the same department. Some of the employees said that location, individual performance, and negotiation skills are some the factors that cause the differences in their pay package.
While we're happy that these companies are prospering and doing so well financially, we do hope that they will also better the lots of their low cadre staffs, especially the Call Center Agents who are primarily saddled with the responsibility of attending directly to the needs of their teeming millions of subscribers.
What do you think about this? Please write your comment below. I'd like to hear from you.
Chris Doyle & Paul McShane, Charles River Associates, London.
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