Friday, November 19, 2010

Useless Bank of Africa

I'm so tired. Why am I tired? Ah yes, it's because I'm hungry. Why am I hungry? Because I've been roaming around trying to get internet to do some "work" (such as type this blog, hehehe)
Why can't I get internet at the office in spite of having sacrificed a workweek and my good health to get authenticated for the new Unilag internet? Because it's switched off but the room it's in is locked and the internet office can't fix it and I'm not willing to sacrifice another day and my health...
The business news in Nigeria is very good. Let me explain: Bandwidth. Let me show you:
Competition forces telcos to reduce tariff on data services
•Internet users in for good times

Going by the increasing number of undersea cables coming into Nigeria, both finance and market watchers say the nation’s highly competitive telecommunications market appears poised for a tariff war.

Speaking on the development, which they already estimate will spur exciting times for internet users in the country, they told BusinessDay that most operators are spurred by the prospect of boosting revenue from internet services as voice tariffs continue to fall. To this effect, data services has now emerged as the new ‘competition war front’ for telecoms firms.

Since the liberalisation of the telecoms sector in 2001, internet access market has remained untapped while voice services thrived. For years, and until the last few weeks, the only cable system serving Nigeria’s internet needs was the South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable - a submarine communications cable linking Portugal and Spain to South Africa, with connections to several West African countries along the route. MainOne cable and Glo-1 have already commenced commercial services.

Equally, the West African Cable System (WACS) - an initiative of nine countries (including Nigeria’s MTN Group), which comes with a high capacity submarine cable system linking Europe, West Africa and South Africa is, at the moment, under construction.

Analysts who spoke with BusinessDay confirmed that some telcos are already taking advantage of the enormous bandwidth on offer from these new cable systems to lower internet tariffs, strengthen existing services and produce new solutions that promise to transform the economy.

Leading the pack in the area of pricing, meanwhile, is MTN Nigeria which has reduced its monthly Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) tariffs from N5, 000 to N3, 000. This thus rates it as the cheapest in Nigeria currently.

According to Kenneth Omeruo, an internet analyst, for other telcos to stay competitive, they will have to lower their respective BIS tariffs. This, he noted, will translate into more Nigerians getting connected to the internet at international broadband speeds and at more affordable prices.

However, in a swift response, second national operator, Globacom, which has its own self-feeding submarine cable - ‘the Glo-1’, has also reduced the price of its 3G internet service by 25 percent. Now, Globacom’s internet subscribers can enjoy data limits of 6GB on its ‘Always Max Package’ for only N7, 500 from the previous price of N10, 000. Moreover, insider sources disclose that Zain is also making plans to introduce a new promotional package that would see BIS tariffs fall to as low as N1, 500 monthly.

Some GSM operators have also introduced new bundled product offering, with the pay- off being free internet service. Only recently, Etisalat and Samsung launched the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a new smart device that allows users to enjoy PC (Personal Computer) like web browsing, e-mail-on-the-go with an optimised user interface. The Tab comes with an Etisalat SIM card which offers 25 minutes of free voice calls, 25 free SMS and more importantly, 250 MB of free internet access every month for one year.

Similarly, Globacom and leading technology solutions provider, Hewlett-Packard (HP), have introduced an innovative offering that enables Nigerians to own top-end internet-equipped netbooks. Under the special bundling offer, customers can get Glo 3G powered HP netbook for N34, 000.

Without doubt, data services have become the next frontier in Nigeria’s telecoms industry even as the voice segment reaches saturation point, analysts have submitted. They added that telcos would however have to pay keen attention to data services as a new revenue generating stream.

The analysts believe that even as telcos focus more on internet services due to the proliferation of submarine cables, the cost of internet access will continue to drop significantly as more bandwidth capacity becomes readily available to the market.

Lanre Ajayi, president, Nigerian Internet Group (NIG), who spoke with BusinessDay at the weekend, said: “Telecoms operators are increasingly paying attention to the internet. The reason for this is that voice services is reaching saturation point. They are looking at data as a new revenue generating stream. This is also why they have rolled out their 3G and GPRS services to their customers.

What we are seeing today is not surprising to me. We are witnessing the effect of having more than one submarine cable in the country. With three cables fully active in the country, there is an abundance of bandwidth capacity available to telecoms operators. They have no options but to offer innovative data services to their subscribers at lower costs. The trend will continue and we hope when other cables berth on the country’s shores, the cost of internet access will become even more affordable and improve Nigeria’s digital index and internet penetration rate,” the NIG boss noted further.

So now, though very belatedly, Nigerians will have access to internet phone, video phone, reasonable Internet speed, better prices, studying online instead of bothering with antique educational institutions (I'm not saying Nigeria is horrible, I'm just saying the world is changing so fast that school may be too behind-the-times for some kids.)
The other reason I haven't had breakfast really is that I needed to send someone a little money. Remembering that I can't do this electronically - there is a lot you can not do in the banks - I decided to use the ATM to withdraw the cash from near my bank branch office after which I would take a =N=20 ride to the person's bank branch office to deposit the money and then start my day. As you might have guessed, even this didn't go so smoothly. "Issuer or Switch Inoperative" was the message from the machine. If you live in Naija you know that means no juice.
So I thought again, why is UBA (United Bank for Africa) fighting with their service provider (Interswitch?) Or why would they shut down service three days (so far) in one week?) Is it because they want all their customers to revert to other banks? Unlike on Sunday when I was stranded on Lagos Island - that day, I was supposed to take a friend out to lunch and theater: nothing - and on Tuesday - also a holiday, banks closed for Eid, and I was going to take mum out for her birthday but SHE ended up giving me money hehehehe - today I was right by an open bank branch.
The friendly lady in the bank told me of the customer service phone number at the back of the card. Lesson learned: next time something goes wrong, call customer service like you would do in yankee/jand/wherever. Assuming you have money for phonecalls (which will become cheaper soon yippee) and the phone network is up you have "service" and ... She said it might soon be fixed.
Since I didn't want to line up inside the bank for an over-the-counter withdrawal (one hour of my life, plus when it reached my turn they would ask "did you bring your withdrawal booklet?" and I would actually laugh out loud because they always have a test question to deprive the undeserving of their world-class service), I waited at the ATM enclosure, a small house with maybe six machine with one or two "dispensing" on usual days while one or two let you "check your balance." Today no UBA customer would experience the thrill of checking balance. Only Issuer or Switch Inoperative.
I watched a bunch of people come and leave with no juice, and I saved a few people the effort by announcing the machines don't work. As they left, more than one of them muttered Useless Bank of Africa! Now that's the way to deal with these things, with wit and humour, while Americanas like me go lodging complaints and action-planning.
I was reading my newspaper (of course somebody asked to borrow one) when I got bounced by a security guy who suggested I wait elsewhere but not in the shade of his useless ATM house. Then decided to go home - the sun has been firing on an cylinders these days so, not fun - to get a few notes I had kept there, then I went to the other person's bank to make the deposit of little over 50 dollars.
Mission almost accomplished. After a few quarrels with the musical security-check robot hallway - go back, try without the keys, try without the bag, lift up your cell phone then walk slo-owly, no, walk briskly (walk "sharply", as we say) - I finally got into First Bank, listened to some guy complain about how he needed some service that was (of course) impossible for the bank to perform, probably a withdrawal, and then made the deposit.
Yeah, so am I planning to do any research today? Dude, let me get breakfast first.

The newspaper has more good news: the handling of the banks' crisis in Nigeria yielded a plea-bargain and jail-term, which is more than any other country can boast, so we're teaching the Americans. With this kind of good PR and a united financial team, that good investment money is on its way in. Al hamdulillah. Please just celebrate: don't spoil it by saying that Ibru is actually not in jail but nursing her heart in the rich-man-hospital.
In other news, Basel III exists, although many countries haven't even got through the first set of regulations yet.
The newspapers were fun. Philip Isakpa and Funke Adetutu (I'm not ready to change her surname even if she is) and Victor Ehikhamenor (and - one week later - how could I leave out Dayo Elusakin) keep up the tradition of the humour that makes all things bearable. I love you Naija.

1 comment:

Ginger said...

Hi T. Thanks for directing me here. lol. you managed to belch out those insults with good humour. UBA dear UBA. They do try their best. I love Tony Elumelu. I think he is still one of the few who really love banking.

Bank security doors? tell me about them. Some guy with oversized jeans had to remove his belt one of them days...I'm sure you can imagine what nearly happened. lol

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