First Bank

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Nigeria's Twitter ban leaves some businesses in the lurch

 Lagos-based entrepreneur Ogechi Egemonu was selling more than 500,000 naira ($1,219) worth of watches, shoes and handbags on Twitter per week.

Now, with the site suspended by the Nigerian government, Egemonu does not know how she will cope.

"I feel very very distraught, I feel really really disorganized. I don't know how to put myself back together because I have been trying to build this platform. I have been trying to put my best. Be consistent they said, do this, post more. Talk to more people. I have done everything I needed to do but then I was able to do that because I had a platform but right now, I don't have that platform anymore." she told Reuters.

Scores of small and medium sized businesses across Africa's most populous nation - and largest economy - are reeling from the indefinite suspension of the social media site.

"I know for sure it is been very damaging because a lot of firms run ad (advertising) campaigns. A lot of business opportunities have been created just by the whole influencer thing on Twitter, people make money, people spend money. It is kind of like a mini-ecosystem on its own and kind of snatching that away from Nigerian is kind of unfair," Architect, Kilian Ekeh said."

Nigeria announced the move on June 4, two days after the platform removed a post from President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish regional separatists. Most telecommunications sites have blocked access.

NOI Polls estimates that 39.6 million Nigerians use Twitter - 20% of them for business advertisement and 18% to look for employment opportunities. Experts warn its lack of ready availability - it is accessible using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that masks location - could ripple across the economy.

Parliament's minority caucus warned that the suspension was costing Nigerians billions of naira on daily basis.

Dumebi Iyeke, a research analyst with the Financial Derivatives Company, said it would hit young Nigerians - among whom there is a 45% unemployment rate - the hardest.

"We are looking at a potential loss in their revenue, looking at a potential loss and then the ripple effect will be on output growth and because if the manufacturing sector is affected, businesses are affected, trade sector is affected. We are looking at a potential decline in economic growth and then economic development why because the standard of living will be a lot worse compared to the cost of living," she said.

"If it gets to a stage whereby there's no social media I would really pick up my CV (curriculum vitae) and start looking for job opportunities and how to fix myself into the society and how to earn a livelihood because social media is where I eat," Ogechi Egemonu said.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed last week said that all social media sites must register a local entity and get a license to operate. He cited complaints over lost money as proof that the ban was effective, but said other sites are still available.


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