$12b e-commerce suffers as Twitter ban costs N7.5 billion in three days

• FG in talks with China, considers Internet firewall to block VPN access
• A4AI Nigeria says situation creates $1.2b loss for MSMEs
• Raises questions of our readiness for investors, says ALTON

 

The suspension of Twitter, a leading micro-blogging platform, has begun to take its toll on struggling Nigeria’s economy, leading to a loss of N7.5 billion in the past three days.

Nigeria’s decision to suspend Twitter, at first indefinitely but later temporarily, could backfire for the government and cost the country economically in terms of new investment into its technology sector. The ban may threaten Nigeria’s status as one of the best-performing African countries in attracting investment for technology start-up businesses.

According to Net Blocks, a watchdog organization that monitors cyber-security and governance of the Internet, each hour of the social media gagging costs Nigeria about $250,000 (N102.5 million), bringing the daily loss to N2.5 billion. It means the economy would have lost approximately N7.5 billion in the past three days.

The suspension has already created a market access gap for millions of small and medium scale enterprises (SMSEs) that use the platform to reach their customers. This could potentially complicate the challenges COVID-19 and other structural defects had imposed on businesses. Also hit is the e-commerce market in the country, estimated at $12 billion.

But within hours of the ban, internet searches for ‘VPNs’ – virtual private networks, which allow users to disguise their online identity and evade country-specific limits, surged across the country. Multiple videos appeared on YouTube explaining the ins and outs of VPNs to Twitter-hungry Nigerians. Nigerians also have plenty of other digital options to share opinions and information, from the popular WhatsApp to the Indian micro-blogging service, Koo, which has quickly announced plans to expand into the country.

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