On Friday, June 4, 2021, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, announced the indefinite suspension of Twitter in the country.
He also disclosed the government’s directive to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to start licensing all over-the-top (OTT) and social media operations.
The move has understandably drawn outrage from Nigerians who see it as yet another attack on free speech by the government. However, free speech is not the only thing affected.
The Twitter ban could also affect the country’s economy. Consequently, investor confidence would weaken, and there’d be a negative impact on development.
A 2016 World Bank study found a correlation between increased broadband penetration and an increase in per capita GDP.
In addition, Internet or social media shutdowns cost sub-Saharan countries $237.4 million in 2020.
We examine how this ban could affect Nigeria’s economy.
Over the past few years, the influencer marketing space in Nigeria has grown so much that almost anyone with dedicated followers could snag deals with organisations looking to extend their reach.
Though some influencers — mostly lifestyle — use Instagram more, Twitter is the primary platform for most of them.
While the organisations that work with them can easily use other channels for their marketing activities, it could be harder for them to do the same.
Also, while they may be able to afford VPN services, their followers who keep them in business may be unable or reluctant to do so. Either way, this does not end well for these influencers.
The increase in Internet penetration has increased the number of people making a living off the Internet, specifically social media.
From social media managers to content creators and product photographers, thousands of Nigerians have created careers off these platforms. This ban puts their sources of livelihood at risk.
In a previous article, we examined how Nigerians are now using Twitter to get jobs, investors, and fill vacancies. These are all activities that a social media ban would hinder.
This has resulted in jobs for a significant number of people and revenue in the form of taxes for the government.
However, this ban puts all of that at risk. For most startups, their businesses depend, in some part, on social media.
Without access to social media to run marketing campaigns or build relationships with their customers, business would take a hit. Applications that are built using Twitter APIs are also affected.
While these businesses would find ways to innovate around the ban, their users may not.
Political stability is one of the factors that investors consider while making investment decisions. By banning Twitter and directing the NBC to start licensing OTT services in the country, investors are not likely to jump at the opportunity of investing in Nigerian startups depriving the country of much-needed investments.
Small and medium enterprises are vital to the growth of any economy, frequently providing as much as 60-70% of the economy with jobs. Numbering about 117.4 million, SMEs in Nigeria contribute 48% of national GDP, account for 96% of businesses, and 84% of employment.
Many SMEs have leveraged the Internet, especially social media, for business activities such as marketing and customer service. The number of vendors on Twitter and Instagram is a testament to this.
While these businesses could move to other platforms, their posts might not gain as much engagement as Twitter provides. What’s more? There are no assurances that a ban on other social media platforms would not follow.