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Did the Nigerian Government Bribe Opera Mini?

By Wayan Vota on March 29, 2010

I want to believe one of the things that captured your attention is the “bribe” in the title of this article. You have heard about the Halliburton scandal and many other high-level bribery scandals in the country including the recent NITEL sales. Truly it’s possible that the Nigerian government bribed opera, let’s look at how…


Nigerian mobile phone market

In year 2001, the Nigerian government opened the mobile market for private investment, taking the sole business off state-owned NITEL. Econet got the license, MTN followed suite and Glo also did get license and started business.

The business was so lucrative that MTN made profit it normally makes in 3 years in South Africa in just 1 year of business in Nigeria. The Nigerian telecom market is a multibillion dollars industry and is amongst the world faster growing and largest telecom market, so why wont there be bribery? Well consider the following too…

Mobile telecom growth in the country has been massively growing at a whopping rate from 266,461 in 2001 lines to 74,511,614 in January 2010. This is a massive growth compare to what the mobile lines in the country used to be in the early 2000s. Teledensity currently stands at 54%, this shows that there is room for growth as millions are yet to own a phone.

Mobile Internet in Nigeria

Looking at the cost of owning a PC and subscribing to the internet in Nigeria, it is a luxury most people cannot afford. Going mobile, with less than $50 you can get an internet enabled phone, get connect edand eureka! You are live on the internet.

The telecoms service providers have various internet plans which you can either browse through your phone or connect to your PC;


The Mobile Internet Market

I laid my hand on the Opera state of the mobile web for December 2009, the results was a good pointer to the mobile browsing pattern of Nigerians.


The above image shows the top sites and model of phones used by Nigerians. In the top button points; 524.5% in page view is phenomenon, also number of users browsing with Opera mini more than triple (315.3%) compared to 2008.

Most users want to keep up with their friends, check their email, read news and search for information. Sport and free SMS are not left out also (goal.com and mjoy.com)


Facebook is the biggest beneficiary of the opera mini craze on Nigerian mobile internet sphere.

Looking from the business side of it, no Nigerian website among the most visited sites, creating a massive market for a site that can provide interesting local content for the emerging market.

But why bribe Opera?

Really if you say Opera was bribed, you may not be far from the truth depending on the side of the coin you are looking at. The government opened the mobile market, the flood came in and the surge never stopped; if that is the incentive for the opera usage fine!

One thing that may not be clear to people outside Nigeria is the growing trends of free browsing on mobile phone across most networks. There is a loophole in the configuration security provided by the telecom operators. The method is facilitated by adjusting the settings in the opera mini and there you go… no billing just browse on!

The operators in most cases disabled opera mini use on their network, while people some have argued against this measure, urging the operators to tighten their security as opera mini provides one of the best user experience on mobile; giving fast downloads with its compression technology and reducing cost of browsing on mobile phone.

Going forward…

The growing trends show a massive market in the mobile internet market in Nigeria. I believe if the prices are lower a bit it could spur more usage and ultimately make more money for the Telco’s.

On the other hand, mobile is the future and definitely will be where internet will get to most Africans (because of exorbitant cost of PC acquisition and subscription). The current unified rate of 15kobo/1 KB among the operators is still very high and low emphasizes is still be paid to enlighten people about data plans they can take advantage of instead of 15k/KB. The operators apparently are still enjoying the bumper of voice revenue!

So to our question above, did Nigerian Government bribe Opera? If providing open market for competition to thrive means bribe, then the answer is yes but if market forces and people’s desire to consume online content is the drive for Opera adoption then the answer is no!


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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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5 Comments to “Did the Nigerian Government Bribe Opera Mini?”

  1. Oluniyi Ajao says:

    “If providing open market for competition to thrive means bribe, then the answer is yes”

    What logic is this?

    1. Mischievous and misleading heading.
    2. The government of Nigeria has no motivation to bribe Opera Mini. Therefore, why even remotely suggest such a despicable thing?
    3. Opera Mini usage stats is only an indicator and not the authority on mobile internet usage in Nigeria considering only a section of mobile users use Opera Mini.

  2. Wayan Vota says:

    By creating a market where its products shine, the Nigerian government got Opera to take notice of Nigeria. To have any company notice Africa, or even a specific country is a feat – most put it at the end of “EMEA” as an afterthought.

    Congrats to Nigeria for leading the usage of Opera Mini.

  3. Kayode Muyibi says:

    When anybody hears the word Nigeria, the first thing that comes to their mind is Scam, then probably Corruption ,and then perhaps Bribery. I would not lecture you on the dangers of a single story but I would tell you how what you have sketched would create more damage than traffic. What you have written here has over-exaggerated the economic risk of doing business in Nigeria.

    Many Nigerian entrepreneurs have gone through a lot of trouble making deals happen, getting investors to invest in their ideas and even getting business to work because of the perception created by single stories like this one.

    I might have thought that its all because you don’t go through the problems many businesses face because you have never run a real business, and you have never been turned around before, but then again that would be a fallacy that could be ironically valid and true.

  4. GSM is one thing the Nigerian government have done right since inception. This indeed shows us that the Nigerian Government could “bribe” more global organizations if only they fixed electricity, roads, security and railway because with these, businesses will boom megaly in such a market as huge as nigeria. Imagine if Microsoft, Oracle, Toyota, Dell starts production here, employment will be on the rise. That form of “bribery” is what we pray for.

    Nice article however, Try to be mindful of the fact that with the present image Nigeria has, the HEADING of this article alone could pretty much seal the deal in someones mind to start seriously thinking Nigeria may have indeed bribed Opera management. In order words, whenever you are using the word corruption, bribe, 419, spammer where you will also use the word “Nigeria” or “Nigerian government” ensure you are pretty much talking on that subject. My suggestion, Change the Bribe in the heading to “bribe” with quotes. That makes it clearer that you dont actually mean bribe 🙂

  5. possicon says:

    At times I think should not be where we are now as a country (largely because of the harm it’s done to us as citizens) and I really will like to see us move to the next level with impeccable character that will change perception of everyone towards Nigeria. But you know, things don’t change overnight, so i get to work!

    In as much as I’d like to be passionate about my country… i try also to be as objective as possible like every persons that doesn’t have any attachment with Nigeria whatsoever. Currently we have a reality in terms of perception of our country but to move to the next level we need to be aware of our current state (not deny it), then get to work on something of value (which many of you guys are already doing).

    I also will not like us to take the post out of context as doing so will do more harm then help us. The focus is on technology advancement and its global impact. If a sub-sector of an industry gets global attention what I think is that… we only need to work more on our potentials then the world will be aware of the possibilities of the Nation Nigeria.

    I live and run my business in Nigeria full time!