IHS Towers, one of the largest independent owners, operators, and developers of shared communications infrastructure in the world by tower count, has made a significant mark in Nigeria since its inception in 2001. It has emerged as a pivotal player in the communications space, driving connectivity and innovation not only across Nigeria but across multiple continents.

Founded in Nigeria in a small office on Younis Bashorun Street in Victoria Island, Lagos by Sam Darwish, IHS Towers’ Chairman and CEO; William Saad, IHS Towers’ Chief Operating Officer, and Mohamad Darwish, IHS Nigeria’s CEO, IHS Towers began its operations with a clear mission: to bridge the telecommunications gap in underserved regions. Over the years, the company has expanded its footprint, first across Africa, then Latin America and the Middle East. With a portfolio of approximately 40,000 towers, (including over 16,000 in Nigeria), IHS Towers has become the third largest independent multinational TowerCo in the world (by tower count). IHS Towers’ footprint has expanded to include operations in Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Kuwait, Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia.

Strategic acquisitions and organic expansion underpin the company’s growth. Notable acquisitions include the purchase of towers from MTN Nigeria Communications PLC and 9mobile in 2014 and 2015, the acquisition of Helios Towers Nigeria in 2016, and more than 15 other acquisitions of companies and towers across all its operating markets. These have significantly bolstered and broadened its infrastructure capabilities and today, the company offers six core solutions – colocation and lease amendments which actively promotes the sharing of existing infrastructure, building new sites in new locations where coverage doesn’t exist, inbuilding solutions by wiring inside large buildings, small cells for dense areas, fibre connectivity to support broadband, and rural telephony to serve unconnected people in remote areas.  

In 2021, IHS Towers expanded its service offering in Nigeria and commenced deployment of fibre through its subsidiary, Global Independent Connect Limited (GICL). GICL started in 2024 by completing the roll-out of more than 10,000 kilometres of fibre optic cables across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, as it serves to support the Federal Government’s National Broadband Plan of achieving 70% broadband penetration by 2025. Due to the company’s global reach, it can draw on expertise and innovation from its broader fibre services. The most notable example of this is in Brazil where IHS Towers has, in partnership with the mobile network operator TIM Brasil (a subsidiary of Telecom Italia), established I-Systems, a specialist provider of shared optical fiber networks that currently passes approximately 8.8 million homes. These strategic moves have both expanded IHS Towers’ geographical footprint and enhanced its capacity to provide reliable, sustainable and customer-focused solutions.

IHS Towers achieved a major milestone in October 2021 when it listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), a move that opened doors to new capital and global recognition.  The listing further solidified IHS Towers’ position as a key player in the telecommunications industry. The company is now deftly positioned to play the role of a global corporate ambassador, as it strives to demonstrate globally the potential opportunities that continue to emanate from Nigeria and that Nigerian companies can succeed globally.

IHS Towers’ impact extends beyond the provision of communications infrastructure. The company plays a crucial role in driving economic development and empowering local communities. As an enabler of connectivity, it has helped facilitate the growth of digital economies, enhanced access to information, and supported the expansion of businesses and services in urban as well as remote and underserved areas. The connectivity that IHS facilitates serves as a catalyst for socioeconomic empowerment, enabling businesses to thrive and communities to access vital services.

In Nigeria, IHS Towers runs a comprehensive sustainability programme working with national and international organisations. Alongside UNICEF, they are helping develop child friendly communities in Nigeria, where access to clean water is easy, births are registered, and mothers are trained on health issues. 

IHS Towers have also partnered with a Houston, US, based non-profit organization, Limitless Space Institute, dedicated to space education. The initiative involves taking ten teachers from Nigeria and immersing them in a 12-month Limitless Global Educator Program that will enable them to delve deep into the implications and benefits of space exploration. As part of the programme, they will tour leading space industry organizations, engage with subject matter experts, and collaborate to devise new and innovative lesson plans. The notion being that these teachers will then inspire their own students to dream big. After all, if three engineers were able to start a global company out of Nigeria, the next generation can also create wonders with education and determination. 

More recently, IHS Nigeria has deepened its commitment to the development of technical skills among Nigerian youth through the 3 Million Technical Talent (3MTT) initiative. Launched in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation & Digital Economy, the 3MTT programme aims to train 3 million young Nigerians with technical and digital skills over 3 years; an unprecedented challenge taken by the current administration. 

Across the IHS Towers group, there is a clear commitment to environmental stewardship and reducing the company’s environmental footprint by using green energy solutions. In October 2022, the company announced its Carbon Reduction Roadmap and a goal to reduce the Scope 1 and Scope 2 kilowatt-hour emissions intensity of its tower portfolio by 50% by 2030. The strategy is to focus on connecting more sites to the electricity grid, deploying and integrating more battery storage and solar panel solutions through Project Green, the roadmap’s current phase. In their 2023 Sustainability Report, the company reported an 11% approximate reduction in Scope 1 and Scope 2 kilowatt-hour emissions intensity since 2021 and appears on track to achieving its 2030 goal. 

The story of IHS Towers is one of growth, impact, and commitment to sustainable development. From its humble beginnings in Nigeria to its status as a global communications infrastructure giant, IHS Towers continues to demonstrate its dedication to empowering communities and driving economic progress through the power of mobile connectivity. Nigeria remains the backbone of IHS Towers, representing the largest market in its portfolio. What has been achieved is proof of what Nigeria can do. It is a story that should make every Nigerian proud, and every Nigerian a dreamer, a dreamer that he or she can overcome any odds and achieve the impossible.

Get the best African tech newsletters in your inbox