My 11 memories about #Lagos, thanks to #SMW2013

I arrived in Lagos on the 16th of February to attend Social Media Week 2013 (a.k.a.  SMWLagos2013) from 18th to 22nd, the first one on the continent since launch in New York 5 years ago.

Also see:

<img src="SMWLagos_2013_Video_Interview_Ngozi_Odita.png" alt="SMWLagos2013 Video Interview with Ngozi Odita">

Video Interview about assessment of SMWLagos2013

Social Media Week 2013 video interview with Ngozi Odita, Executive Director of the Lagos Chapter

This was also my first visit to Nigeria, and I am so  glad I took the opportunity.

<img src="Tweet_about_UN_Prediction_on_Lagos_Size_in_2015.png" alt="Tweet about UN Prediction on Lagos Size in 2015">

Tweet about UN Prediction on Lagos Size in 2015

Here are my 11 memories about Lagos:

1. Securing a Nigerian Visa is an experience on its own. Applying for my Visa took twists and turns on each of the 3 times I visited the Nigerian Consulate in Illovo, Johannesburg. Had it not been for Nigerian friends who came to my rescue, I probably would not have it to Lagos. I shall not go into detail, but my advise to all South African applicants is – BE PREPARED.

PSST: It was brought to my attention that Nigerian International Affairs gives South African Visa applicants a hard time as a tit-for-tat :-|. 

2. Proximal location of accommodation is key. When I told my Johannesburg-based Nigerian friend that I was attending Social Media Week Lagos 2013, his first question was whether it is going to be held in Lagos mainland or the island. With this being my first time to this traffic-mad place, I did not relate. Now I know that you can spend up to 6 hours in peak traffic between the island and mainland, which is a stretch of 30 km at most! Yes, that’s how bad it can get. As a result, I had to ensure that I book accommodation as close to the main SMWLagos2013 venues as possible. It cost me more, but it saved me a lot of precious travelling time.

3. Lagos is a true cash economy. Be prepared to pay even for your accommodation in cash. In case you wanna know, I paid a total of 180,000 Naira for my accommodation that was in Lekki on the island. My next biggest cost was for transport, about 40,000 Naira.

<img src="The_Naira_Cash_Economy.jpg" alt="The Naira Cash Economy">

The Naira

Ensure that you alert your bank before you take the trip to Lagos. You may end up needing more cash than you originally planned.

4. Everything is expensive. A small cup of cappuccino will cost you at least ZAR32 (at R1 = 20 Naira exchange rate) in a normal restaurant. That’s twice what you will pay in South Africa.

<img src="Chocolat_Royal_Cappuccino_Receipt.jpg" alt="Chocolat Royal Cappuccino Receipt">

Chocolat Royal Cappuccino Receipt

Reading through this post will partly explain reason for the hyper-inflation.

5. Supply of power is not reliable, but life goes on. Business cannot operate without alternative source of power in Lagos. This is because electricity supply is unreliable, which is common. The place where I stayed had 3 industrial generators – 1 main alternative power source and 2 backups. I lost count of electricity interruptions during the time when I was putting this post together. As can be expected, this adds to cost of doing business as many industrial generators run on diesel that costs up to 180 Naira (or ZAR9) per litre in the black market.

<img src="Lagos_Alternative_Power_Source_Industrial_Generators.jpg" alt="Lagos Alternative Power Source: Industrial Generators">

6. A properly functioning air cooling system is an essential part of doing business. I am almost convinced this populous African state of 20 million inhabitants was part of the places that provided inspiration for invention of air cooling technology, given its average 30 °C and mid-70% humidity. I cannot tell you how life was before the time, because this place is unbearably hot and humid. But fortunately there is now a solution for indoor living.

<img src="Lagos_Air_Cooling_System.jpg" alt="Lagos Air Cooling System">

As can be imagined, air cooling systems have to run for 24 hours for businesses such as hotels, despite unreliable electricity supply. While Lagosians pay less for a litre of diesel compared to South Africa, this PLUS maintenance of generators increases the cost of doing business overall.

7. Bandwidth access is still a bug, but might soon be a thing of the past. I secured a local mobile number from Glo on the 17th of February, key for easy access with contacts I was looking forward to building from SMWLagos2013. I purchased mobile data but could not use any of it due to poor bandwidth. This explained why so many Lagosians carry two or more mobiles, a fair amount of which are also dual sim phones.  

 Also see:

<img src="SMWLagos_2013_Video_Interview_Multiple_Mobile_Phones_in_Lagos.png" alt="SMWLagos2013 Video Interview about Multiple Mobile Phones in Lagos">

Video Interview about Multiple Mobile Phones in Lagos

Social Media Week 2013 video interview with Teddy and Adedayo on the need for multiple mobile phones in Lagos

However, a SMWLagos2013 session on Broadband in Nigeria gave hope that a lot is being done to address the poor bandwidth challenge through laying of fiber-optic cables and satellite networks in major centres, including Lagos, by all the major mobile operators.

8. It is preferable to be chauffeured around this maze. I call it the honk city. Cutting in front of other cars and hooting impatiently for other drivers to hurry along are part of Lagosian style of driving.  In addition, cars are left-hand drives in this part of Africa (South African cars are right-hand drives). I would not want to risk it if I can afford to rather have a Lagosian driver to do the honours.

<img src="Lagos_Public_Transport.jpg" alt="Lagos Public Transport">

9. Don’t shop at the Balogun Market without company of a Nigerian national. I am so glad I accepted offer from my taxi driver friend, Dele, to accompany me as I was searching for bargains in the massive Balogun market. He stepped in to negotiate price for everything I bought, and this is just the way it is done here. In the end, he got me up to 50% discount on all my purchases, and fact that he could speak the local language helped.

<img src="filename.gif" alt="The Balogun Market">

The Balogun Market

10. Visiting Fela Kuti’s The Shrine is a must. It is like The Eiffel Tower in Paris and Big Ben in London, without which your visit will not be complete. But, it would be best to visit when Femi Kuti is performing to get fuller experience of the place. So, check the Lagos gig guide first.

 <img src="Fela_Kuti_The_Shrine.png" alt="Fela Kuti's The Shrine">

11. It takes an open mind to enjoy it. As you will have gathered by now, Lagos is not for sissies (trust me, you do need a Lagos Survival Tool Kit to make it through the day as a first-time visitor). But, it can be a fun place if you are anything-goes-type of a person. I had lots of fun, I guess I am that type of person (^_-).

I had two critical things in my survival tool kit – (i) My positive experience started with the hospitality Lagosians showed me everywhere I went. I’m convinced that this is just what they are – hospitable people. (ii) I made good friends with a few locals – this included the 2 gentlemen I spoke to on the Lagos-bound 6-hour flight, staff at the hotel, people I met at SMWLagos2013, and taxi drivers who got me from A to Z. All my Lagosian friends helped me navigate and explore this cosmopolitan city on steroids to my delight, and I am grateful for that.

I am looking forward to visiting Lagos again, even if it means in a year’s time for SMWLagos2014 *fingers crossed*.

Here’s a point to ponder on a closing note: the richest African man (Aliko Dangote) and woman (Folorunsho Alakija) both come from Nigeria.


24 thoughts on “My 11 memories about #Lagos, thanks to #SMW2013

  1. Wooh! Mr William…….Nice to see how detailed you put down your experience…So glad to have met you in Nigeria! I look forward to your next visit with your wife! Do spread the News of how wonderful Nigerians are……*smiles*

  2. You are right about all you said about lagos.we are uesd to it and the more reason why lagosians love to stay in very busy areas when outside the country.As you also mentioned it takes a lot to also get a south african visa here, at least you were not asked to pay a deposit to guarantee your return which the south african embassy here always insist on.I think we should also include that in the requirement for visa.l am sure you provided a vaccination certificate when applying for your visa.South AFrica deported some Nigerians last year and we also had to retalliate by deporting some south africans.Count yourself lucky that was not the time you visited.

    • Hi Femi. Thank you for your comment. All the visa requirements you mentioned apply to South Africans as well. However, fact that we even have these in place for both countries is regrettable.

  3. Willy, Lagos is unique compared with other cities of the world. You rightly described how life could be frustrating to a first time visitor but I tell you by the time you make one or two more visits and know how to find your way, you would enjoy living in that city.Its a question of knowing what you need and how to get it.I live in Accra ,Ghana, but Lagos is my second home, I schooled there for seven years and what I say to you is true.I am expecting a different story at your next visit. God bless you.

  4. its definetly not for sissies but love the insight shared.

    Nigerians have always done it BIG and by themselves for that matter. Therefore it comes as no surprise to me that thee wealthiest people in africa would be from Nigeria. They don’t leave everything to their governments to do nor spend 80% of thier lives criticizing its government coz of their consitutional rights, that we deem so necessary in everything we do that it will be the very thing that will be to our deteriment as a nation.

    However, Nigerians hassle from a young age – the concept of business is in-born from their parents be it female or male. A mentality we suffer from as southern africans. We used to the government or someone else coming to the rescue or better yet always seeking employment. Either way all of us have our highs and lows as nations but we must know more about one another, to become better african as a continent. Nice one.

  5. I truly appreciate the balanced view you shared and that you did not have a knee-jack reaction that I often see with our South Africans .I enjoy Nigeria and It is NOT for sissie!! It seems to me that your ten pointers are the the Tool- Kit!!

  6. Bra Willy, you have written a mini-rough guide to navigating & surviving the ‘honk city’–(as you’ve ingeneously described Lagos). If every tourist were open-minded like you, the world of travelling will be a sweeter place to experience. If i wasn’t a Lagosian, I would take each of your ‘memories’ seriously. My only regret is that you had to shell out so much for accomodation (yes, lagos is reputed to have unfairly priced tourist accomodation) and the capuccino. Last year I did learn from a South African couple I was guiding around town that even the KFC meals were sold at more than double the price they go for in South Africa. That said,however, I am sharing this post with my friends/followers on facebook and trwitter respectively. Meanwhile, when next you’re in Lagos, take a ferry ride on the Lagos lagoon, visit the Freedom Park ( as well as Badagry Heritage Museum (and its environs).

  7. I saw this post from Pelu on Facebook. Your description of Lagos is interesting. However the truth is that the more you stay in Lagos the more you find ways to get things cheaper. It s a bargainer’s city. I think you need to explore the nightlife a little more and find cheaper hotels! All the same, hope you had an interesting experience lol.

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