Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Change comes to Lagos

Lagos long ago became the center of change in Nigeria. Olamide Udoma, writing in The Guardian, discusses age and gender as cleavages which are changing.

Meet the woman transforming recycling in Lagos

The creative economy is booming in Lagos, providing opportunities for young people, particularly women, that simply didn’t exist in the creatively moribund 1980s and 1990s, where it was Nollywood or nought. Art, theatre, fashion, dance, film, architecture and DJing have blossomed in Lagos over the last five years…

At the forefront of these innovative ventures are young creative women… Women run 41% of early-stage businesses and 30% of all registered entrepreneurial businesses in the country. And an astonishing 90% of all gallery owners and curators in Lagos are women…

Nevertheless, the reactions of older Lagosian “creative authorities” to this tidal wave has shown up a massive generation gap. At the 2016 Young Contemporaries exhibition at Rele Gallery, broadcaster Wana Udobang spoke with an older artist. “‘The place is full, that is a great achievement, but full of the wrong people,’ the man said. ‘These young people won’t buy the art.’”…

Bilikiss Adebiyi
While it is true that they may not be as rich as their elders, the 33 million Nigerian millennials dominate social media, without which nothing much happens in Lagos. They have invested in projects including Mente de Moda, a market for small businesses focused on food, fashion and health; Wecyclers, founded by Bilikiss Adebiyi, which uses a point system to encourage recycling in low-income areas; and Damilola Teidi’s Go My Way, which uses a tech-based carpooling service to tackle Lagos’s horrendous traffic…

It is no coincidence that women have carved out such an impressive space in tech and creative industries while remaining effectively shut out by the old guard. On average, a Nigerian woman earns 23% less than a man, and 50% of Nigerian women work in just seven occupations…

Showing respect to your elders is a must in Lagosian society, but increasingly so is demonstrating intelligence, know-how, knowledge and skill. “Bullying can break you down,” says Udobang, “so in the end you realise you have to rub peoples egos, which wastes a lot of time … but things get done.”… Today, people like Wole Soyinka, Fela Kuti, Chinua Achebe and Biyi Bandele are our heroes – role models for the burgeoning talent and businesses that are growing the creative economy in Lagos.

“Yes we take selfies,” says Udobang. “But we do contribute to the growth of our industries, and things are changing. Older people are realising that the financiers of the [creative] industry align with youth and youth culture, so it’s a situation where they have no choice but to give in. If they want to stay relevant in this space, they can’t afford to be hung up over seniority.”

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Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola in Lagos. Photograph: Wecyclers

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