Africa is the second largest continent of the world and Nigeria is her largest country, with an estimated population of 163,000,000 (2011). I suppose it’s fitting that Black History Month in the UK falls in the same month as Nigerian independence (1st October 1960). Fifty-two years after this historic milestone, Nigerians seem to have a love affair with the UK, specifically London fashion. Reading the London Evening Standard newspaper, I was surprised to learn that Simi, the young lady featured, spends the equivalent of a decent London salary – £30,000 during six trips to London throughout the year on shopping and partying.
With guidance from a shopping assistant, Simi is on the prowl for the best fashion London has to offer. According to the article Nigerians are the 4th highest foreign spenders in the UK. Some of the goods sought after include Christian Louboutin shoes (and other designer merchandise), clothes from Zara, Topshop, H&M and iPhones. There are Zara and Mango outlet stores in Lagos, but Simi says that the merchandise is ‘a bit last season’ and there is poor variety. She is also seduced by the ‘phenomenal customer service’ in London. Electronics are popular with Nigerian overseas shoppers who trust UK products over fake electronics which pour into Lagos from China. Simi obviously comes from a wealthy family but middle-class Nigerians are not left out of these Lagos to London shopping escapades. Of course Nigerians are not the only beneficiaries of this process; British Airways has increased its excess baggage allowance on London to Lagos flights, ASOS delivers to Lagos for free, while Debenhams in Oxford Street swallows up millions of naira (the Nigerian currency) each year as Nigerians are their biggest foreign spenders.
This sounds like a luxurious lifestyle but unfortunately is not the case for a large proportion of Nigerians. Like other countries in Africa (and most of the developing world), the gap between the rich and poor seems to be wider than the Niger Delta (which accounts for nearly 8% of Nigeria’s land mass). Despite Nigeria’s current troubles including a series of bombings, assignations and poverty which has increased; the Nigerian economy is booming! This seems to be an enigma; nearly 100million people in Nigeria live on 63p a day when Nigeria is tipped to leapfrog South Africa and Egypt to become Africa’s biggest economy. According to Ernest & Young’s Africa Attractiveness Survey 2012, between 2003 and 2011 Nigeria has been the biggest beneficiary of foreign direct investment (FDI), totalling $116 billion, unsurprisingly 80% of this has gone to the oil & gas industry, with FDI forecasted to be, on average, $23 billion annually over the next five years; and predicted to create over 90,000 new jobs in Nigeria.
No one can deny the business acumen of Nigerians; Aliko Dangote remains the richest man in Africa with an estimated fortune of $11.2 billion. Adebayo Ogunlesi (click on his name to see an interview), the son of a Nigerian doctor and chairman of Global Infrastructure Partners has a ‘42% controlling stake in Gatwick airport’, the second biggest airport in the UK. Personally, I see progress as a competent health system, good roads & transport infrastructure, sewage system, reliable electricity and of course a robust education system for majority of the population (and in an ideal world for everyone). For now we have to wait and see, as there is still much work to be done across the African continent but there are glimmers of hope. In the meantime, make sure you get to the Zara and Debenhams sales before Simi and her friends clean out the stores!
Happy Black History Month 🙂
‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’ – African proverb
doubleaad : AdelinA