Nigeria for beginners (me)

I’m in Lagos to learn all about the region for an advertising brief, so I’m currently enjoying a crash course in all things Nigerian.

The one word I would use to describe the people of Lagos is relentless. They are all proudly out to get whatever they can, working really hard to make sure that when the big chance arrives, they are ready to take it. If you take your foot off the gas for a minute, someone else will step in and grab what you missed.

That might sound intense, and indeed it is, but with the population growing by 2000 a day, competition is fierce. It is also by far the richest nation in the continent, responsible for 60% of Africa’s GDP, so if you want to make it over here, you need to go to Nigeria, and, more specifically, Lagos.

For a microcosm illustration of this, check the traffic situation: if there is no traffic, a journey might take five minutes, but in rush hour it can take an hour or more. Unfortunately, rush hour takes up most of the day. People get up at 4am because it means they can get to work in an hour. If they got up at 5, the same journey would take three or four hours and they’d be late. But in the traffic, if you give an inch of space, the guy next to you will grab it. Most of the roads don’t have lanes, so it’s a bit of a free-for-all. Quite scary, but quite exciting, and their faith in god seems to see them through:

The other thing is that in some ways they are miles ahead of us in advertising terms. The conventional stuff might not be as sophisticated as ours, but Guinness actually made a movie based around their brand property several years ago, and this year they’ve managed to persuade Argentina to come and play a friendly with Nigeria in its home stadium, where Nigeria have not played for ten years. Find me a western client and campaign that has done anything that seismic.

So it’s pretty darn amazing; a country where the average wage is $4…

but the people are relentlessly optimistic: