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Focus on the Ikeja Computer Village, Lagos (Posted 2nd Sept. 2002) Tell your friends about this page! Email it to them.

One of the Entrances to the Computer Village, Ikeja.A computer is a very unique device to own. Its capabilities has transcended the definition contained in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Indeed the computer has assumed so much life unto itself that modern civilisation now relies almost entirely on the transformative capabilities and limitless potentials of the computer. What has amazed many is the short period at which the computer has developed and how it has effectively impacted directly and indirectly family relationship and commerce globally. Without doubt, the computer has completely changed the process of daily living and the world's economic strategic calculations.

Lagos as many know, is the hub of commercial activities in Nigeria. Current and historical facts lay credence to this fact. As it is recorded in our history books, the British realising the economic potentials of Lagos, captured Lagos in 1851 and inadvertently deposed King Kosoko and imposed King Akitoye, their protégé, to further their commercial interests. In contemporary time, Lagos has metamorphosed into a metropolitan city with industries, banks, multi-nationals, and government parastatals among others dotting the city landscape.


The Ikeja Area

Like Lagos Island (Isale Eko), Ikeja is also distinct in the Lagos area. There are two important factors that distinguish Ikeja from other parts of Lagos. One, it is the capital of Lagos State and the seat of Government. Two, it is an industrial area with three industrial estates (Ikeja, Ogba and Oregun Industrial Estates) and the "silicon valley" of Lagos in particular and Nigeria as a whole. What usually fascinates a first time visitor to Ikeja is the beehive of commercial activities. But, unlike Oshodi, Idumota and Oyingbo, which are major commercial centres in their own right, Ikeja is peculiar because of its centeredness in the heart of Lagos and its reputation as the computer nerve-centre of the country. Ikeja is located 30km North of Lagos Island and span a total area of 325sqkm; it is bounded on the North by Agege/Ifako Ijaiye local government, on the South by Oshodi/Kosofe local government and on the West by Alimoso local government. It is within a 2km radius of the Murtala Mohammed International airport and the Lagos domestic airport. According to the 1991 National Census Exercise, Ikeja has a population of 203,383.


Location of the Computer Village

The Ikeja computer village is situated to the left of Kodesoh Street, when facing Oba Akinjobi Road towards the former Ikeja General Hospital (now Lagos State University Teaching Hospital). The Activities at the Ikeja Computer Villagevillage is choked within a small area in-between Oremeji Street, Ola-Ayeni Street, Otigba Street, Olayi Tomori Street and Pepple Street where the "Shrine" of the late Nigerian musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti used to be located. A visit will speak volumes to a visitor, from the wide array of computer hardware on display, to the computer shopping malls, the street software vendors, the hustle and bustle of would-be buyers and eager sellers and the ever-present traffic jam along the streets.

A Peep at the Village

Commenting on the development of the computer village, a shop owner at the Shokol Shopping Mall, one Mr. Femi Olagunju who works at the InfoTech Warehouse traced the genesis of the I.T. village to around five years ago when the market started on a low key. It is thus gratifying to note that the village developed from a 10-shop computer market to over 800-shop village in the span of 4 years. A major feature of the village is the large display of all sizes and shape of computer hardware, software and its paraphernalia. Curious about where they get these products from, an inquiry was made from Mr. Olagunju, who said "we have some local suppliers and we do local purchasing from those ones and then we have some supplies that are from abroad that they send to us and at times we go on the Internet to make purchases".

Other sources at the market along Oremeji Street, corroborated Femi's view about the history of the market, they all emphasised the fact that the present village was a purely residential area five years ago, until the computer merchants came to 'invade' the area and 'colonise' the residents. This has created a sore relationship between the residents and the shop owners, according to Mr. Deji, a software street vendor, he informed us that the attitude of the residents is frustrating especially the landlords who impose as much as N8,000 per month for shop rental with a compulsory four year advance payment as pre-condition. It is even near impossible to get a free shop at the village, as they are presently undergoing acute overcrowding.

Getting to know and estimate the average sale that they make a day at the market was quite herculean as many of the shop-owners were reluctant to disclose their volume of sales, but one Miss Tolulope Solanke, a marketer for GTOJ Systems along Oremeji Street, decided to give us a clue after much persuasion. According to her they make as low as N10, 000 and sometimes as much as N400, 000 or above a day, depending on sales and clients that patronise the shop. Mr. Olagunju further throws light on the issue by saying that sales depend on the market, he said "the market is seasonal, where there is a peak period and there are sometimes that the whole people will be complaining about poor sales".

Asked what factors determines peak and off-peak periods, he said, "let me put it like this, you know the situation of the exchange rate in the country, you know like somebody came here last week, he bought something for N12, 000 and today they told him it is N15,000. So people will have to shift a little bit, they want to look for the time that prices will stabilise. At times, maybe you came here last week we told you that this thing is N12,000 and maybe through our advert you saw it as N11,000, you know people will now come to buy, because some people use to buy from us as suppliers, they store it, keep it and resell to other people. So that period the volume of trade will be high when your price is reasonable and going down based on the exchange rate, dollars and the rest".

The village's activities are not limited only to sale of computer accessories, you can also repair computers and even other office equipment like photocopy machines, calculators, printers, etc; you can assemble a complete unbranded computer in a matter of hours for less than N50,000; and you can get current market information about the computer industry from professional consultants within the village.

Impact of the Village

The Ikeja Computer Village, Lagos, Nigeria.The impact of the Ikeja village cannot be easily measured, but when viewed from the number of employment it has created, the rate and speed at which computer knowledge is being acquired in the Lagos area, with the major computer schools situated in Ikeja itself and the investment opportunities begging for attention and investors in the village, we cannot but say that the village has come a long way in its short life.

But so much still need to be done by both the Ikeja Local Government and the Lagos State Government in the area of provision of basic infrastructure at the village to attract the much-needed investors. Based on the views of the people in the market, traffic bottleneck has become a perennial problem in the village due mainly to absence of parking lots for cars and the effect of flooding during the raining season, this can be greatly reduced by making some of the roads in the area one-way in order to direct traffic in one direction at a single time and by clearing blocked drainages.

Another major need is constant electricity supply, which many complain is very erratic indeed, the computer business is power driven, as many buyers will want to test items bought before taking them away. The near impossible chance of getting a shop space is again a problem coupled with the unregulated price tag on available shops. Finally, an idea was muted in the market as a solution to the unstable exchange rate syndrome in the country, which leads to the high cost of computer products. It was suggested that Government could become an active participant in the computer industry by buying computer accessories in bulk from abroad and reselling them to small-scale sellers in the country. But then, would this not encourage big government?

Tips To Prospective Investors

A basic advice that is given to anybody interested in investing in the computer business is the need to have requisite technical knowledge of the computer itself especially the hardware. This point is underscored by the fact that many businesses owned by computer illiterate managers have since gone under by their inability to meet up with the constant demanding and dynamic trends in the global computer industry. So what does it entail to invest in the Nigerian computer environment? An investor, as stated above must have basic computer knowledge depending on the aspect or branch of the computer he wants to delve into: hardware, software, repairs, assembling, consultancy etc; an investor needs a reasonable level of marketing skills matched with astute business acumen; he must have adequate supply of funds within the region of a million to 1.5 million Naira for starters; he must identify an area of specialisation in the market, it is advised that a newcomer should concentrate on an aspect initially like selling of processors, notebooks and laptops or a particular brand of products say IBM, Compaq, Toshiba etc; an investor must be able to watch and master the Nigerian foreign exchange rate market in order to determine when to buy or sell goods; and above all an investor must be able to keep pace with the daily changes that unfold within the computer industry itself.

The wave of globalisation has made it mandatory for Nigeria to join the Information revolution race in order to be at par with other developed economies of the world. It is perceived that the Ikeja computer village can be a starting block for this task and this can only be achieved by the active participation of the different levels of Government, the Nigerian Organised Private Sector (OPS), Nigerian professionals and investors abroad and prospective foreign investors.

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