Computer Village is a gadgets market and repair hub spread across streets in the Otigba axis of Ikeja, Lagos. This trade district is tucked in between some of the city’s popular destinations. There’s the Muritala International Airport, which lies to the West; and on the South East, the affluent Government Residential Area (GRA) sits with its pretty buildings and nicely paved avenues.
But these regions aren’t dwarfing Computer Village’s significance. The expansive hub is one of Lagos’s major commercial sprawls. It’s also West Africa’s largest ICT products market, with over 3,000 traders working from its cluster of shops. And if you’re wondering how this size does for Lagos’s economy, you might consider its annual revenues, put at about $2 billion.
The market itself is a mix of fairly decent shops and basic looking compartments, all of which either sell gadgets or are repair centres for them. Products on sale at these stores typically range from smartphones, tablets and computers, to laptop bags, casings and other complementary accessories. The brands on display are as diverse as you can imagine; you’ll find everything from the tech giants to names you’ve probably never heard of.
But there’s more going on at Computer Village than just the sale of mobile devices. The hub’s repair shops are just as active. As you might expect, the repairers demonstrate varying degrees of workmanship; you’re likely to get differing reviews of the work done by ‘engineers’ (or workmen) at the market from people who have patronized them. If you’re going to have your phone fixed there, you may do well to get tips from someone who knows the market well before making the trip.
The Evolution of An ICT Hub
Computer Village morphed into a centre for the ICT products trade following the arrival of the mobile phone in the early 2000s. Its traders practically ended the monopoly of mobile phone companies on the distribution of their products and helped the city on its way to liberalizing the market for digital gadgets. That early move placed Computer Village firmly on the country’s ICT landscape. It grew from a collection of small-time shops to a huge magnet for big brand retailers and home to a dizzying variety of hardware.
The rapid growth of the city’s population has played a role in the expansion of the market. An ever-growing number of young people seeking to make a living for themselves are attracted to the mobile phone sale and repair trade. Many of them begin as apprentices to established businesspeople and learn the ropes for a period of time. When they have gained some experience, they leave to set up their own shops.
As the number of ICT businesses in Computer Village has swelled, there’s also been a proliferation of peripheral vendors in and around the area. These kiosks and open-air points sell hunger-dousing food and thirst-quenching drinks to the market’s occupants and visitors.
Growing Pains, and a Proposed Antidote
Computer Village suffers from some of the same maladies that bedevil many of Nigeria’s bigger markets. Its infrastructure is under pressure from the continued growth of its population. There are regular traffic jams, and sanitary conditions aren’t always as good as they should be.
The government wants to solve this problem by moving the market to a new site. It is proposing the construction of a modern technology hub, which it says will be more befitting for the Lagos of the future. The new space is expected to be sited several miles to the north of the present site and could have incubators and accelerators, technology labs, industrial parks, conference halls and banks, in addition to over 4,000 shops.
Computer Village may exist in its present location for a while yet. But as the SMEs in its precincts prepare for a future that’s still being charted, they’ll hope that their hub becomes a much better place for the customers and investors who keep the district’s commerce alive.