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Escape with Work - Nigeria - by Nicola Dee
Escape with Work
By Nicola Dee (Leap Local co-founder)
It seems a bit of a dream, especially at 6:00 in the morning, at minus 7 degrees centigrade, but I was in Nigeria last night. Normally I leave the writing to Kirsten, but thought this unusual trip warranted more words than a facebook update.
First, I have to start with the Nigerian’s favourite topic – traffic. A traffic conversation to a Nigerian living in Lagos is like a conversation about weather between Brits. Relevant, opinionated, and common place. This is because Lagos is the second biggest, and fastest growing city in Africa (after Cairo). Lagos can be broadly split into the mainland and Victoria Island. So yesterday it had been decided by our more knowledgeable Nigerian friends that we should leave early for the airport. 17:30 seemed early for our 23:30 flight, especially since we only needed to travel 35.2 km (22 miles). But then we didn’t know we would be on the bridge for over an hour, and be travelling for just under 3 hours. Yes, that is an average of 7 mph, and yes this was in average traffic. Of course it did occur to me that walking would have been almost as quick, but not the done thing.
Before leaving for Nigeria I had various reading material for the job, but this was by far outweighed (literally) by the risk assessment. It read like a thriller. In fact one of my colleagues remarked that if we came to Nigeria again that we should tell no one, as the concern from everyone else was as nerve racking as the guidelines from organisations like the Foreign Office. Did we know about the terrorist attacks? Had we got a body guard? Was it legitimate?
And while I’ve been to news worthy places before, I was struggling to find out reliable information. I had no idea what to expect. We’d already postponed the trip once because of strikes over a change to fuel duty which had caused fuel prices to more than double. So before going I went to the next best source of information, Google and Wikipedia. Here I stumbled upon the fact that Paul McCartney had recorded Band on the Run in Lagos in 1973. Why this was at all relevant now was of no importance, but it was the most positive thing I had heard.
So having met my colleagues for the first time that day, we finally arrived in Lagos after a 6.5 hour flight. Our host/guide for the trip soon found us and we headed into the traffic and into Lagos. Being a work trip we had a pre-booked hotel which was hidden behind security gates that opened to reveal a reassuringly familiar style of business hotel. This felt safe, clean, and very welcome. While I’m all for adventure and off the beaten track, this was not the time or place for a homestay.
I was in Nigeria as part of a quality assurance team on a newly launched business plan competition (YouWin) being run on a national scale. Around 24,000 entries at the initial stages, and prize money for up to 1,200. The competition is an ambitious and momentous initiative to boost enterprise and youth unemployment, with palpable excitement from participants in a country where credit is difficult to secure. Whether it was the competition, or the constant activity and building work, Nigeria seemed to be readying itself for more growth and opportunity. Nigeria’s GDP grew by 7.8% in 2010 and looks to be on an upward trend. Such a contrast to the UK currently that I came back feeling refreshed.
On asking about tourism, it remains understandably constrained. Also for those Nigerians who can afford a break, they often visit anywhere other than Nigeria. One of Nigeria’s main tourism destinations are the Wikki Warm Springs and Yankari National Park, but I’ll have to save those for another time.
So in the meantime, some travel tips from my brief stay:
Bio: Dr. Nicky Dee has been the driving force behind Leap Local since its inception. She co-founded Leap Local with Louise Norton having both experienced the uneasy feeling that travel did not always benefit the locals, especially in lesser developed countries. She has a from Cambridge University on Technology Management in Cleantech, and has been an active part of the high growth cluster in Cambridge. She was responsible for introducing business creation competitions to the University to stimulate environmental and social enterprises. She is passionate about enterprise as a means to introduce new solutions to global problems.
(And now - just because - here's Paul McCartney performing- we like around the 1:22 mark especially.)