Case Study – Nigeria

Nigeria is the largest and wealthiest of the nations in the Bight of Benin. After Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960, it quickly developed into a military state, which maintained its OPEC status and fought civil wars and coups to maintain power for nearly forty years. Over the last ten years, democracy has returned in fits and starts to the nation, along with increased economic stability and growth. The economy is strong and growing quickly around Nigeria, at a projected rate of about 8% this year. Along with its oil production and financial markets, Nigeria fosters a burgeoning telecommunications sector.

This includes the production and development of space telecommunications, especially the country’s three satellites. The country’s largest city, Lagos, houses landing points for several of the largest submarine fiber optic cables in the region, including the two newest ventures. Lagos is actually the third-largest city on the continent; its close to eight million people are also on average the wealthiest in the country and the region. Much Nigerian capital concentrates here, due in part to its ports from which crude oil is exported. With about 155 million diverse citizens of over 250 ethnic groups, speaking English, Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa, practicing Islam and Christianity in addition to many local religions, Nigeria also has the most internet users of the region, both raw and per capita. About 44 million, or 28.5% of its population, are online. In fact, this is one of the highest penetration rates in Africa, much closer to the global average of about 30%.

One interesting development of Nigerians’ broad access to internet communication has been the prevalence of “419” or “yahoo-yahoo” fraud organizations, the infamous Nigerian letters (now emails) that ask the recipient to forward money to the sender under the promise of receiving more back later. Beyond this organized criminal activity, though, the infrastructure in Nigeria supports a vast network of service providers and users, including European and American satellite and broadband cable elements. Nigeria’s internet connectivity has drawn other investment and infrastructure development to the region. The impact of that investment on its neighbors, and on Ghana, seems minimal, though, since other countries have to seek their own internet investments. Among ISPs, too, the embrace of liberalization has led to full competition for business. Another outcome of the approach taken by Nigeria and Nigerian firms is the development of substantial terrestrial fiber optic lines along waterways, rail lines, and roadways, strengthening upland communication networks.

On the cultural and political narratives of Nigeria’s recent history, Nollywood (the “Nigerian Hollywood”) remains a crucial field of focus for any analysis of this region. Studies tracing the proportion of Nollywood movies that are produced, distributed, and consumed digitally – a majority for several studio houses – demonstrate how prevalent Nollywood is online, and how much this type of cultural production (nationally subsidized in some cases, rampantly pirated in others) depends on the internet in turn. The fuller picture of post-colonial and national subjectivity in relation to both cultural artifacts and broader socioeconomic developments in Nigeria depends on a recognition of this interconnection between the spontaneous cultural developments that drive phenomena like Nollywood forward and the other cultural outreaches such as diplomacy and international relations and trade agreements that concentrate on the impact those cultural developments have on other nations and diasporic communities.

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