Mark Zuckerberg’s Surprise Lagos Visit Looked Lit As Nigeria Slipped Into a Recession

Should Nigeria now look to its tech industry and entrepreneurs to bolster their economy after Mark Zuckerberg's co-sign?

The past two days have been Mark Zuckerberg Mania in Lagos, Nigeria. Facebook’s founder fit right in as he made his presence known like any other Nigerian (or any other African, really) would—by showing up unannounced.

His first few stops included Co-Creation Hub, Nigeria’s leading tech incubator in the Lagos neighborhood of Yaba, where he met with startup founders and watched kids code (cute, right?). Next was Andela, a Chan Zuckerberg Institute-backed startup that trains top-notch techies and is insanely hard to get into, and they whipped out this flashy video recapping the visit with the quickness:

Zuckerberg even chopped it up with Nollywood’s finest and Nigeria’s top artists and entertainers as he made a cameo in a music video:

If you checked out his Facebook Live town hall, he took the time to point out how he made his fill with Nigerian Jollof, and how much the world has slept on Nigeria’s tech industry—acknowledging how far local entrepreneurs and tech developers have come despite that.

And Nigerian Twitter followed suit with their anticipated commentary following his time in their country:

Jokes aside, this crop of innovators in Africa’s most populous nation may be Nigeria’s saving grace since it just fell into recession for the first time in decades on Zuckerberg’s second day in the country, Quartz Africa reports.

Data released on August 31 confirmed that a prolonged contraction occurred, where Nigeria’s economy shrank by 2 percent in the second quarter. From a weak naira to plunging oil revenues, the Nigerian government implemented a fixed exchange rate to check how many funds left the country. Once the naira became overvalued, not only did investors disperse, the policy also worsened the difference between the official and black-market exchange rate, leading to calls for a currency devaluation. The central bank eventually floated the currency in June, but investors are still not confident.

On the oil end of things, the Niger Delta Avengers from the oil-rich south riddled pipelines and hobbled exports, Quartz Africa says.

“Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, whose election last year saw a bounce in market confidence, has come in for criticism for the slow response to these challenges,” Quartz Africa continues. “Political pressure on the president is now likely to increase, following news of the country’s first official recession in more than two decades.”

The tech industry and Nigeria’s strong entrepreneurial energy is an example of the youth making it happen via unconventional means, despite their country’s struggling economy. By their success to seek solutions creatively and their potential to make an impact—which even caught the eye of Zuckerberg to play a part in—the continent’s largest economy will hopefully bounce back with momentum.


6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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