News

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.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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