As Africa's most populous country and a major economic (and cultural) force on the continent, Nigeria is also one of the most important markets for Opera. We sat down with Osibo Imhoitsike, Opera's Marketing and Community Coordinator for Nigeria, to learn more about what's happening online in the country that gave us high life, Nollywood and the Super Eagles!
How do most people access the Internet in Nigeria?
The primary way people get online is through mobile. For our users, 90% use Opera Mini for reasons of speed and cost. Though data charges are dropping, the average Nigerian is still cost-conscious. And for me as a Nigerian and as an African it is very important because the more people who get mobile phones can go online and engage in social media – it is a growing movement with huge potential.
What are some of the interesting things people are doing on the Web?
There are people developing technology to solve specific problems in Nigeria. The traffic in Lagos is really insane, for example. In my last job I used to spend half the day on the road just going from one meeting to another. The problem is getting the right information, in terms of knowing where the density of traffic is highest, not finding the best route geographically as you would be able to do with Google Maps or Nokia's navigation system. So now there will be an app for that.
Another area of adapting technology is giving feedback to government in order to drive transparency and accountability. There is a platform being developed called Residents Report where people can take a picture of a pothole in their road, for example, upload it to a website and then start to track the issue.
Finally, one other service which is already up and running is the mPedigree network, which started in Ghana but is combating the problem of counterfeit drugs throughout West Africa. People can simply use SMS messages to check whether medicine is genuine or fake.
What do you see as you look ahead to the future?
There are a lot of good opportunities on the horizon. Nigeria is becoming an investment destination for international companies, and there is also more entrepreneurship emerging among Nigerians themselves. In the past a lot of the investment activity was around basic infrastructure, but now technological and social aspects are coming in too. People are even coming back home from abroad after they get their education and some work experience, because they feel they want to do something for the country and there are more opportunities today than there were before.
The main barrier now is how to get the financial sector to support this. A lot of the banks are still reluctant to put their money into local ventures, something that doesn't have an international brand behind it. There are organizations like Indigo Trust that are helping to fill the gap here but now we just need the banks to catch up because the economy is growing, and Nigerians across the board are very aspirational.