• Transform magazine
  • November 13, 2018

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Place branding: Lagos, Nigeria

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The Nigerian boomtown of Lagos located on the Gulf of Guinea is fast becoming the economic and cultural hub of west Africa. Has the city’s massive growth hindered its ability to develop a consistent, cohesive nation brand? Amy Sandys reports

If Lagos was a country, it would be the seventh largest economy in Africa – and is, with a population of over 10m, by far the largest in Nigeria. Anietie Isong, PR account director for pan-African branding and communications agency, Brand Communications says, “Lagos is a thriving city with lots of commercial activity. Its where you’ll find a lot of the expats working, the majority of the multinationals, all of the headquarters [in Nigeria] are in Lagos.”

This heightened economic reputation brings with it the opportunity for Lagos to brand itself as a key destination on the African map. A fortunate geographic location has gifted the bustling city with miles of beautiful beaches. Proximity to other major African hubs such as Accra, as well as direct air travel access to its international airport, should combine to ensure Lagos becomes a firm feature on any budding traveller’s way around Africa.

Yet determining a coherent place branding strategy for the city has proven difficult, given the multiple influences impacting it. Charles Walker, strategy director for Brand Communications, says, “Most people perceive Nigeria, and Lagos too, as oil and everything that comes with that. But it’s a financial hub and greater cultural hub now, and the economy of Nigeria is diversifying, it has been for quite some time.”

Yet, while income through banking might be rising, the Nigerian government has focused on marketing Lagos as a cultural hub. This has been implemented partly through its ambitious One Lagos programme, which was launched in July 2016 and forms part of the Lagos@50 celebrations, set to conclude in May 2017. One Lagos has already featured events for children and a plethora of performances by renowned music artists and DJs, in a bid to boost the already-impressive Lagos dance music scene.

Culturally, Nigeria also boasts the world’s second largest film industry after Bollywood. Dubbed ‘Nollywood,’ it is centred in Lagos and has given rise to a melee of creative and innovative young filmmakers from across Nigeria. So engrained is culture into the fabric of Lagosian life, says Isong, that its influential arts sector is expanding across continents. He adds, “At the next Toronto International Film Festival, Lagos has been chosen as the city of focus. That’s the very first time an African city has been chosen. And most of the branding has really been from the government side, because the more they do this, the more they get investment and tourists, and the more they make their money.”

Increased investment in the arts is just one facet of a city whose youthful population ensures that traditional industries are not heavily relied upon.

Technological advancement and a lack of formal employment opportunities has seen Lagos become a hub of entrepreneurship. Isong describes one area of the city, Yaba, as “The Silicon Valley of Nigeria.” Yaba’s reputation is strengthening to such an extent that founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, recently visited the area and its multiple tech hubs.

Despite the concerted efforts made by governments, investors and agencies to promote Lagos as an economic and tourism hub, the future is not clear-cut. Walker says a place brand, “Is about understanding that you’re fighting a global battle for investment, fighting a global battle for talent and fighting for people who live in the city.”

Even amid a slump in the oil revenues that have traditionally sustained the Nigerian economy, Lagos is emerging as a city able to diversify and meet modern market requirements. What is needed now is the development of a consistent narrative which can truly communicate the existing and potential attributes of Lagos to a wider global audience.