Computer Village became Africa's largest gadget hub in two decades. Now its future is uncertain

The Lagos State Government’s plan to relocate the market to the Gatankowa ICT Park in Agbado/Oke-Odo, first proposed in April 2017, is not going down well

Computer Village became Africa's largest gadget hub in two decades. Now its future is uncertain
One of the many entrances to Computer Village | Credit:

For the seven years, Femi Benson* has been selling gadgets in Computer Village, he never defaulted on his shop rent payment until earlier this year.  

His business, with over 10 employees, was profitable and flourishing. He had enough money to pay, but stalled. The rent was due in January 2024 but he waited three months until his landlord had to lock up his shop, forcing him to eventually pay. 

All through that period, Benson wrestled with the question of whether to pay for another year or stall, fearing the government's earlier promise to demolish the Village, Africa's single largest gadget market.

On December 30, 2023, POWA complex, a shopping unit located within the market with over 300 shops and 1,000 occupants was brought down within a 24-hour notice. This demolition, despite the Lagos state government's claims of non-involvement, prompted Benson to delay his rent payment.

“After I saw what happened to the folks at POWA Complex," Benson said, "I just said to myself the Government can do and undo and there's nothing that'll happen."

Benson and thousands of other Computer Village merchants are apprehensive about the government's plan to relocate them to a new venue and its potential impact on their businesses.

A bustling tech marketplace

What started as a stretch of makeshift shops in Ikeja, between 1996 and now, has rapidly evolved into Africa’s largest gadget market. Now spanning several streets, it has become a magnet for ICT businesses. 

It’s hard to imagine Lagos’ Computer Village as anything but a bustling tech marketplace, but in 1996, it was a tranquil residential suburb. The transformation began when visionary entrepreneurs saw the area’s potential for tech innovation. 

By 2001, the area saw metamorphosis. Homeowners sold their properties, which were being converted into shopping plazas. As demand surged, vendors adapted, selling phones, accessories, and internet modems. Today, it features LED-lit displays of major smartphone brands, SIM card registration, mobile money transactions, and a variety of electronic appliances. 

An Aerial view of Computer Village Credit:

Computer Village spans seven major streets and includes a mix of low-rise buildings, shopping plazas, converted bungalows, iron kiosks, and standalone umbrellas. Though the market faced challenges during the 2020 lockdowns, it rebounded, thriving with daily activity. 

Over two decades, it became the go-to for mobile phones, laptops, and on-demand gadgets overall, generating as much as ₦1.5 billion (~$1 million) daily. Some studies show it generates over $2 billion annually, representing 2 percent of Nigeria's GDP. Plus, the community generates over ₦60 million (~$38,000) in levies for the Ikeja metropolitan area.

But today, its future is uncertain

The Lagos State Government’s plan to relocate the market to the Gatankowa ICT Park in Agbado/Oke-Odo was first proposed in April 2017. The relocation aimed to ease the congestion in Ikeja, the state capital, and offer a modern facility for traders. The state government had projected the move to be completed by the end of that year. However, seven years later, the plan has yet to materialise.

The Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on e-GIS and Urban Development, Olajide Babatunde, visited the market recently and announced that the contract with the project consultant, Bridgeway Global Project Ltd., had been terminated two years ago due to non-performance. “Even after the termination, the consultant continued to occupy and collect illegal fees from the traders,” Babatunde said.

At the proposed Gatankowa site, the lack of surrounding infrastructure and ongoing bureaucratic red tape have caused several companies to reconsider their investments. Babatunde emphasised that the Urban Development Department, led by Bola Bello, would manage the project moving forward. “It is illegal for the consultant to collect any fees or money from anyone under the guise of the development of the market after the termination of its contract,” he stated.

Bridgeway Global Project Ltd., the now-terminated developer, refuted allegations of fraudulent acts. Jimmy Onyemenam, a representative of Bridgeway, claimed the company had ceased fee collection after receiving the termination letter. “We have maintained cleanliness, security, and other services at our own cost, despite the termination,” he argued.

Stakeholders are also concerned about the relocation’s communication and decision-making process. Adebowale Soyebo, Chairman of the Ikeja Computer Village Market Board, stressed the need for transparency. “If you want to create another market and move the traders, you must carry them along,” Soyebo said. “We have not been informed about the termination by either the government or the developer.”

Tobuson Alake, the Lagos State Commissioner for Innovation, Science, and Technology, shared insights on the complexities and plans in a recent conversation with

“The plan was to move Computer Village to another location. Unfortunately, that location is not ready yet because if you are going to move a market, they've got to have the facilities, the infrastructure for them to thrive,” Alake explained. 

“But rest assured that there will be enough notice, and it’s not going to be a sudden move where the government asks people to move tomorrow. They’ll be given many months of advance notice on when to move once that location is ready.”

Alake also pointed to the essence of structuring businesses within to attract investment before relocating them. “Right now, Computer Village is not structured. So how do you structure to attract investment? There are many one-man units, but instead of investing in one, how can they form teams or cooperatives that an investor can look at?”

Multiple ministries and the federal government are involved in realising the vision for the new ICT Park. The initiative was initially under the Ministry of Physical Planning, given its focus on urban development. However, the project requires a coordinated effort across various ministries to ensure both urban development and economic growth. The collaboration aims to create a comprehensive and holistic plan, leveraging the strengths and resources of different departments.

Despite the setbacks, the Lagos State Government remains optimistic, keeping in mind that high-tech parks are still a new concept in Nigeria. It will take time. However, the current state of the project leaves many traders and businesses uncertain about their future.

As the market awaits decisive action, the bustling streets of Computer Village continue to thrive, albeit under a cloud of uncertainty. The hope is that Gatankowa ICT Park will eventually fulfil its promise and provide a sustainable future for Nigeria’s largest ICT market.

Caught between resilience & doubt

While government officials debate the future of Computer Village, the traders who have built their lives and businesses around this bustling market face a different reality. For them, the proposed relocation to Gatankowa ICT Park is not just an administrative manoeuvre but a potential upheaval of their livelihoods.

Obinna Uzor*, a trader who has been selling mobile phones and accessories for over 10 years, shares his concerns. "This market is not just a place for us to trade; it's our community," he says. "Relocating us to Gatankowa without proper infrastructure and support is like asking us to start all over again."

As a result, some of them are starting to go remote. Traditionally, the Village has been a bustling hub of physical stalls and shops serving a high volume of walk-in customers.

However, with the future of the market in flux, traders are adapting by setting up e-commerce platforms and leveraging social media to reach their customers. This allows them to continue business operations and generate income without being physically present in the market.

Parts of the market are already being demolished even though the government claims these are isolated events. For some non-indigenes, this suggests something beyond moving to “greener pastures.” spoke with some of these traders, who believe there is a tribal slant to it. According to them, there is a looming fear of a form of ethnic cleansing. Non-indigenes harbour the belief it is an opportunity for the government to relocate shops based on ethnic sentiments. 

Protest for demolition of POWA complex. Courtesy: TVC News

“Personally, I don’t like that it’s sort of having a tribal slant to it. Most people would rather avoid getting caught up in this web, would cease to become on-the-ground traders, and perhaps go as far as not getting space in the village, whether the existing one or the new site, and just run their businesses from home, particularly those with already-strong online footprints,” shared Paul*, one such trader who has gone remote long before now.

Nonetheless, other traders are indifferent. Case in point, for Babatunde, another seller, the prospect of adapting to a new location has led to a sense of detachment. Having long-established their businesses and being comfortable with the current setup, he sees the relocation as a distant concern rather than an immediate challenge. 

“The government has been pushing the move for around 15 years now. It has gotten to the point that it does not quite bother me anymore. Anyone who has stayed here long enough is reluctant to invest in changes until there is a clearer, more concrete plan in place. The focus remains on maintaining a customer base and managing current operations," Babatunde told 

The traders' resilience has been the cornerstone of Computer Village's success. Despite frequent power outages, cramped spaces, and inadequate facilities, they have managed to create a thriving ecosystem. They have learned to work with what we have, but moving to a place that lacks basic amenities will disrupt business significantly. 

Babatunde’s apprehension is echoed by many others in the market. Bob Iden, an out-of-towner who owns a small shop selling phone cases and chargers, is worried about the potential impact on her customer base. "Our customers know where to find us here. If we move to Gatankowa, it will take time for them to adjust, and we might lose business in the process," he told 

Comparing it with the failed Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City in Bangladesh serves up a cautionary tale. The promised infrastructure and benefits never materialised there, leading to disappointment and financial losses for businesses. The fear is that Gatankowa could face a similar fate.

Despite these concerns, some traders see potential opportunities in the relocation. "If the government can ensure proper infrastructure and facilities, Gatankowa could be a new beginning for us," says Tunde*, who sells refurbished laptops. "A more organised market could attract more international businesses and boost sales."

However, optimism is tempered with caution. The government's previous track record of infrastructure projects has been less than stellar, and the traders are wary. Many promises have been made before. As such, they need to see concrete actions before they can fully commit to the idea.

As the debate continues, the traders at Computer Village remain resilient, adapting to the uncertainties of their future. They hope that Gatankowa ICT Park, if eventually, fully set up, will not become a symbol of broken promises.

For now, the market buzzes with activity, a testament to the traders' indomitable spirit.

*Name changed to protect the person’s identity

Get weekly insights on tech startups and VC in Africa