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Other People's Trash is Nigeria's Technology


Nigeria's bustling commercial capital, Lagos, has a market where other people's computer trash is refurbished and resold. Used, recycled, donated, recovered, Chinese-made, shipped, flown, or stolen, parts or whole, it does not matter. VOA's Nico Colombant explains.

This market in Ikeja, Lagos, is called "computer village." Here people come to trade, sell, buy, anything computer-related: hard drives, monitors and accessories, even if they are not the latest models.

What is considered high-tech trash in the developed world is reassembled and repackaged to fit local needs and local prices.

Alice Amos owns a shop selling imported computers. Like many shop owners, she complains about the growing competition outside her doors. "Some others complain that their own is cheaper, while our own, the price is higher. Really it is hard for us because of some of the prices, because we import. Some of their prices are cheaper, while our own prices are higher. There are so many people, almost 1,000 people selling in computers, so it is not easy for us to sell. Moreover, look at the roads, they have blocked everywhere and almost all the shops, they are not selling because the people outside the road they have been blocked."

Down below the established shops, computers line the road. Some vendors, including children, also walk around trying to sell computer components. A day for sellers here is a constant battle to repair, to make the equipment they have look usable and valuable.

There is also new competition from Chinese merchants. But Nigerian seller Odunayo Akanbi is not worried. "You know I will show you one inside, if you check it, the system is wrong. I think it is from China, from China to London, from London to here. There is nothing different, say Lebanese or from China, I believe it is the same product. They do the same one. Nothing better. Because I also normally sell the Chinese product I have it inside."

But another competitor for computer merchants is the cell phone.

As cell phones turn more useful, more convenient for different applications, including the Internet and emails, many Nigerians are turning away from computers and coming here to find exactly the communication device they need.

The spirit though is very much the same and this marketplace may soon be called "cellular village" instead.

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