Lagos in Nigeria is an ever-evolving city that’s fast becoming one of Africa’s most significant hubs for creativity. This is so much the case, that the nation’s reliance on oil is shape-shifting to be one that has a robust creative economy thanks to homegrown or returnee artistic and tech-savvy entrepreneurs.
Amongst many internationally recognised annual events is the five-year-old Social Media Week, Lagos.
Now part of a global family of affiliate cities from Dubai to El Paso, this Nigerian iteration features a robust schedule of internationally-focused events that involve on the ground, terrestrial, and multi-platform programming, the content and logistics of which are as intricately structured as a large-scale tournament series.
Taking place for one week, usually in Late February to early March, the long term bonus of hosting such a huge event is definitely positive in a city where youthful innovation and entrepreneurship has a broad influence on the country’s politics, media, technology and overall social media credentials.
The brains behind the expo are co-founders Ngozi Odita – who’s Brooklyn-based – and Obi Asika, who’s a major name in Lagos’s music and media industry. The crowd sourced content of SMW, Lagos has now resulted in an always highly anticipated free, creative conference with multiple events that require a huge amount of programming and operational logistics.
With the content open to the public, entrepreneurial Lagosians are given as much of a curatorial voice as business owners and thought-leaders, resulting in a week of industry talks, workshops, competitions and other activities that this year attracted just over 13,000 visitors. In a city with an estimated population of 21million, this may seem small fry, but for an event that started off as a simple nugget of an idea between two people, the numbers and capacity of the annual event are no doubt destined to keep rising.
As a forceful engine for extensive, cross-sector networking, global jobs and access to digital skills, SMW, Lagos also has a strong sense of gender balance, with all tech panels programmed to include at least one female speaker. The sense of opportunities for all is a truly holistic one, which is something that helps the founders keep up its appeal.
Since the first event in 2012, the schedule has gone from providing the basis of how to use Twitter, to discussions on the future of podcasting in Africa, how to bring more girls into digital journalism, the analytics of return on investment (ROI) and leveraging Instagram stories and Snapchat for business.
With somewhere around 250 speakers and a long and intricate list of topics for discussion, the sectors that are dipped into during the whole event offer truly holistic and critical thinking.
The depth of influential experiences is evident from guests who have been representative of the beauty, tourism, gaming, fintech, IT and entertainment industries as well as social activism that inspired high-level ministers to grace the Landmark Centre in Victoria Island, where the event is held.
Popular and high-caliber keynote guests and speakers have included Mo Abudu. Labeled as one of Africa’s most successful women by Forbes magazine, she’s the founder of Ebony Life TV, one of the continent’s most watched channels for its entertainment and lifestyle content.
Femi Longe has also been an important SMW, Lagos voice as Co-founder and Director of the Co-Creation Hub (CC Hub) Nigeria. It’s the hub, as a collective social innovation centre, that has most likely had a big influence on the current development and energy behind SMW, Lagos. It was the hub, after all that hosted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during his 2016 surprise visit to Lagos to meet with developers and entrepreneurs to learn about the tech eco-system in Nigeria.
Since then, one keynote speaker who cased an audience roadblock at the last SMW, Lagos event was Chris Cox, Facebook’s global head of management, design and marketing who provided a panel on the future of media, hosted by Facebook Africa.
With Nigeria being a nation that’s said to have the highest number of Facebook users, this was a huge bonus for the event, and next year’s version is probably destined to top the visitor numbers and caliber of speakers pretty easily.