It's the year 2020, but many are still unaware of how much Africa has developed. In Africa, you can find fancy cars, multiple-story homes, and unparalleled skyscrapers.
Nigeria specifically, is Africa’s largest economy and is a country that continues to develop over the years. The economy of Nigeria is expanding in the "manufacturing, financial, service, communications, technology, and entertainment sectors." It is ranked as the 27th-largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP. Located on the shores of the Atlantic, Nigeria is home to about 200 million people —including some of the world's richest men and women.
Ikenna Mbadiwe, the grandson of the late Nigerian nationalist and politician, Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe, explains how growing up in Nigeria was like for him. “To be honest,” he said, “it’s tough, but it is not as bad people make it out to be.”
Ikenna grew up in a large family including 15 of his cousins. They grew up in an area called, Victoria Island, which is an affluent area where the upper and middle-class call home. For those who haven’t visited Nigeria, Ikenna describes his childhood life as "regular." “It was a good childhood,” he said. “[Growing up in] Nigeria was fun and you don't have to worry about much when you're a kid.”
Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, which is named after the Mbadiwe family, is a street lined with luxury homes and posh cars. The 2.7-kilometer road also serves as an access point to other highbrow areas of Lagos, Nigeria like Lekki and Ikoyi. Ikenna says Nigeria is like every other country. “Just like everywhere, you have to hustle to make it,” he explains. “But maybe the foundations [in Nigeria] are not really in place for the hustling to be more seamless.”
It's true there are impoverished areas in every country but visiting the place in Nigeria where Ikenna grew up contradicted the “warzone” sceneries I grew up seeing in most Hollywood films. It’s almost as if their portrayal of the continent was too confined and completely one-sided.
The part of Lagos where Ikenna grew up also features a vibrant night scene. For first time travelers, one thing you would enjoy about Lagos is the nonstop, 24/7 parties. In areas like Lekki, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island, the blend of bright lights, good music, and plenty of food and drinks, is like nothing you‘ve ever experienced. “The nightlife [in Lagos] is comparable to Miami,” Ikenna said. “That’s a push, but it could make top five [in the world].”
If the nightlife scene isn’t your thing, there are about 30 public and private beaches in Lagos, Nigeria. Beaches like Tarkwa-Bay, where I visited, and tourist spots like The Lekki Conservation Centre are filled with beautiful people looking to have a great time.
For Ikenna who has lived in other parts of the world such as New York, Nigeria remains home. "Nigeria is dope," he said. "It is hard because it's Africa; a third world [country], but we make the best of it, we're great people, [and] we show a lot of love." He encourages others to visit Nigeria and to experience the culture for themselves and after my visit, I am inclined to agree.
View parts 1 and 2 of my interview with Ikenna Mbadiwe below.