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Connecting from Lagos with Nigerian Photographer @andrewesiebo

To see more of Andrew’s photographs, follow @andrewesiebo on Instagram.

The Internet was new and very expensive in Lagos, Nigeria, when aspiring young photographer Andrew Esiebo (@andrewesiebo) attempted his online search for a mentor. “I was only able to afford a minute to do the Internet search,” he says. But in that brief moment, he connected with Paul, a photographer and blogger in Minneapolis, Minnesota — and began a correspondence that continues to this day. “Back then, I would take pictures with my film camera, scan them and email to Paul for his feedback. And at some point, he sent me books with titles on light, camera equipment, the business of photography and darkroom processing. I studied those books religiously and acquired the confidence to be more creative and skillful with my camera.” Almost 15 years later, Andrew’s photographs have been exhibited and published around the world, and he continues to post to the Internet to fill “global visual representation gaps” about his homeland. He adds, “Lagos is a city of contrasts. There’s slums and posh areas, congestions and tranquilities, tension and calm, hopes and despairs. There’s spaces for everybody in the city.”

Nigeria’s Tech Enclave Springs Up in Lagos Suburb of Yaba

At first glance, Yaba is like many other parts of Nigeria’s sprawling commercial capital: a cacophony of car horns and shouting street vendors, mingling with exhaust fumes and the occasional stench of sewage.

But in between the run-down buildings in this seemingly inauspicious part of Lagos, a city of around 21 million, tech start-ups are taking root and creating a buzz that is drawing international venture capitalists and more established digital firms.

“They’re all clustering in Yaba. The momentum is there,” said Sim Shagaya, CEO of Konga, which has become one of Africa’s biggest online retailers after being set up in 2012.

Konga’s decision to move in 18 months ago was a major boost for Yaba, which draws on a pool of talent from the nearby University of Lagos and Yaba College of Technology.

African tech centres are a recent phenomenon that mix web business concepts borrowed from other parts of the world with start-ups focused on African problems to create opportunities in areas such as mobile payments and e-commerce.

Notable examples are Kenya’s ‘Silicon Savannah’, South Africa’s ‘Silicon Cape’ and Rwanda’s ‘kLab’ in Kigali, but in many instances they struggle to achieve critical mass by giving birth to the few successful start-ups that will in turn attract more talent and money.

However, Yaba also has a growing number of established tech companies, underpinning hopes that the area, where rents are relatively cheap, might breed success.