As I read Araba Sey's article about the trends of the mobile phone in Ghana, I couldn't help but reflect on the trends of mobile phones in Nigeria. From some of my previous posts you should have realized that was born and raised in Nigeria and I moved to the US for college in 2007.
This past summer, I was privileged to spend two full months in Nigeria and I will never forget my unique cell phone experience. On one very special Saturday, as my brother and I were out in town, I realized my cell phone was having major connectivity issues. I was late for a meeting and all I wanted to do was call to let them know I was running late. But I couldn't get through because the network was down. Usually in Nigeria, well the last time I was in the country (which happened to a year and half ago), people would have cell phone booths on the road, where you could pay a limited amount to make a call. These booths are usually everywhere. But on this Saturday, for the first time I noticed, these booths were no where to be found! What could have happened? Like Sey mentions in the aritcle, the cell phone was used as a physical asset to generate income. So what was happening? Didn't people want to make some extra cash?
Then it hit me! Everyone in Nigeria has a phone now. From the maid, to the guards...etc. Everyone now has a cellphone and so there was no need for those booths on the roadside. I know the concept of having a cell phone would seem pretty basic to a typical American reader, but in Nigeria a few years ago, the cell phone was a luxury, an asset that only the middle and upper class in society could afford. But today, almost every typical Nigerian regardless of what class you fall in society, can afford a cell phone. This is huge to me, because even though I was so frustrated that Saturday that I couldn't get a roadside payphone after almost driving for 20 minutes, I was pleased with this painful truth. Since more people have cell phones, more people can be connected as well as have the opportunity to be exposed to more information which is one of the goals of development communication.