A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[URBAN NOTE] “I’m a Tourist in Lagos. You Have a Problem With That?”

I quite liked the energy of Tyler Cowen’s Bloomberg View column describing why he went to Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city and commercial capital, for a visit.

People seemed surprised to see me and I did not encounter many other evident tourists. The Nigerian clerk at my (upscale) hotel expressed shock that a white person had arrived. Perhaps she thought I was a sex tourist, as she continued in full enthusiasm: “The room is solo? Don’t worry, Nigerian women just love men like you!” I believe she meant this as local hospitality, though under another reading it is a veiled critique. The truth, I admit, is indeed pretty strange. I like to go around and look at gross domestic product, and that simple fact explains much of my unusual behavior abroad.

Nigeria is now the country with the highest GDP in Africa, having surpassed South Africa, and it ranks globally at number 26. If Lagos state were a country, it would have the fifth largest GDP on the continent.

As an economist, I feel a moral pull, not to mention a personal curiosity, to see goods and services being produced. That means visiting Lagos’s renowned computer market and fabrics market as well as its fast-food shops, shopping malls, street food and ice cream parlors. I sought out its bridges, canals and electric generators, though not the oil areas — there are too many kidnappings there.

Making large-scale structures and trading goods and services are among the most human and noble of activities, so is it actually so strange to visit them, as one might enter a cathedral or make a pilgrimage to Gettysburg? For all the talk about human interactions being the key to a wonderful trip, those interactions usually require some sort of scaffolding and structure to one’s daily activities, and on that score a quest for GDP can help out. I’ve yet to go on a safari.

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Written by Randy McDonald

January 3, 2017 at 7:30 pm

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