It’s hard to believe that Lagos’ Computer Village used to be a regular residential suburb. In 1996, Aderonke Ayo-Ibine was a 32-year-old fashion designer on Otigba street when she witnessed its transformation begin.
“It’s called Computer Village because computers [especially memory chips] were the first set of things sold here,” Ayo-Ibine, now 59, told Rest of World. “Phones didn’t exist.”
By 2001, homeowners were selling off their apartments, turned into shopping plazas for computers and mobile phones. On her late father’s advice, Ayo-Ibine left fashion and joined the tech revolution sweeping through the district. She converted her dad’s six-bedroom bungalow into a phone accessory plaza named “Darlin Ronkus” — a pet name from her late husband.
Alongside the growing crowds of vendors, Ayo-Ibine sold phones, accessories, and internet modems to a booming generation entering the digital era, partnering with Nigeria’s telecomms networks to register SIM cards for the new and rising wave of phone users. These days, Darlin Ronkus is one of the more successful vendors in Computer Village, with an LED-strewn stand holding smartphones from major brands, a data center for SIM card registrations, counters handling mobile money transactions, and rows of electronic appliances. Ayo-Ibine has a staff of 14, which had shrunk from 20 after Covid-19 restrictions hobbled the market’s operations, and a storefront on Jumia, the e-commerce website dubbed Africa’s Amazon.
No one knows its actual size, but the unplanned tech market stretches across seven major streets, with an array of low-rise buildings, shopping plazas, converted bungalows, iron kiosks, and standalone umbrellas. Bouncing back from shutdowns in 2020, the market again hums with activity six days a week, the air filled with the sound of hagglers and middlemen — some honest, many less so — calling on passersby.