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Lagos, Nigeria - Cloudflare’s 155th city

by Martin J Levy.

At just shy of 200 million, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa (Ethiopia is second and Egypt is third). That’s a lot of people to communicate with the world - and communicate they all do!

According to a published report earlier this year, 84% of the Nigerian population own a mobile device (193 million population and 162 million mobile subscriptions). Again, that’s #1 for any country in Africa. But why so connected? Maybe because Nigeria (and Lagos specifically) is always on the move!

Lagos, as those that know the city say, never sleeps, it’s filled with color from the food to fashion to even the diverse people going about their business. The vibrancy of the city is like a hard slap to the face, no matter what you have been told, your first time here will still knock you out. In Lagos, anything is possible, from the sadness of poverty to the clearly visible upper class, the city sucks you in like a surfers dream wave. Visitor come into Lagos and leave feeling like they’ve been through a unique experience. The traffic is mind blowing and the same goes for the work pace.

Lagos, a city always on the move!

Cloudflare lands in Lagos, Nigeria

Cloudflare has now entered Lagos with a secure facility colocated and interconnected to one of the primary undersea cable operators along with a full connection to both the local Internet Exchange (IXPN) and the newly announced WAF-IX Lagos exchange. With every data center we add, local users not only connect faster and more reliably to sites proxied by Cloudflare, but our global DDoS mitigation becomes stronger and more robust.  Instead of serving Nigeria from Europe (London, Lisbon, etc), content can be delivered locally from Lagos.

If you follow the African telecom industry; then you'll know that West Africa’s economy is dominated by Nigeria; but few outside the region know that Nigeria is dominated by the phrase mobile-first. A country thats mobile-first means that mobile has eclipsed all other connectivity methods. Other countries with this status include Indonesia, China, Kenya, Philippines, Myanmar and many others. Being mobile-first doesn’t mean smartphone dominance (Myanmar qualifies because of the availability of $20 phones); but it does mean dependence on mobile infrastructure. In fact SMS or texting is still the number one common communications method for most of these places. But smartphone penetration in Nigeria is growing fast and sitting at around 21 million according to the recent report referenced above.

Nollywood

La la land has Hollywood, India has Bollywood and Nigeria has Nollywood. Yes, movie-making in Nigeria is a booming business with 1,500 or more movies produced a year and yet Nollywood is only twenty-five years old. That’s still less movies than Bollywood; but that doesn’t worry any of the Nigerian statisticians because they restate the revenue number based on a per-capita basis and that makes Nollywood bigger than Bollywood. But we digress.

The one thing that all that mobile penetration can provide is a distribution method for Nollywood’s movies and while this has nothing to do with Cloudflare’s commitment to Nigeria; it’s interesting to see that Netflix (the movie and tv streaming giant) has just invested heavily into Nollywood!

Even Hollywood has tapped Nigerians for major roles. David Oyelowo, the British actor of Nigerian descent, played Martin Luther King Jr. in the 2014 movie Selma. Danny Glover (of Lethal Weapon and The Color Purple fame) is of Nigerian descent and has acted in a Nigeria based movie called 93 Days. Then there’s Forest Whitaker (Last King of Scotland), John Boyega (Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi), and geek-favorite Richard Ayoade (Maurice Moss in the IT Crowd); all of Nigerian descent.

Connectivity across and around Africa

Lagos is well served by undersea cables that reach northwards to Europe and south towards South Africa. In fact every African west coast undersea cable lands in Lagos Nigeria.

  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe))
  • Glo-1 (and Glo-2)
  • MainOne
  • NCSCS (Nigeria Cameroon Submarine Cable System)
  • SAT-3/WASC
  • WACS (West African Cable System)

While most of these cables are pumping bandwidth from North to South (i.e. Europe to Africa); some are now being used for inter-country connectivity at the IP backbone level. WACS has Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa connected. MainOne has Ghana and Nigeria connected, etc.

Nigerian websites that instantly win

When we look at the Alexa-top-50 list for Nigerian users we find that 18 of those sites are Cloudflare customers. That means an instant win for both consumers (those smartphone users) and the website or app operators. BTW: of the remaining 32 sites, 15 are owned by massive content players (search, online video, social media, operating systems or phones) and of the remaining 17 sites (Wikipedia being one of highest visited on that list); they are mainly non-CDN’ed websites that are hosted outside the country (Europe or USA).

After Nigeria

Cloudflare in West Africa far from finished! We still have places like Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana to do (just to name a few). As always, stay tuned as Cloudflare grows the network! Oh, and by now any regular reader of our blogs will know that we are growing, both in network deployment and in fantastic staff. So pop over to the jobs page and see what interests you!

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