Q&A: Obi Asika, Lagos Chairman of Social Media Week

Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos will host Social Media Week (SMW) from February 18 to 22 – the first time an African city has hosted what has become a major global event.

HumanIPO caught up with the Chairman of SMW Lagos, Obi Asika, whose company Dragon Africa is co-producing the week-long event with AFRIKA21.

What does SMW mean for Nigeria?

I think it is huge for Nigeria. It is an opportunity for people to see beyond the smog and find out more about this great country, 300 languages, 250 ethnic groups, ancient civilization and modern contemporary Africans.

I think people will be shocked by the level of engagement, by the quality of people, thought leadership, and just basically good people. Lagos is the largest black city in the world with a vibrancy that is all its own.

I believe this event will help to open up Nigeria more and showcase many of the hidden secrets in Lagos. I believe many new connections will be made and also the organised private sector will have to begin to understand that social media is now pre-eminent and they need to engage.

How can Nigerian youths that spend hours on social media benefit from the event?

I think there are so many things Nigerian youths can learn from the keynotes, panels, workshops, and networking opportunities that make up the Social Media Week Lagos schedule. We will have a lot of knowledge sharing and collaboration. Nigerian youths throughout the country will be able to attend virtually if they are not in Lagos.

Given the increase in social media fraud and criminal activity, there has been numerous calls for legislation to safeguard innocent users. Do you think Nigeria needs to regulate social media?

The various crimes you refer to were unfortunate, but I do not believe you can actually regulate or control social media – breaking news is breaking news. In terms of legislation I think people have to be responsible and it is people who commit the crime not the social network.

In this new age issues of privacy and libel are going to become critical and I expect the forward looking lawyers to begin to search their beam light on some of these issues and many of them will be discussed at our Policy, Education, Government and Society Hub.

What do you plan to achieve with the social media week?

This is year one, by next year we expect this event to increase in size exponentially. We have already made our primary achievement which is to ensure that this event happens, that Lagos is recognised as perhaps one of the most connected cities in the world, that our innovation, technology, knowledge are able to come to the fore.

I know we have the attention of corporate Nigeria, of the entertainment industry, of traditional media and of course of social media junkies, the youth and also those who are constantly seeking knowledge.

Is the government playing any roles?

We are in deep conversations with various levels of government, we are hopeful that Lagos State will come on board as the official host city. We are intent on partnering with the Lagos Innovation Council and showcasing the 18 innovation hubs in Lagos. Some of the major projects and innovations such as BMT, BRT, Eko Atlantic and so much more, as this is confirmed then we will be able to make all of this official in the coming weeks.

We have also been in touch with the Federal Government and we are hopeful of some presence and also some support. We believe that this platform is too huge for government to ignore.

What are your personal expectations?

I believe my personal expectations are already met to some extent. I have a wide network of associates, friends and partners and so many have come on board because this has caught their attention. We have reached out to Nairobi, Accra, Cape Town, Johannesburg, London, New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Miami, all over Nigeria and elsewhere, and for me personally it is actually very humbling that so many are engaged.

Tell us about the challenges and how you are overcoming them.

The challenges are legion. It’s a new type of event, it’s collaborative, you need to check emails and respond to engage. Chasing people, getting commitments, attracting the right type of companies, dealing with infrastructure and all the issues of being in Lagos, but if we did not have these obstacles then there would be no opportunities, so we remain thankful for all.

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