HumanIPO: How was the decision to give Lagos the hosting rights for Africa’s first Social Media Week reached?
Obi Asika: I have to be thankful to the founder of Social Media Week and his team, this is the sixth year it’s been happening [around the world].Following their experience with the Obama campaign in 2007/08, they built this platform which is now 32 cities worldwide. We are in February, it’s twice in a year - February and September.
So in February 2014 we will be doing this again and I hope it will be much bigger. I think now everybody understands what this is about. Everybody gets it including the sponsors and media partners. So the scale will be bigger.
How we got it was simple. My partner, Ngozi, has sat on several social media panels for a number of years in the past. So she approached me first. She said: “I think this could really work”. So I said “I like it already”, straightaway. We approached the team in New York.
She said there were offers from Nairobi and Cape Town. I told her not to worry about that, “I’ll take care of it,” I said.
They said they’ll make their decision. They made it and went with us. We were very happy and proud about it.
I live in Lagos which is the largest black city in the world. So it felt right that the first Social Media Week in Africa should come to Lagos. Also, Nigerians are the most viral people in the world.
They talk, communicate and chat the most in chat rooms in Eskimi, Mxit, via Java phones talking all day. Also on Nairaland, that’s what they do. So the Social Media Week had to come here.
And the people of Lagos had proven me right. I did 160 events. That wasn’t me but the people of Lagos who were actively involved in real conversations, real dialogues and real knowledge. I must say there is an incredible wealth of knowledge in this town.
What is the most important thing that has come out of this week?
We must do better at telling our stories – personally, corporately and as a country. This is critical because there is basically nothing out there that shows the world who we are.
In the real sense, we have the richest content, culture and heritage. We have the most diversity, the most intellectual capacity and the most creative with the hottest music, fashion, comedy and currently the African Champions of football. So I think we have more than enough to engage the world.
Do you think you’ve been able to achieve what you envisioned?
We’ve overachieved actually. I really want to commend my partners because without them, this wouldn’t have happened. Because what we tried to do is to bring a global team to Lagos because Nigerians are global and Nigerians deserve to be treated as global. Even if you act locally, we still think globally.
A major challenge participants complained about was connecting the various events because many people were going on concurrently at various locations. How can people following the stories connect to all that happened everywhere?
That’s why we used social media for interaction. After this event, we plan to push out all contents in a more comprehensive manner. We live streamed over 50 events which has never happened in Nigeria.
All of these live streams are archived. All the presentations from all the panels, we’ll push them all back out. This whole thing is about knowledge sharing.We have to keep talking about the issues in Nigeria. Let’s keep talking about the future. Stop complaining and start acting. The best way to act is dialogue.
What problems have you faced during the conference?
The only challenge was with technology. We still don’t have optimum speed even with our optimum infrastructure, so we have several challenges with technology.
For me, drop-out is a common phenomenon. I’ve had drop-out in New York and London,; so it’s not a local problem but a global challenge.
As we draw the curtains on this year’s edition, what do plan to improve upon next year?
To improve upon next year is to spread it around Lagos. We will have more partners and more resources. My goal is to make University of Lagos (UNILAG) a youth hub next year.
It has 45,000 students with various venues and facilities including UNILAG FM. We will do that next year God-willing.
We are going to have a tech hub as a designated center to give more partners opportunity to do more things. If people say we have much events this year, next year will be even worse because a lot of things are happening in the technology space in Lagos. We couldn’t showcase so many things this year.
What you’ll find is that Nigerians and Lagosians don’t really know what is going on! They don’t know. If the minister didn’t come to say what the government is doing, most people won’t know.
Despite the fact Social Media Week is city-based, how can you get other parts of Nigeria actively involved in subsequent editions?
I could go and push for SMWAbuja, but I’m sure you don’t want me to die because SMWLagos was pretty stressful.But we can engage people virtually. For instance, you can do your Hangout from Abuja this year. But for me, Lagos is the sea, it’s the capital and it’s the centre. It is the commercial capital of Black Africa and we have to recognize what that means.
The city is bigger than 36 African countries. To me, I see Lagos as the creative capital of the continent – the home of the hottest music and the continent’s biggest movie industry.
How would you respond to people that felt disconnected and didn’t see the relevance in the event?
If you feel disconnected and didn’t see the relevance in any of the 160 events, you are actually the one that is disconnected and irrelevant.
It’s the most knowledge I have seen come out of this country in my life. So anybody who doesn’t understand why we should be talking about open data and governance, transparency and technology, business of fashion, music and so on, I say good luck to you.