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2010-6-9 23:45

小艾摘要: When 13 traders from eastern Nigeria arrived at the allotted spot for their new market outside Lagos in 1977, the vista was not promising.When they got here this was thick forest and swamp, populated ...
When 13 traders from eastern Nigeria arrived at the allotted spot for their new market outside Lagos in 1977, the vista was not promising.

“When they got here this was thick forest and swamp, populated by reptiles,” says Chief Emeka Dike.

Today, Mr Dike presides over what is reputed to be Africa's biggest electronics market, a heaving bazaar long since swallowed by a megacity of 18m people.

On offer at Alaba market are the trappings of a comfortable existence: fridges, televisions, air conditioning units, cookers.

Hundreds of shops cater to the Nigerian segment of a middle class whose ranks have been swelled across the continent by rising livelihoods.

From the explosion of mobile telephony to bulging profits of beer companies, evidence of expanding consumer markets in Africa abounds.

In its early years, Alaba was for the few. Only the elite, flush with oil money, could afford the white goods and Japanese sound-systems. Then, just over a decade ago, the factory of the world went into production.

Prince Anselam Nwadike gestures at two electric ovens in his Alaba store. “When we need quality, we go for Italy,” he says, indicating a shiny silver model for Naira 150,000, about $996 (€809, £677). Turning to a more basic alternative with a Naira 50,000 price tag, he adds: “When we want cheap, we go for China.”

Traders estimate that about 90 per cent of the appliances in Alaba are made in China. Quality has improved markedly with time, most say. Some of the audio equipment packaged in western-branded boxes is Chinese underneath, some admit.

According to a 2006 report for the African Union, “Chinese imports can be 75 per cent cheaper than ‘equivalent' imports from traditional sources and up to 50 per cent cheaper than the locally produced substitutes”.

The precipitous fall in the cost of imports has brought a middle-class lifestyle within reach of many more Africans. Estimating their numbers is difficult. Data from the United Nations suggest 92 per cent of Nigeria's estimated 150m people live on less than $2 a day.

But many analysts say such figures fail to capture huge informal economies as well as a surge in well-paid employment in banking and telecoms.

A Nigerian official study calculates that 30 per cent of the 150m population have “middle class” salaries. Yet graduating to the African middle class can be prohibitively expensive – as one of Alaba's best-selling appliances testifies.

The whirr of diesel generators is the soundtrack of Lagos life. So comprehensive is the collapse of the national grid that generators are the main source of power.

“Without the gens, this market cannot exist,” says Nonso Nwankwo, an Alaba trader selling Chinese-made generators for a quarter of the price of the old Japanese ones.

But running a generator costs an estimated Naira 45 per kilowatt hour, roughly three times the average residential tariff in the US. Factor in the price of repairs and Alaba's other appliances start to look less like bargains.

Corruption adds an extra levy. One Alaba merchant says “settling” – or bribing – customs officials and police can add $7,000 to the cost of importing each $40,000 shipment of smoke-extractors. Nonetheless, Alaba's customers are better off for the cheap Chinese wares.

Tens of thousands of redundant Nigerian textile workers are not, however. An influx of Chinese textiles dealt a hammer-blow to Nigerian factories already struggling with the lack of electricity. In the face of Chinese competition, efforts to stimulate local manufacturing seem futile.

The chances of an industrial middle class emerging in Nigeria as it did in Europe 200 years ago look slim.

However, Mr Dike, Alaba's elected president, says globalisation has provided the means and the incentive for Nigerians to fork out – at least for televisions. “It's supposed to be a luxury,” he says, “but today it's a necessity.”


埃梅卡•戴克酋长(Emeka Dike)表示:“当初他们来这儿时,这里还是茂密的森林和沼泽,到处是爬行动物。”






安瑟拉姆•恩瓦戴克(Anselam Nwadike)指着他在Alaba市场店铺里的两台电烤箱。“如果图质量,就选意大利货,”他指着一台泛着银色金属光泽的烤箱,售价15万奈拉,约合996美元。他又指着另一台售价5万奈拉、简单一些的烤箱,补充道:“如果图便宜,就选中国货。”


根据非洲联盟(African Union,简称非盟)2006年的一份报告,“中国进口商品可能比‘同类'进口产品便宜75%,比当地产的同类产品便宜至多50%。”





销售中国产发电机的Alaba商人农索•恩瓦科沃(Nonso Nwankwo)表示:“没有发电机,这个市场就存在不下去。”他卖的中国发电机,售价是日本老式发电机的四分之一。







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