Moving to Lagos

Expats moving to Lagos often have a less-than-flattering idea of life in this burgeoning Nigerian city. A series of scathing superlatives have cast the city in a permanent shadow, including the 2018 Economist Intelligence Unit’s evaluation of Lagos as among the three worst destinations for expats, coming 138th out of 140 cities surveyed. Cities were scored on factors such as political and social stability, crime rates and access to quality healthcare.

Nigeria’s financial and economic capital is fraught with overpopulation, deteriorating infrastructure and sweeping unemployment rates. Traffic, sanitation and pollution problems are also ever-present, and severe crime rates certainly should not be looked upon lightly.

Nonetheless, more and more expats are moving to Lagos, and the American, Indian, Filipino and Lebanese communities are sizeable, and growing. So, if life is so bad in this mushrooming urban centre, why do foreigners continue to uproot and relocate to Lagos?

The answer is simple – money. Lagos is a city driven by the promise of wealth.

Lagos is the business hub of West Africa, and it claims the region’s largest and most impressive banks, ports and markets. Furthermore, multinationals and massive corporations, many of them mining the oil-rich Niger Delta, have set up shop, and are continuously looking to lure foreigners to the city with lucrative expat packages.

It follows that expats offered a job in Lagos should expect not only a sizeable salary that more than makes up for Nigeria’s hard-to-ignore hardship ranking, but also a handful of accompanying perks. If a company does not outright insist on financing accommodation, health insurance, a driver and car, flights home and education, expats should make sure to negotiate allowances or an appropriately inflated salary that covers these costs.

Though it may be surprising to many, the cost of living a typical expat life in Lagos is sky-high. While nearly 75 percent of locals live in slums, the large houses on Ikoyi and Victoria Island that act as home to foreigners, imported Western-style groceries and private hospitals and schools of a Western standard come with a hefty price tag.

Needless to say, living in Lagos is not necessarily the nightmare it’s chalked up to be. Expats often find themselves able to afford far more luxuries than in their home country, and many take solace in the tight-knit, though slightly insular, communities they form within their carefully secured compounds and places of work, and via networks and social clubs.

Despite the inconveniences of near-constant power and water supply problems, working in a world where bribery and corruption are still commonplace, and adjusting to the culture shock of life in a bustling, congested African city, many expats report that life in Lagos is vibrant, colourful and fruitful.