I just saw a tweet by mogwai. in his usual banter-ish manner on how the main thing Shomolu is for is printing.
I grew up in Fola Agoro, about 15minutes walk from the heart of Shomolu and printing was one of the side hustles I did until service year. Vundie is very correct — people come from everywhere in Nigeria to print in Shomolu. I’m certain the vast majority of printing that happens in Nigeria happens in that small location in Lagos. You can get a printer to any taste you have in Shomolu, from the guy using outdated Kord machines, doing colour separation on plates to guys with the latest Digital Direct Imaging. You can buy absolutely any type of printing material in Shomolu. The printer I’ve used for the three books I’ve published is Shomolu based.
But Shomolu has remained essentially the same for as long as I can remember. Unlike in most other places where such a concentration of a single service occurs, Shomolu has not scaled. Most of the printing is still small scale. Capital formation and consolidation has not happened so economics of scale that such consolidation brings has been elusive. Shomolu has not managed to become cheaper than printing in India or China for Nigerian and African customers.
Shomolu is a metaphor for the cancer of dependence on oil rents by State and Local Governments in Nigeria. In spite of such a competitive advantage residing in Shomolu for years, the government at the Local and State levels have made zero investments into the place to aid the trade. All the usual backward integration into printing inputs like paper, ink and others that require significant investment and pursuit from government have not happened so Shomolu cannot compete. Rather than grow the printing in Shomolu and then tax it and improve employment and growth, the State government is content with collecting crude rents and IGR that is mainly PAYE which is doesn’t have much of a direct input into growing. And the Local Government is worse. The roads into most of where the printing happens are their responsibility and they are in terrible shape. The Local Government is content to extort the printers periodically and do nothing to aid growth.
Shomolu is a metaphor for all that is wrong with Nigeria and why it is not sustainable as it currently is. Most of productivity that happens is in spite of government not because of it precisely because government is not interested in that kind of hard work when it can simply collect crude rents.