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[ Lagos in December: Our Annual Economic Boost? ]By Opeyemi Solaru
It’s officially the most wonderful time of the year. December in Lagos is arguably the most exciting time to be in this bustling state. Well, that’s if you love the festivities of concerts, weddings, and annual Christmas parties accompanied by hours spent in traffic and untimely fuel scarcities. It’s a time when you get to reunite with family and friends that you may not have seen in months, maybe even years. As thousands of people, often called IJGBs (I Just Got Back), rush into the country to end the year on a lively note, Lagos has historically seen higher transactions and overall economic activity during this time.
According to the Commissioner of Tourism, Arts and Culture, over just four weeks in December in 2018, approximately N50 billion was generated in cash transactions from all the shows, parties and general festivities of Christmas time. In the previous year, the Lagos State Government calculated that an estimated N50 billion was spent in the first three weeks of December. This can not only be attributed to the huge influx of travellers, but also the countless entertainment and creative events that take place during this period of time.
How entrepreneurs are impacted?
Everyone that knows about Lagos in December knows that Christmas time is concert season. Many artists are said to make the majority of their annual income during this time period. Thousands of fans gather in Eko Convention Center, Federal Palace and so many other venues to finally hear the songs they have been streaming live in concert. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, the income generation from concerts, nightlife and other activities will likely be short of previous years’ numbers. However, due to the nature of the pandemic and the unpredictability of it all it will be interesting to observe if artists are able to adapt to another mode of making money, given the circumstances.
Artisans manufacturing leather goods in Mushin often mention the “festive period” as a bustling time for their businesses, when sales are significantly higher than throughout the rest of the year. A shoemaker and material dealer that was interviewed by The Guardian stated that if someone starts a business with N200,000 during the festive period, they can make up to N20,000 back per day.
Similar to artisans producing leather goods, tailors also see a jump in sales during the holidays. Christmas time means back-to-back parties, weddings, and outings, so sewing lots of new outfits is customary.
Restaurants are another sector that sees a huge surge during the holiday period. Given the rate at which new restaurants pop up in Lagos, many find this to be the best time to “restaurant-hop” and treat their palates to a variety of cuisines. Some restaurant owners claim that the profit made from December is able to carry them through well into the following year, especially as movement slows down during the first quarter. Of course, 2020 was a bit different as restaurants in Lagos had to close for 5-months in adherence to government regulations in response to COVID-19.
On 19 December, 2020, Sanwo-Olu took to twitter to urge Lagosians not to become too relaxed with COVID-19 guidelines, as numbers across the country have been increasing significantly. He stated that Lagos cannot afford another lockdown and should therefore do their part to limit the spread of the virus. On 21 December, 2020, the Federal Government ordered a nationwide closure of all nightclubs, bars, and restaurants except for those that offer take-out or delivery. Additionally, large gatherings must be limited to 50 people and religious centers are not to exceed 50% capacity. While this has not been acknowledged by the Lagos State Government officially, it is very clear that whatever the case is, a second lockdown may be on the horizon.
With lower capacity requirements, restaurants and businesses are certainly not generating optimal revenue. Based on the numbers (and the fact that we’re a year into this pandemic), corona virus does not seem to be relenting. Entrepreneurs and business owners are making significantly less money and the government should adapt accordingly to create measures that support entrepreneurs in a sustainable way. In 2020, many anticipated that the inflow of travellers would reduce significantly due to the pandemic. However, the extent to which this impacted the economy may not be clear for some time.