How To Practice Coding in Nigeria

Jemima Abu
Dec 31, 2017 · 10 min read

It’s no secret that becoming a developer in Nigeria is not beans. There are a bunch of articles along the lines of “How To Be A Developer” and a lot of them are quite helpful. But then, most times, they don’t have to deal with the actual problem that Nigerians face: this country is hard.

No really, for those who’ve made it, big ups and mad props to you guys. It’s definitely not easy.

Also, I feel the title may be a bit misleading so allow me to clarify: I’m not going to tell you all the steps you need to take to become a Developer, there are loads of articles like that already so feel free to read up on any. Here’s one I like by Lydia Hallie: How To Successfully Teach Yourself How To Code

The purpose of this article is to help you overcome the problems Nigerians face when it comes to learning how to code.

I think we can all agree that there are two major problems when it comes to developing in Nigeria: electricity and internet. Of course there are tons more obstacles but let’s just tackle the big ones for now. If you feel there are other more pressing problems, feel free to leave a comment.

I’m going to be talking about all the steps I’ve taken to circumvent the above problems so if there’s something you do that works for you, please tell me.

Let’s begin:

Electricity

The lack of electricity in Nigeria is a constant thing. Frankly, if a whole day goes by without a power outage, it’s a bit worrisome. But enough about the dismal state of affairs — we all know things are bad.
So what do you do when you don’t have access to this crucial amenity. Here’s what:

  1. Get out.
    Seriously. Get up and go outside. Just because you don’t have light doesn’t mean other people don’t. Go to a restaurant or a café and set up shop there. (At the end of this article, I list a bunch of places created for all your charging and browsing pleasure)
    You’d have to buy something, of course, lest you be on the receiving end of judgmental glares and passive aggressive statements such as “Are you ready to order now or do you need more time?” or more outright “If you’re not going to buy anything, please go. This space is for paying customers.”
    And sure, nothing beats the comfort and luxury of coding in your own home but it’s a small price to pay, in the long run.
  2. Store up.
    Even if you don’t want to have to go outside every time you need to code or work on something, you should get used to carrying your laptop around with you. You may have to deal with some negative accusations by certain security bodies which shall remain unnamed but, if you can avoid it, best of luck to you.
    Right. So you should carry your laptop so you can charge it anywhere and save the battery for later use. Please, keep an eye on it while it’s charging before somebody will come and help you take it.
  3. Adapt
    While it sucks that light is not a constant, it is possible to monitor the power to a certain degree of regularity.
    Basically, if you notice that there’s light around a certain time then ensure you schedule all your coding for said time.
    If you don’t live in such an area, then you can like to invest in a regulator socket and just constantly leave your laptop plugged in.
    Maybe you live in one of those areas where someone is nice enough to have a power inverter that makes a very loud sound whenever power is restored. Let that sound be your alarm clock. Once you hear it, get your work on.

Of course there are more convenient alternatives like actually buying a generator or an inverter or a solar panel or all that many many but really if you have money for all that, you don’t really need to be reading this article.

Enough about that, let’s move on to:

Internet

Internet is Nigeria is generally sucky. Unless, you can afford one of those 4G devices — and even those ones have their own wahala — odds are, you’re going to be using a network that’s not very stable.

So how do you deal with this very pressing need. Here’s what I do:

  1. Be Cheap
    Most times, when it comes to internet, it’s a matter of speed vs affordability. I always go for affordability. Glo offers a 12.5GB data plan for 2500 and honestly, that has been my saving grace. Sure the network is horrible most times and it only works well in certain places but hey if you can find one of those places where network is good, feel free to set up shop there. And one of the benefits of having a network that is mostly useless is that you get to save a lot of data. So yay. Here’s a helpful list of some of the cheapest data plans in Nigeria.
    If you can afford it though, just get a device. Smile or Spectranet or whatever.
  2. Explore
    Believe it or not, there are places in Nigeria that offer free WiFi. Swear down. So it’s up to you to find those places and make them your home base. Just be careful you don’t overdo it or they will set a limit on their internet and then you actually have to buy something before getting to use the internet for one measly hour. Sigh. Anyway, happy hunting.
  3. Have nice friends
    Now I’m not saying you should be that leech friend who’s always asking for hotspot and all but if you happen to have friends who happen to have fast internet and also happen to be nice enough to share said internet, well then, it’s only fair.

Some Generic Advice

Here are some things I’ve learned based on past experience in order to make the most of your coding journey:

  1. Attend Meet-ups
    Honestly, this is the most important thing to me. I understand that it may not be the same for others but that’s their own problem. Meet-ups come with food, electricity and cool people. And also free stuff. Like free t-shirts. Who doesn’t love free t-shirts? And, of course, you get to learn from other awesome people and meet said awesome people in real life. Not to mention all the networking opportunities. Meetups are great for building your network and finding potential clients or employers. Check out Eventbrite or Meetup for any upcoming events in your area.
  2. Interact and Explore
    It may be hard for some to actually interact with other people since coding is a pretty asocial activity but that’s all the more reason why you should. You don’t necessarily have to talk to people in real life or go out and meet them but you could just as easily reach out on social media. If there’s someone you admire, feel free to stalk them — in a non-creepy and non-threatening way, of course — online and, if you’re so bold, you can even send them a message. Learn their process and apply it in whatever way works best for you. Go through their portfolios and repositories and everything else that gives you an idea of how they got to where you’re trying to get to. It’s easier to learn from other people’s mistakes than to stumble through it on your own.
  3. Start something and stick to it
    The best way to learn how to code is to actually code. Pick a language and just start writing stuff. There is always this tendency to want to learn all the languages (goodness knows that’s what I wanted) but it helps more in the long run if you just think about what you want to do and apply the language to it.

^ Places To Code In Lagos

There are obviously tons of co-working spaces in Lagos and they’re all great but I’m more into informal spaces for financial reasons. So I’ve gathered a list of all the places where you can comfortably use your laptop and which meet at least 2 of my 3 requirements: WiFi, AC and quiet.

  • Herbert Macaulay Library (You Read)
    233 Herbert Macaulay Way, Sabo Yaba
    Pros: Free WiFi, Air conditioned, Quiet af
    Cons: Can only use the WiFi on their systems and it’s limited to two hours, gets full real quick
    You’re not allowed to bring in food or bags, which makes sense seeing as it is a library, and it closes by 4 but if you get there early, you can get in some pretty solid hours of coding.
  • CafeNeo
    Pros: Free WiFi, Air Conditioned-ish, Snacks available
    Cons: WiFi is quite slow, gets very full and there’s always the possibility of bumping into people you know
    So you can go to pretty much any Cafe Neo branch and work from there. There’s one in Victoria Island and another in Yaba. I’m pretty sure they encourage people to use their laptops there. I mean, coffee and coding? It was meant to be.
  • Ozone Cinemas
    1–11 Commercial Ave, Sabo Yaba, Lagos
    Pros: Electricity
    Cons: Sigh, the masses
    Not like inside the actual movie theater (although if you’re lucky enough to get an empty movie theater, it’s quite the experience) but there are places around that have sockets and tables so really what more do you need.
  • American Corner CChub
    Ground Floor, 294 Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba, Lagos
    Pros
    : Air conditioned, access to PC, free Wi-Fi
    Con: No external laptop
    Open: 9am — 5pm
    So American Corner is a pretty chill place. They provide you with a free laptop (a Chromebook or a Mac-book depending on what you’re using it for) to use while you’re there and there’s light and AC and Wi-Fi and honestly it sounds like a dream.
    They don’t allow external laptops though so you can’t use your own personal system. However, there’s no rule against charging so you can plug in your laptop and let it get charged up while you’re using their system.
  • Nuts About Cakes
    33 Fola Osibo Rd, Lekki Phase I, Lagos
    Pros: Air Conditioned, affordable food, staff doesn’t bother you
    Cons: No WiFi, I guess
    I actually stumbled upon Nuts about Cakes by accident after an unfortunate journey to Stranger Lagos on a Monday only to find out they were closed. I was not about to waste all that transport so I ended up walking around and I found this place. I just walked in, set my laptop up and sat there, silently dreading some friendly waiter shoving a menu in my face but nope, not even a side glance. I love places like that.
  • Ice Cream Factory/Yin Yang
    5 Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos
    Pros: Air conditioned, nice ice cream, WiFi
    Cons: Limited WiFi
    Once upon a time, Ice Cream Factory had free WiFi that was open at all times to all and it was the best thing ever. But then some people started taking advantage of that fact and would end up staying there for 8 hours without buying anything (It’s me. I was the people. I am shamed) and so they ended up putting a quota on the internet so now you have to buy something and then they give you one of those tokens that lets you use the internet for an hour. Great.
  • Art Cafe
    282 Akin Olugbade St, Victoria Island, Lagos
    Pros: Aesthetic atmosphere, nice food, great lighting, cool outside balcony, WiFi
    Cons: …I don’t actually know it well enough to know its cons yet
    I’ve been here once and it was a bit late in the day but it seemed pretty conducive. The staff did that “How may we help you?” thing so I guess it’s one of those places where you have to buy something. The menu isn’t exactly affordable but meh, if you’re a fan of expensive coffee, knock yourself out.
  • Bogobiri House
    South-West, 9 Maitama Sule St, Ikoyi, Lagos
    Pros: Cats, books, art. Literal perfection
    Cons
    : Slightly stuffy but who cares? Cats! Books! Art!
    Bogobiri is literally my favorite place in Lagos. It’s like this brilliant infusion of an art gallery with a library and a casual work space. Entry is free and literally no one bothers you. Like at all. You could just code from morning to night and nobody would tell you nothing. Such brilliance!

I plan to discover more places as time goes on and update the list to reflect these places.
Also, if you know any places that would suit coding needs, please feel free to mention.

Places To Code In Port Harcourt

  • Wood House Cafe
    3 Louis drive, off Abacha Road, Port Harcourt
    Pros: Aesthetic af, lighting and decoration is totes adorbs. They also have a rooftop, if you’re into that sorta thing.
    Cons: You may have to buy something and the menu isn’t exactly budget-friendly.
  • Corner Store
    14 Tombia Street, GRA Phase 2, Port Harcourt
    Pros: All of the aesthetic, Free Wi-fi if it’s working.
    Cons: I haven’t gone here often enough to know the cons but there’s probably something.
    Port Harcourt has really upped their ambience game, good for them.
  • Books On The Loose
    39 Uyo street, Off Stadium Road, Port Harcourt
    Pros: Books! Lots of books, brilliant brilliant books.
    Cons: How could there be cons to books?!
    I’ve never actually tried to code here before but if the staff is okay with me lounging around for hours without buying anything, they should be okay with coding. They also have a mini cafe in the bookstore (a cafe! In a bookstore! Talk about perfection) so you should be able to set up shop for a bit.

Places To Code In Other States

Clearly my knowledge of states is limited to just two but for those who live in other states and know any places that are suitable, please drop a comment or send me a message at www.jemimaabu.com and I’ll be sure to include it. Thank you.


If you have anything to take away from this article, let it be this: Stop using Nigeria as an excuse for mediocrity.

I know it may seem like it’s impossible to achieve your goal sometimes and like all the problems in this country are just out to ensure your downfall, but just look at all the people who have done it. Are they not human beings too? Abi, do they have two heads?
That’s what I thought.

‘Kay, bye.

Jemima Abu

Written by

www.jemimaabu.com

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