Saturday, April 02, 2016

Golden Nigerians

Rows of 22-carat gold chains and bracelets twinkle in the shops at Dubai's main airport, one of the busiest in the world. Waiting by the gate for the 14:25 flight to Lagos in Nigeria, is the Esochaghi family, who are returning home after a shopping trip.
"My favourite pieces are these necklaces," says Ugochi Esochaghi, gesturing towards a small butterfly bobbing on a chain round her neck. "I got one for my daughter too, spelling out her name. For me and my family, gold is a really treasured thing. I was brought up with it, I love it."

But is it normal for Nigerian families to travel to Dubai to buy gold?

"Yes," says Ugochi, as she heads for the departure gate. "A lot of my friends come here. It's a popular thing to do."

Ugochi Akwiwu, a travel blogger, tells me more about her love of gold from her home in Benin City, Nigeria. "Nigerians in general love gold and in my part of the country it's a show of wealth," she says "My roots are with the Igbo community in south-east Nigeria and it's traditional for mothers to hand down their gold to their daughters. Men get property and land, women inherit gold and Hollandais - traditional patterned fabric wraps."

Akwiwu travels to Dubai once a year, invariably coming back with gold, often in the form of earrings. These are just for herself and her family but others have turned shopping trips into a business. "When I was at school some of my classmates made money by buying gold in Dubai and selling it in Nigeria.
"A few managed to put themselves through university with the profit. Gold is roughly $5 (£3.60; 4.50 euros) a gram cheaper over in Dubai and who doesn't like a bargain?"

With fluctuating exchange rates, the price disparity can be even greater and there are opportunities for serious buyers. Lagos-based Talutu Ahmed Olulana, for example, is a self-made woman who trades in gold. "We buy around 5kg of gold a year and the source depends of what it's used for," she says. "I get raw gold from Africa but for finished gold I'll go to Italy, India and Dubai.”

"Gold is a store of value, it is movable, divisible, it appreciates and it provides a hedge against inflation. It's really a true measure of wealth." Fast cars and flashy jets may come and go, but - for Nigerians in particular - there will always be gold.

 As if this is business that ordinary Nigerians and not just the 1% can indulge in.

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