In our consumer society with planned obsolescence, a computer has an average lifespan of two years. When they get thrown away, some of them might show up at Alaba International Market in Lagos, Nigeria. Every month, around 500 shipping containers with used electronic goods arrive to the market, and business is thriving.
One in three electronic items arriving at Alaba is broken, but highly skilled technicians are paid to repair them. “If you have two computers that aren’t working, you take bits from both of them and make one working computer,” says Julius Monye, 52, a secondhand-computer seller. “After my technicians have worked on them, 90 percent of the computers will function.” The refurbished computers are tidied up with some spray-paint and put on display for the 300,000 people who come to Alaba every day. Despite the paint, the origins of the computers are part of their appeal. “Secondhand products from America or Europe can have a better quality than new Nigerian ones,” explains Julius.