At Harris Bricken, we keep close tabs on what is happening around the world, and we know that our friends and clients do, as well. We are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench, where we look at the world by talking with business leaders, innovators, service providers, manufacturers, and government leaders around the globe.

In Episode #96, we are joined by Dami Adepoju, Director of Development, West Africa at Marriott International. We discuss:

  • Dami’s path from Brooklyn to Lagos.
  • The aspirational nature of contemporary Nigerians.
  • West Africa’s diversity.
  • The challenges behind hotel development in the region.
  • COVID-19 impact’s on business activities.
  • An insider’s take on happening in Lagos.
  • Listening, and watching recommendations from:

We’ll see you next week for another exciting and informative episode when we sit down with Jack Rhysider, Host of the Darknet Diaries podcast!

This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.

Fred Rocafort  00:07

Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance and the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to Global Law and Business hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort.


Jonathan Bench  00:37

And I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We covered the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.


Fred Rocafort  01:02

We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests. Dami Adepoju is a hospitality, tourism, and leisure professional with varied industry experience across many global cities. She currently leads Marriott’s hotel development activities across West Africa. In her capacity as director of lodging development, she is responsible for the deal making necessary to growing Marriott’s footprint in the region. Dami, welcome to Harris Bricken, Global Law and Business.


Dami Adepoju  01:46

Thank you, thanks for having me on. This is really nice.


Fred Rocafort  01:51

Pleasure is ours. And to get things started, please tell us a little bit more about yourself.


Dami Adepoju  01:57

So I’m Nigerian American. I was actually born in Brooklyn, New York while my mother was there for, she was in the US for grad school. We went back to Nigeria after she graduated. And I lived in Nigeria, up until I finished secondary school or high school as you would know it. I came back to New York for college, I went to Hunter College of the City University of New York in Manhattan. And I had a quintessential New York City College experience, whatever that is. I majored in accounting and after college, I found my first job in the hotel industry actually and I moved to Maryland to work at the Marriott headquarters in an accounting role. A couple years after that I was ready for grad school. Ready because my parents put the very typical Nigerian pressure on me to, to further my education and go to grad school and I found a great balance in a program in France, a hospitality MBA program. That was the perfect blend of where I wanted to go with my career after that first role at Marriott, and my longing to explore Europe and France. And so I went to I went to Paris, I spent two years there getting an MBA. And going in, I was pretty focused that I wanted to use that experience and my previous experience to pivot into the hotel development space in Africa. And so after about 10 years of working after grad school, I found myself where I am today, which is handling hotel development for West Africa, at Marriott. In a nutshell, that’s kind of my progression, I guess from birth to now.


Jonathan Bench  03:53

So much interesting background. I don’t really know where to start. But I’m very curious about about Nigeria, I’ve met people from Nigeria before. I know that Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa by far. And I’m fascinated to think maybe I’m just drawing strange parallels in my mind here. But I think about Africa, or about Nigeria being analogous to China and India in that in within the region, when you have that population, there is a lot of pressure, so when you said your parents gave you the quintessential Nigerian pressure to go to grad school, it feels to me like it’s a thing that a lot of Chinese kids would grow up with as well where you know, the population is so big. People would say the country’s very crowded. The competition must be very intense. Can you talk a little bit about that aspect of of life there?


Dami Adepoju  04:45

Yeah, I mean, the one thing is we’re very big on education. In Nigeria, we have about 250 nationalities or tribes. And the one of the three dominant ones are the Yoruba people, which is where I’m from. And we’re very big on education in my part of the world, in my part of Nigeria, and also into a heritage of some of our initial leaders post post colonization, who were also very big on on education. And that’s kind of that’s a legacy that we tend to carry on till today. So the Chinese, I think there was a book once called Tiger Mom, many Nigerians or Africans, I think relate to that, because we definitely have a lot of tiger moms in in Nigeria. And people are known to getting steered one way or the other, to accounting or medicine or the legal profession. Growing up, it was either you wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a banker or an accountant, there wasn’t, it wasn’t the way it is now where people are having gumption and are allowed to explore other creative areas. My partner is in fashion design. Growing up, nobody said they wanted to be a fashion designer. But now it’s one of the thriving spaces, creativity is now seen as something worthy to pursue and, and so things are changing. But when I was born in ’84, and growing up, it wasn’t so encouraged. But I think a lot of the dynamics that also push education is you know, the need to differentiate yourself. In a very populated country, you’re you know, you’re fighting for jobs, if you grew up, if you’re born here and raised here, and this is the only place you know as home, you’re going to be fighting for jobs with other people and you have to be more educated, you have to be you know, more driven and there’s only so many resources available. And so you kind of have to make do with what’s here in a scarcity environment.


Jonathan Bench  07:19

So I like the word you used gumption. Would you say that in country, are people generally optimistic, even though it’s very competitive environment? Would you say that the entrepreneurial environment is strong? Are people optimistic? Do they feel like they can really make their way, you know, despite all of the all the headaches they’ll have to go through?


Dami Adepoju  07:45

I would say people are aspirational, versus optimistic. We see examples of prosperity abroad. And so we want to emulate it here whether or not we’re actually prosperous. So there’s definitely a culture of faking it till you make it. Or, again, back to what I said about, you know, wanting to differentiate yourself, wanting to look like you’re doing better than than your neighbor. And there’s actually a thing here, it’s called better pass my neighbor, and, you know, you want to have a generator in your, in your apartment, if, you know, if because we have to have generators, you want to have a bigger one than your neighbor does. You want to have a bigger car, you want to have a bigger house. So there’s there’s a lot of aspiration in our culture. And that drives a lot of the entrepreneurship that we see in Nigeria. And so yes, it’s a very entrepreneurial culture, people want to do better. At the same time, there’s also the knowledge that you can only achieve as much as your macro environment allows. And what we’ve seen in the last four or five years is a mass exodus of well educated middle class professionals who are getting visas to go to Canada and the UK and Germany and Australia and some of these other places that are more receptive to getting professionals in from other countries. So we that are left here, whether by choice or by default, we have to make the best of things and for me, personally, that’s what keeps me here is that optimism and the aspiration to see a better country in my lifetime and hopefully for my children. So to your question, I think it’s more aspiration. I think the optimism depends on the macro environment, Who’s the leader who’s in power. And we’re not so optimistic right now, to be honest. And we’re optimistic that in a couple of years when we get new leadership, things will change. That’s kind of like a mid to long range optimism that people hold here.


Jonathan Bench  10:17

Sure. That’s great. Thank you for sharing. And certainly, we’ll, we’ll come back and touch on that I love the human element behind all of the impressive business people. Yeah. And you know, I share this with a lot of people, when I love it on somewhere like LinkedIn, when someone posts and my friend who’s in HR very, very accomplished person in HR, and he’ll post from time to time, everyone is faking it. Alright. And so those kind of reminders that everyone’s trying to punch above their weight, we’re all kind of swimming in the deep end, when we know maybe we’re not, maybe we’re not totally equipped to swim in the deep end. But I think the the idea that we all keep encouraging each other and sharing those real stories, right, our successes, our failures, our you know, our confidence and our insecurities. It’s all healthy in our business environment to let everyone know, to the extent that we’re comfortable doing that, that we’re all we’re all trying and we all feel like we’re failing on on some days. So let’s switch a little bit to your region. I know that you cover more than just Nigeria, your you cover West Africa, for Marriott, can you tell us a little bit more about your market? And the differences in you know, in the countries in West Africa, from your perspective in the hospitality industry?


Dami Adepoju  11:34

Yeah, so the countries that I cover for work, it’s West Africa, it actually ranges all the way from Cape Verde, which is an island country with with 10 volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which is Portuguese speaking, all the way through the mostly French speaking West Africa. Of the 19 countries, only five speak English, Nigeria being one of them. Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia. Gambia which is incidentally, surrounded by by by French speaking Senegal. And then I also actually cover a little bit of Central Africa just because they’re so close to to Nigeria, and so I cover Cameroon, a country like Gabor, that’s compared to Nigeria, tiny, minute really, it’s like a speck in terms of the population compared to a country like Nigeria, where we’re pushing 200 million people. So the terrain varies. And the differences are everything from the languages spoken. In these regions, there’s four languages spoken in between Western Central Africa, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. And so they differ in that sense, they differ in the pace of economic growth. You have the larger economies like Nigeria, which is the largest in the region, you have smaller economies, and so that, those are the dynamics that that I kind of have to keep in mind. And they play a big role in how I’m strategizing for our growth.


Jonathan Bench  13:30

And how dependent are these countries in Western Central Africa on tourism? I know that COVID has had quite an impact. But besides not this, I’m gonna reflect my ignorance here a bit. But besides natural resources, I know there are a lot of up and coming industries as well on on the tech sector in quite a few African countries. But is how dependent are these economies on tourism?


Dami Adepoju  13:54

Yeah, good question. Not very much. They’re mostly dependent on natural resources. You know, the oil agriculture. In some places, increasingly services. Tourism doesn’t play that much of a role. But either way, we need hotels, because we’re getting business tourists. And that’s, you know, that makes up most of the demand for hotels in in these regions. It’s mostly people coming in, to do work, whether they’re contractors in the financial sectors, and that’s and that’s where we depend on the service industries in these in these in these countries to provide demand for growth. People come the government that plays a big role in driving demand for hotels because they are always having activities, whether it’s national, more at a grassroots level, local, and then regional. ECOWAS which is the Economic Committee of West African States, that’s, that’s a big regional block in West Africa. And they tend to have events, conferences, and so on that are that are driven around those, those countries that make up the block, the Central Africa region has their own, which typically happens in Cameroon. And so that drives a lot of the demand that is that that goes to Cameroon, that goes to the capital city in Cameroon, and stay in hotels. So for us, it’s mostly business tourism, which isn’t the typical tourism segment that that you think of when you’re saying tourism, but for us, it’s tourism, right, it’s just classified as business as opposed to, to leisure. And then increasingly, we’re also getting a lot of visiting family and friends and people are coming back home more often, it used to be limited to just the fest the Christmas time, at the end of the year, people want to come home. And these are people in the diaspora who live in, in the West or in China, in the east, they come back home, with their families and where they would want to stay with with family members in the past and now increasingly wanting to, to get a more city experience. And they’re staying in cities, and they’re staying in the hotels in the cities. And we’re seeing that impact, especially around Christmas time. But it’s also growing throughout the year. And one thing that that the pandemic has done is when people are able to work remotely, we’re seeing more people come throughout the year because they can work from here, still keep their job and you know, be close to home. And you know, and then in places like Ghana, who have been very strategic in welcoming Africans in the diaspora, particularly from America and the UK and other parts of Europe, In 2019 they had this whole year of return, that’s what it was coined. And it was meant to signify the anniversary of the first slaves leaving from ports in Accra, Ghana. It was a whole year of activities and it culminated in December, where it was just flooded. They occur, I had never seen that kind of crowd before. But a lot of people were there just to celebrate, you know, this, this whole, you know, year of trying to reunite Africans African Americans, African Canadians, Africans in the diaspora, with, you know, with their home with their, you know, ancestral homes, and that was that was very strategic for Ghana, and they’ve kind of opened up to, to wanting to sustain this and keep that flow of tourists growing. So there are spots here and there. There’s Ghana, there’s Senegal, Senegal is a very stable country. It’s about seven hours to New York on a direct flight, Delta operates a direct flight. They’re French speaking. So they have they always have the inflow from from France, and they’ve been pretty good at growing the leisure tourism industry as well. Cape Verde, like I mentioned, is an island in the Atlantic and they get a lot of tourists. Tourism is very big for them. But it’s a small country. So it you know, when we’re talking about the whole region, it’s not that much. But there are spots of of leisure, tourism markets here and there. There’s some that are that are trying to grow their leisure markets, as well. But most of the most of the tourism is really driven by businesses, business, common friends, corporates, and that kind of that kind of that type of demand.


Jonathan Bench  19:13

That’s a wealth of information. I often reflect when I’m talking to guests on the podcast, how much I learned and how much I look forward to these conversations, because it would take me, you know, days of researching to understand what you just said in the last five minutes right to get a real insider’s view on what’s important. What’s driving people. You know, the ECOWAS, I mean, all of this and even while you were talking, I had to google quickly which of the which of the West African countries had Spanish as an official language. It’s Equitorial, Guinea, and I didn’t know that. I do about the Anglophone countries, I knew about Francophone countries, but I didn’t know about Equatorial Guinea. So thanks for making this fun. And for us to be able to continue to learn every time we every time we have guests on. So let’s talk about your hotel developments in West Africa. What are some of the main considerations that go into it? You’ve already mentioned that tourism is not necessarily the drive, but can you talk a little, maybe a little more maybe around the business activities? Where are some of the hotspots? If you have any war stories you’d love to share? That would be great. We love we love hearing real world examples about some of the challenges and opportunities that you’ve seen since you’ve been working in that area.


Dami Adepoju  20:24

I mean, the the major considerations are the macro environment, right of the country, is it stable politically? You know, is it secure, even for business, right? People don’t want to and there’s all kinds of advisories when when there’s issues in our country, and that would typically reduce the kind of traffic going in. So the stability is a big factor, the economic growth, if the GDP is growing and healthy, then you’re going to see more hotels, you’re going to see the need for more hotels. And if it’s not, it’s going in the opposite direction. And then money, the money to build these hotels, because operators like Marriott, and, you know, a lot of our competitors, we don’t actually own these hotels, we don’t own the assets, we own the brand name, we own, you know, the operational know how, but we depend on the real estate investors to build these hotels that we operate. And most of the owners of the hotels in this region are locals, they’re  local high net worth individuals, local business owners enterpreneurs, some corporates, it’s becoming more institutionalized. So we’re getting more corporates in the space. But typically, it’s traditionally it’s mostly been individual owners, family offices and things like that, you know, a good reason why I’m based in Lagos, covering West Africa is to be closer to the owners or potential owners of hotels and people that we would partner with, the majority of these owners would have, you know, raised equity, they have land, they might need some financing that financing to to complete it. But it’s usually people with money already, who want to build hotels, and so sometimes you kind of have to do reality checks. You kind of have to do reality checks sometimes because sometimes people are driven more by ego, when you have money and you want to build the biggest five star hotel in town, it might not necessarily be financially sound, to do a five star, maybe a three star or four star, it’s probably what the market needs, but sometimes we get requests, you know, for projects that are too outsize for the market. And so there’s there’s always a little bit of finessing to, to bring people more to reality. And a good example of that is you know, you have major cities like Lagos, our capital, Abuja, Accra, Ghana, Dakar in Senegal, and then you have secondary markets, right? Because, you know, there’s 36 states in Nigeria, and maybe the capital of somewhere in maybe the south east, somebody wants to build a five star hotel in their hometown, which, you know, it’s great, but it’s not a profitable venture, you’re not going to be able to sustain the kind of rates that would make that investment worthy. And, you know, maybe you should do a courtyard you know, instead of a JW Marriott, and so, those are some of the, you know, more human challenges, but really, it’s it’s, you know, getting the kind of financing the patient financing, that understands the hospitality and hotel industry, and also understands the nature of economic growth in this countries. You take a country like Nigeria, that from when we transition to democratic rule in 2000, you know, was basically in a boom period from 2000. During the economic recession in 2008, 2009, we were coasting. We were, for the most part, not as impacted on a macro level and this boom just went on until energy prices went down in 2015, 2016. And we’re, you know, it’s a bit of a struggle to go back up, but are we going in a positive direction, in the long run? Yes. And you need to be patient to understand that, you know, an economy like Nigeria is going to be hit, if there is Ebola in DRC, that’s, you know, thousands of miles away. But people are gonna say, oh, there’s something happening. And, you know, whether it’s that country or another country, it’s Africa. And so Nigeria is going to be impacted negatively, and you kind of have to wait that out. And then you go back up, you know, you go back up again, and then something else happens, like the economy and oil prices, and there’s a glut in the oil prices, and then it’s, you know, another dip, and then you go back up, and you know, there’s a pandemic, and then you go back up. And so the patience to understand and wait out that kind of terrain, very high risk, very high reward, but very high risk is usually not forthcoming from outside, it usually has to be raised locally, and interest rates are not favorable for long term investments. And so financing always, always, is an issue. And so with a typical development period, in North America, from from inception, until when the hotel opens, maybe about two, three years, is fair, and it could take upwards of 10 years. There’s a hotel that opened in Ghana took 20 years, from inception to opening. And so longer development periods are very common. If someone comes to me, and they say, pj, we want to build a hotel, it’s going to take us three years, I already know, let’s factor, maybe another four years to that timeline. And it’s, you know, seven years, eight years or longer, it’s not surprising, it’s not surprising at all. So those are kind of the, the challenges we face. Financing, getting raw materials, locally is almost impossible, when you’re doing things at an international standard, when you want to build, you know, an internationally branded hotel with international standards, it’s almost impossible to find the local materials at the level that you need them to be. And so everything is imported. And if you have a weak currency, like we currently do, now, that’s a strain on your financing, you’re almost having to pay double, you know, say you planned, you plan this project last year, or maybe you plan this project 2019. And then the pandemic happened, and all of the fallout from that has resulted in your currency devaluing. You’re going to spend two or three times more than you initially planned and that’s always a challenge for any project. And so when we have open hotels when when projects are completed, especially hotels, it’s it’s very gratifying, it’s very satisfying. It’s it’s very highly celebrated. The Marriott that opened recently, last year in Lagos, you know, we had we had representatives from the State Government to to the national government at the opening ceremony, because that’s, that’s really a feat to achieve in this space.


Jonathan Bench  29:14

It’s so fascinating for me, I’ve worked on hotel deals in my time on the east coast in the US. And so a lot of what you’re telling me resonates. And so I’m curious, how involved are you from inception to completion in your role? I know you said that, that Marriott is not owning the assets but helping to probably license the assets. Are you is does Marriott provide any kind of oversight other than having, you know, kind of the typical franchisor guidelines? Or is Marriott providing operational assistance to get things up and running? Are you are you hoping to hire staff or is that all run by a separate management company? For the hotel?


Dami Adepoju  29:53

Yeah, our motto certainly covers management and so here we usually deploy the management business model, where the owner gives Marriott the mandate to operate the hotel on on their behalf, versus the franchise where Marriott gives the owner the license to brand, the hotel and the owner operates the hotel by themselves. We don’t have enough of the technical know how in in most of these developing markets, we don’t have the capacity and it’s not as sophisticated yet. And so we typically manage, but specifically in my role, my job is to sign the agreements, whether it’s management or franchise, so I’m looking at new leads, I’m going out to get new leads, building relationships with potential owners, negotiating and signing the agreements, the management of franchise agreements with them, coordinating all of the in house, all of the in house activities that are required to get us up until signing and then I’m passing on to our technical team who provide an advisory slash consulting slash project management role to the project. And they work on behalf of Marriott they work with the owner. And they’re on the owners consulting team to make sure that what’s built is according to our brand standards, they give the final check off when the hotel is done. And it’s according to our standards. And then we have the operations team, you know, the managers come in and do the pre opening work that get the hotel ready. And that’s where they do you know, hiring of the staff. Testing, testing, testing all the you know, guestrooms and functions of the hotel to make sure it’s ready for, for opening. So there’s there’s different steps that occur from inception to opening. And mine is really at the very beginning. By the time a hotel opens, it’s passed through so many hands and knowing how long things take it. I might not even be around when the hotel opens. And I’ve signed the deal.


Jonathan Bench  32:25

That’s great. You’ve just done what you’ve told me. I wonder if you ever asked yourself the question. Am I too young to be dealing with these mega deals? I feel that sometimes in my work. I don’t know. Fred does too. But I think maybe I just haven’t realized how old I am and how much experience I have now. But I always pause in the middle of big deals I’m working on in think there should be someone else who’s older than me who’s dealing with this stuff. Right? This is very, this is very sophisticated things. Do you ever feel like that?


Dami Adepoju  32:53

No, I mean, I don’t know how, how young I sound but I’m not that young.


Jonathan Bench  32:59

I know, I’m older than you are. You told me you told us your birth year. So I’m a few years older than you, which is why I still maybe I still feel like I’m in my 20s sometimes, and I’m definitely not in my 20s anymore.


Dami Adepoju  33:09

Yeah, I mean, so I feel like all I’ve done, all I’ve done really in my career is hospitality. I went to grad school for hospitality. And when you get into hotel school, you know, at that level, all your all your peers are hospitality people. So I have a whole network of, of people in similar roles who have graduated around the same time. And so, you know, I feel like I’m in good company. All my jobs were in the hotel industry or real estate, some of the work I did after grad school was consulting. So I was working for the owners basically doing the feasibility studies, those initial feasibility studies, business planning, and that piqued my interest even more, and that made me sure that I want it to be on the other side working for a hotel owner or hotel company. Yeah, I mean, it’s always staggering when you consider how much goes into these projects. And, you know, the fact that my decisions are helping to, you know, make this a reality. It’s, it’s humbling. I’ve been to a couple hotels where you know, I did the initial feasibility study in my days as a consultant and those are some of the more humbling but at the same time, you know, gratifying experiences. I go, I contributed to this and now it’s real. And that happened recently in Guinea, Conakry, the Republic of Guinea in the city called Conakry, and there was a Sheraton Grand that I had done the feasibility for in my day as a consultant in maybe 2012. And, you know, last year, I was working for the company that ended up managing the hotel. It was a full circle moment.


Fred Rocafort  35:51

So Dami, let’s talk about the COVID 19 pandemic, this is nowadays, a question that we pretty much ask in every podcast, because it it really impacts pretty much every country in the world, every aspect of the economy. So in your region, what has the the impact been? I know, Jonathan, asked about this in the context of tourism specifically, but what has been the broader impact on the economy? What impacts have there been on your on your work, I’m thinking about the ability to travel, the ability to visit some of the countries on your beat without having to undergo quarantines and things of that sort. What’s your perspective on this?


Dami Adepoju  36:41

Um, personally, the the main, the main impact has been the travel that went from, from traveling two times, at least twice a month, to nothing after March 2020. I didn’t travel the rest of the year. And so even though there were still deals that that I was handling, i Everything had to be done remotely. It was interesting, going from, you know, having to do physical negotiations, where you’re coordinating calendars, coordinating everyone’s schedules, and you’re trying to find a mutual city somewhere in the world that everyone can meet, to having to do this on on Microsoft Teams. That was interesting. But it was also interesting to see how everyone kind of adjusted and it just, it’s become the new norm. Most of my negotiations since then have been, have been done virtually. And, and in the past, that would have been really strange. So the travel has personally been the major impact for me, not being able to see the cities firsthand, has been interesting. But, you know, we’re starting, we’re slowly starting to get out there and return to some kind of normalcy. So that’s also, that’s also satisfying, but on macro levels in the countries. I think most of the fallout has actually been on the economic side. So, you know, reduced demand certainly has impacted the hospitality industry in many of these markets. But an interesting thing to note is, say, a country like Nigeria, which before the pandemic, most of the major hotels would probably see about maybe 50/50 tourists come from outside the country from international destinations. And then, you know, half will come locally from from other cities in the country. It’s mostly domestic markets. And an interesting thing to notice, recovery, particularly in secondary markets that didn’t depend really on international travel so much, that recovered really quickly even in 2020. Some of the hotels in you know, in the secondary markets were reporting that they just never, they never shut down. They never saw slow down for various factors. People didn’t feel as impacted with COVID-19 in, you know, in many parts of the country, and parts like Lagos and Abuja that is very exposed to the international markets, that’s where we felt it and that’s where, you know, people kind of had to hunker down and we had lockdowns, there were other cities that didn’t have any lockdown and things just went on as normal. And so of course, their hotels are not going to feel it because people are going about their normal business. People were traveling within the country a lot more, because they couldn’t travel outside the country. And even now that international travel has opened up, because of all the different quarantine rules. You know, there was a time where people from South Africa and Brazil had to quarantine for two weeks, if they wanted to visit Nigeria. Because of those kind of rules, we haven’t seen the the bounce back of international tourists, but we’ve seen recovery in the hotels, to 2019 levels. And this year, it’s looking even better, so far. And it’s really a testament to how strong domestic demand is and how resilient people are when they feel like they don’t have other options. So our hotels, in most of these markets have recovered, probably doing better than some of them some Western markets. But then, you know, there’s inflation that hits, you know, countries like Nigeria, with weaker fiscal policies, there’s inflation. And to be honest, I think inflation has hit a lot of growing markets around the world, but we’re seeing it here in double digits, which is not encouraging and also has impacted our currency or currencies weaker in the market, as well. But it does feel like a return to normal. For the most part, people are going about their usual business, people are traveling within the country, within the region, the flights are back up. And I guess it’s the best that you can hope for in a situation like this, but but also you know, we do need the foreign flow of traffic too, as well. Because that signifies foreign investment and, you know, more interest in our economy from outside sources. There are hotspots. Tech industry has had an amazing 2021. And you know, so far from the announcements of, of how much companies have raised, how much some of these startups have have raised. It’s also encouraging for this year as well. So our FinTech space, particularly in Africa, but particularly in Nigeria, South Africa, of course, Ethiopia. Well, Nigeria, representing West Africa, has seen really strong, really strong investments in in the tech space, particularly in the FinTech space, and that’s also an encouraging offshoot as well. And the creative spaces, so the fashion, the art, the music. I think we’re seeing more interests now than we’ve ever seen before and in our entertainment, our creative spaces, the the local Nigerian art scene is booming. And we, I think it’s very encouraging to see to see some of these industries grow beyond the traditional oil sector, which is, you know, you know, pretty much out of our hands because we don’t, we don’t actually manufacture. We don’t we don’t have the manufacturing capacity to handle these natural resources.


Jonathan Bench  43:58

You’ve already touched a bit on this, but I’d love to hear about Lagos, what life is like there, what you love about it, what you don’t love about it? And especially since you’ve lived in New York City, as well, you can do a little compare contrast for us, that would be excellent.


Dami Adepoju  44:15

When I moved to New York, as a young adult, I saw a lot of similarities to Lagos, big urban jungle, lots of people very fast paced. And so I compare I compare New York actually. So I always thought, oh, this would be Lagos would be the New York of Africa. Well, coming back, again, as an older adult, it’s very different in the sense that there’s still a bit of predictability to life in New York. You know, you turn on the light switch and you know, the lights come on, and you open the taps and you know water’s gonna come out and here, no matter how comfortable and well off you are, you still know that you’re in a developing economy, because there’s just there’s never a boring moment. Things don’t work the way they should or you think they should. And so that keeps you on your toes, you can insulate yourself as much as you can, but you know, the reality is always still out there. So I love the energy of Lagos, I love the can do anything can happen spirits, it’s very infectious. You know, when you see young people putting themselves out there trying to do something creative in various spaces, when you see the entrepreneurial spirits on the streets, the traders, it’s very inspiring. It’s, you know, a bit of a cliche, but you know, people say we’re some of the most resilient people on the earth, and we are and being around that being surrounded by that is very inspiring, and makes you want to also, you know, kind of step up your game. Sometimes I wish things were easier. And, you know, that’s, that’s probably a wish that everyone hope hopes for and is working for, I wish things didn’t have to be so difficult on a daily basis for a lot of people. But it also humbles you and keeps you grounded, especially if you have a choice to not live here, right. I don’t have to live here. And there are many like me who don’t have to live here who can, who can, you know, sort of escape to more welcoming, more comfortable climates. The decision to stay here having that in your hands, it also keeps you focused on well, you know, as much as I can to help make things better. You want to do and so I really enjoy working here. I don’t always enjoy living here. I wish I had more options in you know, restaurants and you know, parks and all these kind of trappings of a first world. First world city. I wish I had that. And so there’s, there’s like a balance, I’m trying to strike between loving, you know, what I do here and having it feel like, you know, maybe it’s making an impact for the good. And also that selfish need to want to make sure that I’m I’m as comfortable as as, as I know that I can be. That’s that’s a balance that I’m still I’m still trying to strike and you know, it’s a it’s a constant struggle, I would say.


Fred Rocafort  48:10

So Dami, this has been a great conversation, really learned a lot really, I mean, there was just so much great information that you shared with us. So thank you for that. Definitely. I mean, certainly a very enlightening conversation for which we are thankful. Before we let you go though, we have one more request. And that is for a recommendation or recommendations on your part. Feel free to recommend a future guest, although you can also do that offline if you don’t want to put them on the spot. And or feel free to recommend anything you’ve read recently, anything you’ve watched recently, any place that you visited recently, that you think is worth sharing with our audience.


Dami Adepoju  49:01

Okay, um, I have a couple. One is a visit to Nigeria, I have to be a tourism ambassador here. And so I mentioned this earlier, but Christmas has become you know, a thing. And it’s actually become such a thing that we’ve we’ve coined, Detty December. It’s D-E-T-T-Y, a play on the word dirty, meaning people are just having fun. It’s very festive. In Christmas time. There’s always so much to do. It’s the one time where you feel like even though you live here throughout the year, it’s become a destination. It’s actually become, you know, somewhat of a tourist destination, if you will. Lagos is the perfect you know, is the perfect location for that. It’s warm in December. We have beaches, we have you know, restaurants, nightclubs, culture activities. And so that’s it. Detty December is a recommendation, you know, for anyone who’s who’s interested in Nigeria and wants to try it out. I’m reading a book right now called Butter, Honey, Pig, Bread. It’s interesting. It’s about, I’m still in the middle of it. It’s about twins, who have been separated because of an events that happened when they’re young. Their mom, she’s kind of like a spiritual being. So those are my two recommendations. And they’re both Nigeria based.


Fred Rocafort  51:35

Excellent. Thank you. Yeah, for sure. I mean, Nigeria is definitely on on my list of places that I’d like to visit. I’m pretty sure it’s it’s on Jonathan’s as well. And hopefully, once things get get back to normal, that can we can get on with with a long overdue trip to to Africa and more Nigeria, specifically. Jonathan, do you have any recommendations for us this week?


Jonathan Bench  52:02

My recommendation this week is an article I read this morning called Web3 is the future or a scam or both. This is an article on Vox in the Recode series. And it’s a very lucid article about the pros and cons of web three technology blockchain and FTS cryptocurrencies. From a very balanced standpoint, I think, including explaining some of the problems, some of the opportunities. So if you’re someone who is been hearing a lot about web three, been hearing a lot about these different terms and wants kind of a non technical viewpoint on what’s going on a very digestible viewpoint. This is a great article. So it’s at Vox and it is called Web3 is the future or a scam or both. Fred, what do you have for us today?


Fred Rocafort  52:49

I’d like to recommend a YouTube channel called Heresy Financial, and I started watching their videos a couple of weeks ago, they’re bite sized, they talk about timely, economic and related topics, and the presenter just has a very engaging style, you know, just one of one of these guys who manages to not only draw your attention with with his style, but also has a an ability to really break down complicated topics into ways that are at least for me, relatively easy to understand. So check it out, just just to give you a flavor of what he’s doing. Recently, he had a video about the concept of fiat currency basically. So sort of linking this with with with your recommendation Jonathan, and he sort of discussed the legal and constitutional basis for our current currency laws and what impact that could have on crypto in the future so check it out, Heresy Financial if you go to YouTube and type that into the search box you’ll find it and with that, Dami I’d like to thank you once again for for joining us. Again, really enjoyed this conversation as I listened to you I just had you know, dreams of chatting off and visiting some of these countries within your region which which have been on my list for for a long time so hopefully before too long, that trip can become a reality and hopefully you know we can we you can show us a little bit of Lagos as an insider guide. So thank you for joining us. Look forward to having you again before too long.


Dami Adepoju  54:54

Thank you. Thanks for having me. This was good. This was fun.


Jonathan Bench  55:01

We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. We look forward to connecting with you on social media to continue discussing developments in global law and business. This podcast was produced by Harris Bricken music composed by Stephen Schmidt. Tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.

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