Today, almost a decade after their heyday, most cyber cafés have either closed shop or converted to other business interests. Only a negligible few—now shrunken—have weathered the storm. They lost relevance due to bad management, inefficient internet service providers, unreliable power supply, and, perhaps most important of all, mobile internet.
In most developed countries cyber cafes were a blip in history as most people soon had relatively satisfactory internet connections in the privacy of their homes. In many Nigerian cities these were much more important as it opened the rest of the world to us in a way that even satellite television was unable to do.
But mobile phones—and eventually mobile internet on feature phones–changed that very quickly and killed off most cyber cafés that once dotted many Nigerian cities. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, as at February 2015, Nigeria had 83 million active phone lines with access to mobile internet on their phones. Remember as recently as 2001 there were only about 400,000 fixed telephone lines in the whole country.
One of the reasons for the rapid uptake as well as personal convenience of mobile internet versus going to a public internet café, was also the relative cost.
Browsing at a cyber café cost an average of 100 naira (then about $1) per hour for snail-pace connections. Sometimes just to check one’s email could take forever to open. Mobile internet changed that with faster connections at rates as low as 33 naira ($0.16) daily.