Beyond the beautiful city of Ibadan being the third-largest city in Nigeria after Lagos and Kano. Or its rich culture, historical value, and strong sense of community.
Lies the unsung reality that Ibadan is fast becoming Nigeria’s next business hub with a tech-savvy entrepreneurial youth ready to take the proverbial bull by its horn.
According to Statista, Ibadan’s population is pegged at 3,649,000 in 2021. The city is also blessed with a large land mass.
Little wonder Ibadan has become the new bride for business investors and entrepreneurs seeking to expand their business empire.
Notwithstanding Lagos flexing her muscle as the best place to start a business in Nigeria amidst her densely populated status and economic prowess.
However, Ibadan is in a class of her own, and ready to make a good mark on visionary investors and intelligent business individuals.
So, if you’re an entrepreneur, or a startup looking to conquer new ground, or perhaps, an existing business owner ready to 10x your customer base.
Then, make the trip to Ibadan; she is waiting patiently for your gentle touch. The city is a gift that keeps giving.
But if you’re in doubt whether to explore this beautiful city, don’t worry. I’ve put together 5 reasons why Ibadan is Nigeria’s next business hub.
And, of course, a good place to do business in Nigeria. Let’s dive deep into these reasons.
Ibadan’s Enviable Culture & History
If you only take a bird’s view look at the city of Ibadan, you may not appreciate the city’s aesthetics.
That’s if you have lived a better part of your life in ultra modern cities such as London or New York.
Or modern African cities such as Lagos, Cairo, or Johannesburg. Given how different Ibadan architectural makeup is if compared to all of these cities.
But do not be discouraged by its symbolic brown rusty roofs, seemingly old-fashion building structures, and many amala joints.
Plus, how its indigenous people use slangs such as “omo Ibadan kini so re”, or their penchant for pronouncing the English letter “S” in their syllabic mother tongue.
It’s a city that retains the old structures which uphold her rich cultural heritage and identity.
It combines the best of both communal life and a fairly satisfying pulsating lifestyle for both its dwellers and visitors alike.
Ibadan was founded in 1929, at a time of great strife when many communities in the Yoruba Kingdom were fighting for dominance and survival.
Therefore, the ancient city of Ibadan was created as a camp for warriors, but it soon became a ready market for traders, and passage of goods coming from both the grasslands and its surrounding forest.
Ibadan was once the capital of the old Western Region of Nigeria, and now, she is Oyo State capital, home to an enviable culture, rich history, and a loving people.
Although its inhabitants are predominantly from the Yoruba-speaking culture, the city, however, is home to all, due to its hospitable nature.
Interestingly, she is home to the first broadcast station in Africa, Western Nigeria Television, which was launched October 31, 1959.
Also, it’s the home of Nigeria’s first university, the University of Ibadan, established in 1948, and Nigeria’s first skyscraper, Cocoa House, in 1965.
Besides that, the city holds the key to many historical events and ceremonies that have lent credence to her glorified status. Top on the list is:
- Sango Festival, which became the World Sango Festival in 2013.
The festival is usually held in August at the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo, whose occupant is a highly placed King amongst other kings in the Yoruba-speaking culture.
Interestingly, the festival, which features lots of dance, music, beating of African drums, etc, is also observed in over forty countries around the world today.
Other festivals to attend in Ibadan include:
- Oke Ibadan Festival. The Oke Ibadan Cultural Festival is a vibrant occasion held to remember Ibadanland’s founding and express gratitude to the founders.
The celebration, which literally translates as “Hills of Ibadan,” honours how founders, headed by Lagelu the great warrior, first resided atop the Ibadan highlands before descending to create the town of Ibadan at the foot of the hill.
- New Yam Festival.
- Egungun Festival; and a host of other funfairs that take place in Ibadan.
These festivals are an avenue to network with people of like minds, while learning about Ibadan’s rich culture, and history.
Intelligent investors should take advantage of this annual event to pitch ideas on how to add value to the community while also making a killing.
These events have the potential to bring together people of divergent ideas who are shopping for ways to invest in the city.
Therefore, strategic partnering with the festival organizers through sponsorship and advertising can be beneficial to your business.
Mind you, the city is blessed with a youthful population who are ready to make something of their lives amidst the scarce resources at their disposal.
Ultimately, being intentional about your business growth by exploring the potential that Ibadan has, will increase your customer base and 10x your sales.
Ibadan’s Beautiful Sites & Tourist Attractions
Asides from the symbolic identity of Ibadan brown rusty roofs, old edifices, and a relatively laid-back lifestyle. It’s home to beautiful sites and tourist attractions.
These incredible sites, which have seen an influx of people in and outside of Nigeria, have come to appreciate what it has in store for them.
Plus, these sites and beautiful locations have been advantageous to the hospitality business owners and government of the state.
And, of course, people (inhabitants and visitors alike) who take their leisure seriously find time to unwind amidst the daily hustle and bustle.
However, opportunities to exploit the city’s potential are still open to business investors who are keen to take advantage of the gift that Ibadan keeps giving.
Among these awesome sites that people visit, which can be explored, are:
The famous Mapo Hall is an ancient town hall commissioned by Captain Ross during the colonial era in 1929. It was constructed to serve as an important meeting and discussion space in the ancient city of Ibadan.
It is a big colonial style building, strategically placed beside the popular Bere Market, which sits on the top of Mapo Hill.
Mapo Hall is symbolic for its architectural seven columns which represent the seven hills on which the city of Ibadan was built.
The hall, which was the city’s first town hall, now serves as a museum to preserve Ibadan’s rich culture, relics of the colonial era, and its rich history.
Although it still preserves the old architectural design that lends credence to its ancient status.
But it was refurbished to meet modern standards during the administration of former Governor of Oyo State, Alao Akala in 2008.
Interestingly, the hall houses pictures of all the past, and, of course, the present ruler of Ibadan.
Ultimately, it is one place that still serves as an important place to visit by locals and visitors alike.
Bower’s Memorial Tower
Looking for the perfect place to get a bird’s-eye view of all the four sides of the beautiful city of Ibadan? The Bowers tower is the perfect place to do that.
The tower was built by the Ibadan Native Authority in 1936, but the beautiful structure was commissioned and named after Captain Robert Lister Bower.
The tower, which is over 60 feet tall and has 47 spiral stairs, is situated on Oke Are (The Army General’s hill), the highest point in the city, in the Igbo Agala (Agala forest) neighbourhood of Ibadan.
Interestingly, standing atop the tower gives you a good look at strategic places such as the University College Hospital (UCH), Cocoa House, the University of Ibadan, Dugbe Market, Iwo Road, Agodi Gardens and Leisure Park, Lagos/Ibadan Toll Gate, and other notable places.
Also, looking down from the tower gives you a clear sight of other remote places in the city. The view from the tower truly captures Ibadan’s symbolic brown rusty roofs trademark.
Little wonder, Ibadan locals are found of saying “o mo Ibadan o mo Layipo” lingo, which they direct at traveller who have never been to the Bower’s tower.
Truly, failure to visit the tower means that you’ve never visited the beautiful city of Ibadan. It’s a must-visit for anyone who wishes to experience Ibadan’s glory.
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
IITA is a breathtaking tourist destination in Old Oyo road, Ibadan, that gives nothing but awesome experiences to visitors.
The rainforest’s sporting amenities, which include a 9-hole golf course, a badminton court, a swimming pool, a football field, and a lawn tennis court, among others, would help you rekindle your love of exercise and sporting activities.
It was created with the goal of reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. IITA is a non-profit organization that collaborates with partners to improve crop quality and productivity, lower producer and consumer risks, and generate wealth from agriculture.
The institute was founded in 1967, with its main office in Ibadan, Nigeria, and other research units dispersed around Africa.
A Board of Trustees, supported by numerous nations and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, oversees the organization (CGIAR).
But now, it has become a tourist attraction that attracts visitors from near and far who come to have a wonderful experience in the beautiful city of Ibadan.
University of Ibadan Zoo
Right inside the vast land of the University of Ibadan lies a big establishment for the collection and exhibition of wild animals, known as the University of Ibadan Zoological Gardens.
It was established in 1948 as Menagerie, and the University of Ibadan Zoological Garden serves as a major hub for the study of zoology and for teaching and research in the field.
However, the animal collection increased in size and variety throughout time, and in 1974 the Menagerie officially became a zoo. Every year, it receives a sizable number of guests from near and far.
Like other zoos, the University of Ibadan Zoo exhibits wild animals primarily for the conservation of endangered species, as well as for research, education, and visitor enjoyment.
There are many kinds of animals living in the garden, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
The Zoo is open seven days a week, 365 days a year. It has grown to become a must-visit for anyone coming to Ibadan for the first time.
Agodi Gardens and Leisure Park
Agodi Gardens and Leisure Park is regarded as the most important resort centre in Ibadan. It was created in 1967, and sits on 150 acres of land on Secretariat road, at the heart of Ibadan.
The garden, which was formerly known as the Agodi Zoological and Botanical Garden, serves as a topmost tourist attraction and leisure centre to locals and visitors.
The garden, which attracts hundreds of people daily, is blessed with a water park, mini zoo, lake, picnic centres, and play ground for children. It is one garden that welcomes everyone regardless of age, status, and race.
Sadly, the garden was destroyed by the Ogunpa flood disaster in 1980. However, it was renovated by the Oyo State Government in 2012. But it was reopened in 2014.
In the heart of Dugbe, a significant commercial district in Ibadan lies a 105-meter-tall 26-story building structure known as Cocoa House.
This structure which was built by the Odua Investment Company Limited was completed in 1965.
It was once formerly the tallest structure in Nigeria and the first skyscraper in West Africa.
It was constructed with the earnings from agricultural products produced in the former Western State of Nigeria, such as timber, rubber, and cocoa.
The 26-story structure’s original moniker was “Ile Awon Agbe,” which translates from Yoruba to English as “House of Farmers.”
The project was planned by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and funded by the export of cocoa. Because a cocoa tree had been planted in front of it next to a fountain, the name was eventually changed to Cocoa House.
Sadly, on January 9, 1985, a fire that started in the top floors of the building due to a broken electrical apparatus completely destroyed the entire structure.
Up until its renovation and opening for business in August 1992, it was not open to the people.
But now, it has become a source of pride, inspiration and attraction for locals and visitors alike.
National Museum of Unity
In 1973, a plan to build a national museum in Ibadan was put up. The museum was established to house Nigerian cultural treasures.
Under the direction of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the museum opened its doors in 2002. The museum hosted Monument Day in 2014, with an emphasis on the state of monuments in Nigeria.
Therefore, the museum and Obas (Kings) collaborated on a cultural display in December 2017, to boost tourism in Oyo State.
So, the museum erected a new exhibition centre in 2018. The show included objects such as the Yoruba Shigidi figurine, a Mumuye head mask, an Ekoi headdress, a bronze Benin Rooster, and Edo Metal Bells.
Now, the museum has become an exhibition on Ibadan’s rich delicacies, the spirituality of the Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Ibibio, and Ebira cultures in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, are all included in the masquerade gallery.
Interestingly, the museum also houses royalties, effigies, and masks from many regions of Nigeria in addition to musical instruments like drums.
Also, a pottery display at the museum features Kula, or bowl-shaped pots, which are used for cooking. The museum features displays on other cultures from other tribes in Nigeria.
It has since become a home where African history has been preserved and taught to visitors who come to the beautiful site.
University of Ibadan
Aside from these few important places that give Ibadan the tourist and attraction status state it has taken up, there are great educational institutions.
The prestigious university of Ibadan which was established in 1948, and a technical institute are located in the city, and other specialized institutions.
However, the University of Ibadan library maintains the largest collection of books in the country. There is also a branch of the National Archives on the university campus.
There are also zoological and botanical gardens, two main stadiums, and many athletic facilities that make the University a true citadel of learning.
Also, located in Ibadan is the Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research NISER, and many other important places.
These beautiful places and more makes Ibadan attractive to business investors who are willing to partner with the management of these places for business expansion.
Ibadan’s Agrarian Nature & Real Estate Potential
Besides the IITA, which stood firm as an avenue to explore the beauty of Ibadan’s agrarian nature, the ancient city is known for her agricultural society.
Ibadan is an economy based community that is heavily dependent on agricultural produce. This is made possible by its large land mass.
Its vast land, which are cultivated by farmers, makes it a veritable ground for the production of crops and other consumables.
Also, this availability of land, has given rise to the influx of real estate agents, who are making money and transforming Ibadan to fit modern city requirements.
Many realtors, some of them Lagos based, have moved their operation to Ibadan to benefit from the unspoken master plan to turn Ibadan around.
This exodus is not unconnected to the potential and hospitable atmosphere of Ibadan. A land that combines the best of ancient communal lifestyle with a modern outlook.
And, of course, it is an untapped vast land, which is the primary reason for the sudden exodus of real estate companies.
Therefore, intelligent investors and business idealists, who are forward-thinking, should take full advantage of this opportunity to expand their business reach.
This can be achieved by either going into the agriculture or real estate business, or by partnering with existing businesses who are on the ground.
Ultimately, there are enormous benefits for newcomers into these relatively untapped sectors of the Ibadan economy. Be strategic by being intentional.
Ibadan’s Economic Boom & Commercial Value
Although farming activities are on a decline in Ibadan, due to its modern city-like nature. It still has a commanding lead in other commercial activities.
This boom in economic activity has made Ibadan attractive to business investors and entrepreneurs to explore.
Some of the activities that make Ibadan a commercial centre include manufacturing, handicraft, and service industries.
Also, the emergence of many SMEs who are leading the business pace has opened up numerous opportunities for investors to key in.
Because most streets and corners in the hinterland and the inner suburbs of the city are technically a ready marketplace.
However, the largest daily market that stretches from the railway station in the west to the centre of the city, remains Ibadan’s commercial core.
Asides from modern craftsmanship, many local crafts still flourish in the city. These local crafts retain the ancient culture and history of Ibadan.
These ancient preserved crafts, include weaving, spinning and dyeing, pottery making, and blacksmithing (making of iron utensils called adogan, and other farming equipment).
Plus, the local fabric industry still holds sway even today, with the making of the local adire (“tie-dye”) cloth dyed locally in large pots of indigo is still a popular fashion style amongst the people of Ibadan.
Interestingly, other businesses such as corn milling, leather working, steel, furniture making, printing, art and photography, hospitality industry, automobile repair centres, etc.
Before, there were few modern manufacturing industries in Ibadan. But with the construction of good road network, and better infrastructure, there has been a surge in manufacturing businesses.
Ibadan, just like any other city in Nigeria, has a fleet of privately owned taxicabs and minibuses. However, regular bus and motorcycle services are operated within the city and its suburbs.
In particular, Gokada, a privately owned transportation company, which has grown to become a major means of transportation in the city.
With the availability of eateries, malls, boutiques, bars, and relaxation centres all over the city, Ibadan is now a shopping complex of some sort.
Also, places where people can buy necessities such as Shoprite, Domino’s Pizza, and many more eye-catching centres are springing up.
Basically, the city’s growing economy is one to be proud of. It’s gradually reaching its full potential. More so, with the influx of SMEs and other businesses.
Ibadan’s Growing Digital & Technological Hub
In many respects, Lagos’ “Silicon Lagoon”, is Nigeria’s foremost digital and technology headquarter. But Ibadan’s growing digital and technology hub is one to pay close attention to.
With an entrepreneurial and tech-savvy youth, the city has grown to become a mini Lagos in terms of growing digital and tech enthusiasts, and startups.
And, of course, the growth of tech hubs and co-working spaces between 2017 and 2019 contributed to their recent success and expansion.
Therefore, spaces like Wennovation Hub, LPI Innovation Hub, iBridge Hub, Ecco Hub, Primacy edge Hub, and SteinServe Hub, have added bite to the businesses of many tech and digital startups in the city.
However, many of these workspaces and startups are concentrated in the highbrow business areas. Thus, much needs to be done to establish more across the city.
Doing that, will bring about more business investment into the state, increase the revenue generating power of the state, and businesses expand.
Truly, Ibadan is fast becoming Nigeria’s next business hub, and a growing ecosystem, even though Lagos houses most of the tech and digital ecosystems in Nigeria.
Despite Ibadan’s existing problems which include lack of an effective transportation system, modern facilities for effective business operation and its security challenges.
Ibadan made it to the global startup ecosystem map in 2021 due to the consistent growth of entrepreneurs, business investors/owners, ecommerce stores, digital marketing agencies, and technopreneurs.
According to a 2022 report by StartupBlink, which captures the ecosystem of Ibadan’s startups, through its city rankings, top industry, and notable startups’ scale.
Ibadan ranks 3rd nationally, 6th regionally (in Western Africa, precisely), and 661st globally, with a negative point of -1, -3, and -308 respectively, from its previous standing in 2021.
However, it also showed that Ibadan is the ideal place for social & leisure, health, and software & data startups.
Also, top industries like Foodlocker, Snap, Reality, Crop2Cash, Alerzo, Cura Network and Knitle were mentioned as startups that helped Ibadan achieve this feat.
Aside from all these aforementioned industries, many startups run by smart entrepreneurs have continued to put Ibadan on the map as Nigeria’s next business hub.
Some of them include, but are not limited to Sendme, Looper, Koya, Vasiti.com, and other promising startups and tech-oriented businesses.
And, of course, top digital marketing agencies that made it to Sortlist in 2022 like:
- Big Field Digital
- Morkem Advertising.
- Helprocure Tech Solutions.
- Jonnelblogs Media.
- Jetheights Services.
- Africaxpert Web developer.
- MultiComs Web Builders.
Although Ibadan still plays second fiddle to Lagos economically, due to lack of infrastructure such as an international airport, beaches, and a teaming population.
However, the city has grown to become one of the most sought-after business places in Nigeria, making it the go-to place for visionary business investors.
With a growing GDP and human development championed by young visionaries who are taking the bull by its horn by putting the city on the map.
And, of course, the vast land, tourist attraction, serene environment, and hospitable people of Ibadan have made it even more attractive for anyone looking to expand their business net.
Especially with the high cost of doing business in Lagos, and the need to start a business in a relatively less competitive environment that helps you make a killing.
This new reality, and more, has made Ibadan Nigeria’s next business hub for intelligent investors who are futuristic and ready to expand.
I believe that describes you. If it does, think no further; Ibadan city is waiting for your gentle touch. You will be glad you seize this golden opportunity to set the pace in your line of business.