The Nigerian Alternative Space; NTFs and Metaverse

Nosa Alekhuogie BY THIS WEEK IN TECH

With the global trend of digitalising access to real-time and universal processes, the need to fully tap into the unlimited potentials of the internet and the usability of this virtual space is top on the list of the world’s most needed engagement. In achieving this, the world has experienced a wealth of evolving inventions, many of which have redefined the outlook of what the future holds for global digitalisation and human interaction with the alternative space.


A number of these inventions have gradually opened billions of internet users to several Blockchains. Part of these is the Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and the Metaverse, which are vital contributors to this ever-increasing engagement as they are fast becoming economic drivers. Industries and governmental establishments are beginning to re-address their traditional outlook on products and services as a one-off process that only stirs interest in their customers. Rather, the economic value of product and services now have an interactive value addition for both parties, that is, both the company and the buyer of the product alternatively exchange value.

The NFTs
The Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are patented units of data stored on the blockchain, a digitalised database replacing cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, Bitcoin, Solara, etc. The major difference here is the NFTs’ non-interchangeability, unlike other cryptocurrencies. With NFTs, one can buy or sell digital substances like artworks, tweets, virtual trading cards and images, videos, virtual real estate, records, etc.


The NFT market, as of 2021, was worth $24.9 billion globally, with 42 per cent of Nigerians owning one or more crypto-related products or trading such. This, therefore, puts Nigeria as the foremost crypto-engaged nation in the world, but the story glides into a low when NTFs are concerned. There is a dire need for more Nigerians to engage in the alternative space the same way young artists, musicians, fashion enthusiasts, educators, and organisations are digging deep into this virtual space.


A typical testimonial was historically recorded in 2021 when Jacon Osinachi, a digital artist, auctioned a series of NFTs at Christie, London. Another is the collaboration between ART X Lagos and SuperRare to host the first activation platform globally, and the contributions of Michael Ugwu, a pioneer NFT art collector in Nigeria, also widens the scope. These are bits of what could be achieved asides from the jaw-enlarging turnovers that these art pieces pull in.  


In his book Rolling Stone, author and investor, Larry Dvoskin explained that the goal for NFT is that of building a community. He noted that people invest their time, ideas, collaborations, talks, support, and purchase of other art and projects solely to build a community, the cornerstone behind any success story. He further addressed the fact that with NFTs, the need to be engaged is created for definite interest groups, and with this, global interest as regards the specific group rapidly receives attention.

Metaverse
For Metaverse, the focus is on online users having real-life experiences through interconnected virtual and augmented environments. This level of engagement blends the physical and virtual realities in the sense that it connects to every aspect of human interaction. There is a sort of transition or escape the Metaverse provides for users that creates an alternative world for them and helps them stretch the full potential of the online space through technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (AR). The closest we have to this experience is that of the gaming industry, the 3D experience, but the Metaverse provides even more.


Another boom that comes with the Metaverse is the integration of the blockchain and the Web3 experiences. Metaverse through the Blockchain helps users decentralise control of what they do in their various virtual spaces, which means roles of tech giants are actively sidelined. On the other hand, the web3 secures the users’ absolute ownership and control of data and the maximum security that comes with encryption. This translates to users deciding when their data is to be used, seen, and shared. The centrality of the Internet of Things (IoT) also comes with web3, which allows for smooth interoperability in the virtual space. The user is not only secured in terms of privacy but also made to engage in value addition and influencing structures of the companies through the help of NFTs and smart contracts.

Nigeria Vs NFTs and Metaverse
Nigeria, as a country, is a potential benefactor of the boom and trending economic injections of NFTs, and the Metaverse opens the global world. Her massive young population agrees with this, but the thorn therein is seen in the under-exploration or redundancy that comes with adapting to the global technological trend. Several reasons are responsible for this, but still, few Nigerians have found their path in redefining the contributions of what the country tends to gain.


Some viral pictures of an elderly drummer, Ayangbele ‘Baba Onilu’, were taken by Adisa Olashile, a National Youth Service Corps member in Ibadan, who converted the pictures to NFTs and sold them for half a million naira.
Anthony Azekwoh, one of the most visible digital artists on the continent, also made huge gains from NFTs and has gone on to help emerging artists.


Oyindamola Oyewumi, a female ballpoint pen artist hit came to the limelight when she posted her picture of Charles Hoskinson, the co-founder of Ethereum, who later helped her put the picture for sales as an NFT. The list is endless, but the attention given to this easing opportunity is not leading to the needed adaptation necessary for Nigeria to build a wealth breeding digital space.


In addition to this, the goal of building a Metaverse is herculean in nature, considering the innate challenges attached to Nigeria’s reality first as a physical entity before considering it to be a virtual conception. Unlike South Africa, which is drastically working at building the African Metaverse called the Ubuntuland, all in amassing the wealth of creativity, commerce, and the economic strength of the cryptocurrencies, Nigeria is still contending with how cryptocurrencies further devalue the worth of the naira. According to an article posted by the APO Group, many multinationals have begun to show interest in acquiring virtual lands. It is pitiable that having a Nigerian alternative virtual space remains a distant reality because the high cost of the internet still cumbers the nation. Despite the able population, the truckload of unemployed individuals put the internet on a luxury list. With the Metaverse comes a need for this population to acquire enabling accessory gadgets which are unaffordable for average Nigerians who earn less than $1 daily.


The need for a 5G network is too tall for the crippling adaptation capacity of the Nigerian telecommunication space. Presently, the country is still transiting a large chunk of its population to the 4G network.
We have the issue of constant power supply ravaging this dream because Nigeria cannot generate the needed power to control the country daily; therefore, accommodating the Metaverse is spiking the anguish of the average Nigerian.    

Despite challenges, Nigerians Engaging Global Virtual Space
Names like Delz Erinle and Niyi Oyewole, co-founders of Astra, a crypto-driven structure that amalgamates fashion and gaming, have made the virtual space necessary. The big dream is to create a multi-chained metaverse that will allow for social events and Metacommerce. While social event hosting allows for the rent of virtual spaces, the latter plunges into creating an in-store shopping experience for users using wearable technologies.


For Idiat Shiole, a 3D fashion designer, the Metaverse has opened her to a kind of freedom that traditional and physical fashion cannot give her. Her desire is to create virtual fabric designs that resonates with her language and identity without the poking fear of stagnating commercialisation or acceptability. Music producer Don Jazzy also refused to allow the Nigerian disenabling factor to dissuade him as he purchased some virtual land properties on Dentraland, worth $80,000 on averagely.

Conclusion
The enormous proceeds that will come with the Nigerian government and private institutions adapting to the global trends of the digital sphere, as relating to the booster effects of cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and the need to build a Nigerian alternative space, are significant economic signifiers for a futuristic harvest. There is so much to be earned from owning a virtual space. Young Nigerians are, hereby, challenged daily to forgo the downsized realities of the country and explore the emerging benefits of NFTs and the Metaverse because the future here is an evolving one, and no one knows how big it will turn out to be.

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