The Dynamics of Tokunbo Phenomenon and Imported Second-Hand Economy in Southwestern Nigeria


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Social Sciences


Tokunbo phenomenon is associated with Nigeria’s experience of the Western world. Tokunbo means “from over the seas.” During the colonial period and up to the late-1980s, it was common for Yoruba parents who conceived or bore children in Western countries to name those children “Tokunbo.” Such children are accorded elite status among their peers. Since the early 1990s however, “Tokunbo” has been used to describe imported second-hand goods—such as vehicles, automotive spare parts, electronics, and clothes—that have become more popular within the last 20 years. The choice to purchase second-hand goods has often been associated with financial hardship. Moving beyond this economic explanation, this study investigates the social dynamics of the Tokunbo phenomenon in the context of a growing second-hand economy in South-Western Nigeria. It draws on qualitative data and methods including archival records, oral history, in-depth interviews, focus-group discussions, and case studies in the cities of Lagos, Ibadan, and Abeokuta.