" Let’s discuss why the Container City was the birthplace of all these new technologies. Before New Makoko industry had two big problems. First, it wasn’t naturally adaptive; factories were good at making what they were making, but the implementation of innovation required extensive retooling, making it expensive. Second, processes were incredibly wasteful, with the acquisition of a technology’s newest incarnation requiring that the previous version be discarded. The result was a mass-produced throwaway society, where the purpose of production was apparently – except for the momentary blip of individual ownership – to fill landfills.
The dual technologies of circular manufacture and 3D printing solved both these problems. Circular manufacturing created the possibility to reuse base materials – consisting of easily transformable molecules suspended in a nanobot reagent – with very limited waste, while 3D printing allowed for a departure from mass production into the realm of individualization and adaptation.
Though these technologies went through several incarnations, they eventually congealed in New Makoko into what we nowadays call ‘fast fab’ printing kiosks. Let me be clear, this was hardly the first attempt to install such technology, but due to general resistance previous attempts were stillborn. Unsurprisingly, really, since these technologies were incredibly disruptive. For example, they pushed trade online, with designs only turned into a physical product at the point of purchase, thereby undermining shipping; the profits of assembly line manufacture were squeezed, forcing the closing of plants and the laying off of workers; and the ability of individual designers to knock off products made by large conglomerates, and the difficulty of persecuting such loosely connected networks, reduced the profitability of patent-protected innovation.
The reason that "fast fab" kiosks were built in Nigeria was that the country was the state of its government. Money stopped all regulations and legislation, and 3D printing was profitable. Besides, the largest interest group in Nigeria was a ballooning middle class, with a great thirst for western gadgets at non-western prices. Catering to them meant allowing printing kiosks.
A law was adopted whereby any industrial building structure built over the Nigerian coastline & it’s economic zone was not subject to Nigerian patent and copyright laws. After that New Makoko grew almost organically into a coast hugging horizontal skyscraper. This law – which turned New Makoko into one of the only places where the 3D design could legally be stored – turned New Makoko into a storehouse of the world’s 3D designs, which were offered free of charge to the world at large. Though this might sound altruistic, it wasn’t. The designers of New Makoko benefited tremendously, as they used those very designs to manufacture the knock off products that the Nigerian populace so desired.
Of course, eventually through the application of international pressure, the laws surrounding Nigerian patents were reversed. By this time, however, the building had grown so large in status and size that the constant need to bribe police and suffer the occasional police raid had could not undermine it. In this case the decentralization of the building, something previously considered disadvantageous, became advantageous, as it could not be crippled by occupying some part of it.
Instead, the building became a victim of its own success. After spending two decades trying to dismantle New Makoko, the international community finally came to accept the container city and her implications. It became clear that open source design could be profitable, even for the designer, and patent laws were changed to be less restrictive. As the technologically fuelled social upheaval quieted down the world slowly inched towards a more New Makokoian model. New Makoko – which was still cramped, uncomfortable, dangerous and unsanitary – suddenly lost its reason for existence. The designers and crafters moved out of the cramped hotboxes and into a world that now accepted them. Their places within the Container City were taken by less savoury characters. From there it didn’t take long for the population to turn against it. The government moved quickly and – 24 years after it was built – the supporting structure blown up and she became a new habitat for fish. In other words, acceptance managed in a few years, what resistance hadn’t managed in two decades. A delicious irony, to be sure, though it did cost us one of the most unique building-architecture of the 21st century."