Like All Good Neighbors
The Hawala Network
A hawala network is an informal system of monetary transfers that relies upon a strict honor
system and is common throughout most of Africa and parts of Asia. A person can make a deposit
(certified electronic funds, hard currency, precious metals or gems, or occasionally other highly valuable commodities) with a hawala in their area. For a percentage, generally 10-20 percent, the hawala gives the client a voucher. Then, generally, the hawala contacts another hawala in another city, transferring the funds to that hawala. Anyone with the correct voucher (a physical token, occasionally a written, electronic, even a verbal phrase or key) can then access the funds, which will be provided in the requested form (generally certified cred or hard currency). The system depends completely on the honor and honesty of the hawalas and the trust that their clients place upon them. As such, the men are often held in high esteem within their societies and often act as trustworthy and reputable fixers.
Hawala tokens in Lagos are often small items, such as tiny shells, fragments of bone, or small rocks with intricate carvings indicating the originating Hawala and value. Forging a Hawala token is a serious cultural taboo, and most Lagosians believe doing so will call down a curse on the thief. Eerie stories of carved leopards springing to life to slaughter a thief, or a plague killing his entire family, or spirits driving him mad are whispered throughout the sprawl.
Hawala tokens always have two sides, with symbols on both. The top shows the value, the bottom the hawala’s personal symbol. In Lagos, the network of Lagosian hawalas has agreed upon the common symbols and values.
Common Prices for Gear and Services in Lagos
- Heard you were heading to Lagos. Because I care, I’ve attached a price sheet, courtesy of that dog Duante. He says to tell you that these prices are what a native might get, or someone really hot at negotiating.
- Kat o’Nine Tales
AK-97 (only “slightly” used): 1,000 Naira
Ares Predator IV: 3,500 Naira
Regular Ammo (10): 200 Naira
Hotel (Porto Novo): 1,000 Naira
Hotel (Lagos Island): 1,000+ Nuyen (Naira not accepted)
Cab Ride (1 hr): 100 Naira
Okada Ride (1 hr): 20 Naira
Breakfast/Lunch (Roadside Vendor): 5–10 Naira
Dinner (Buka): 20 Naira
Dinner (Nice Restaurant): 200+ Naira
Typical Area Boy Bribe (foreigner rates): 100 Naira