MapInfo and ESRI Battle For Nigeria’s GIS Market

The (geographic information system) GIS business in Nigeria is growing at an astronomical speed, it is no doubt that it is Africa’s fastest growing geospatial industry. No wonder there is a perceivable intense battle for the greatest share of the Nigerian GIS market.
Ten years ago GIS in Nigeria was mainly for the environmental and planning sectors and with an entire private sector patronage, today as the technology spreads like wild fire, thanks to the emerging GIS techies and smooth talking marketers and the growing opportunities.

Campaigns by industry frontliners like Dr. Agbaje, Dr. Jide Kufoniyi, Dr. John Onwuteaka, Prof. Peter Nwilo, new era industry drivers -Prof. Jimi O. and Alabo George have also contributed this growth. Federal and State Government in Nigeria are investing heavily in the Nigerian GIS market, the FG is setting up its spatial data infrastructure through the Office of the Surveyor General and National Agency for Space Research and Development (NASRDA), with related activities from several agencies and parastatals of the Federal Government. On the other hand the State Government through their offices of Surveyors General are implementing Land Information Systems, Digitizing Land records and using GIS as a planning and decision support platform. The Geoinformatics Society of Nigeria estimates that over 50 millions dollars was spent on GIS services and products in Nigeria in 2006. It is therefore not surprising that there is palpable tension in the market.

Two of the world’s leading GIS software manufacturers Environmental Systems Research Institute ESRI and MapInfo are competing for dominance in the market. In a recent survey anchored by GIS Village, the GIS user community in the commercial capital of the country, Lagos, showed that about 42percent of the professionals used ArcGIS products, 38 per cent MapInfo, 8 per cent Intergraph and 12 per cent Others.

MapInfo has recorded quite a level of success even without a marketing strategy and force in Nigeria while ESRI leads the market with its major reseller in Nigeria Delta Systematics Ltd and their roving business development manager Alabo George who combines smart marketing skills and personality with superior technical competence, as a talented application developer. MapInfo is making its several subtle strategic moves to consolidate and extend it share in the GIS market. One of these slamming moves may have ESRI roving evangelist Alabo George move to a coming MapInfo partner in Nigeria, for a much juicy offer. Already, ArcGIS to MapInfo migration strategies are being drawn out, while this is not confirmed, it is a move that observers say may cut ESRI market share by over 40% in the first year.

But I still wonder why MapInfo partners will prefer to start this aggressive campaign by trying to convert ESRI product users and countering a possible ESRI counter move by luring its technology symbol and lead technical support guy in that country, instead of digging new wells for new users and fresh opportunities. My concern is that huge investments have already been made in these companies and having them migrate may be just be another avenue for undue capital flight.

ESRI has done fairly well in the Nigerian market square, even without a major in-country Distributor, but some analysts say their products are more expensive and with a high gradient learning curve, but their effective marketing and technical support strategy in this region is keeping them ahead. Their failure to support higher educational institutions with donations is a lapse MapInfo agents will certainly be banking on, but whatever, the tensed dynamics remain, but for a while- as it stands , ESRI’s man- Alabo, the moves by MapInfo and the counter strategies by ESRI to tighten its grip in Nigeria, will determine the direction of the balance. For the community here, which ever way it goes in the near future, we look forward to a strengthened local technology drive and content at all levels, we expect Government to partner more with private sector in the industry. We expect local developers to start development of home made GIS applications that are more affordable and comprehensible, tapping from the vast opportunities and resources offered by Open Source GIS.

Source: Roger Schwatzer – Convener, Africa GIS Summit


  1. Roger I’ll love to thank you for this brilliant piece. The GIS industry is growing rapidly, but the progress is not matched with the required development in the sector, at the moment I can only say that just one company in Nigeria,Proxy Logics Nigeria, provides ‘beyond mapping’ GIS services, offering application development solution tailored for industry specific needs.

    ‘The battle for the Nigeria GIS industry is shall be driven by solutions’ so says Alabo George, and I totally agree. We need beyond the usual platform GIS, we need to narrow solutions , like Proxy Logics did when it released ProxyCAD 1.1. Solutions..Solutions and Solutions.

  2. It is a good omen that the ‘giants’ are battling for the Nigerian market. Yes let them battle each other infact the battle is overdue, it will make things better for us in Nigeria. Yes this battle is an eloquent testiomony to the fact that the Nigerian spatial industry is awake at last from a deep slumber.

    Nigerians have their own unique way of reacting to issues. Take MapInfo for instance. Every time a Nigerian company wishes to buy a MapInfo License, he has to contact the Spatial Technologies (pty) in south Africa which is some 6,000km away!. This had created a monopoly of a sort and it reminds one of the era of cable monopoly by DSTV. The result of this is the emergence of the ‘unofficial’ market for pirated MapInfo software at the popular Otigba (Nigeria’s home grown silicone Village). I received a rude shock when I saw a pirated MapInfo 7.0 displayed so brazenly at Otigba in 2006!

    Take Arcview 3x for instance, this is the most popular GIS application in Nigeria even up till now, as a matter of fact, I am tempted to believe that over 95% of Nigerian GIS professionals had used this software at one point or the other. Interestingly 98% of this application is pirated. This software is even more popular with GIS students in Nigeria’s universities and polytechnics, as a matter of fact, I wont be surprised if a survey reveals that over 95% of all these students have a copy of pirated Arcview 3x as at today.
    MapInfo 5.0 is the equivalence of Arcview 3x in Nigeria in terms of popularity. However just like Arcview 3x, about 99% of MapInfo 5.0 available right now in Nigeria falls under the ‘pirated copy’. The general thinking is, if Arcview 3x can accomplish most tasks, why worry about the ArcGIS series? This trend will not abate until ESRI and MapInfo decide to have a local representation in Nigeria.

    The idea of having a South African company cover Nigeria from South Africa is not working!
    To illustrate, in 2005, my former company, MTN Nigeria awarded a contract to a Nigerian company to supply 8 MapInfo licenses. This company had to buy from MapInfo’s office in UK through another company. Why not from South Africa?

    In 2007 again, MTN awarded yet another Nigerian company the contract to deliver another 20 MapInfo Licenses. I was scandalized when I discovered that the company procured the licenses from Germany through their technical partner. So if all these companies prefer to go to Europe rather than South Africa why then have a dealer in South Africa covering Nigeria? Why not in Europe?

    So I pray that ESRI and MapInfo will continue to battle each other for Nigeria’s GIS market, we the professionals and the entire spatial industry in Nigeria will benefit from this battle of the titans.

    -Ireti Ajala manages Spatial Technologies Ltd

  3. Please endeavour to establish a center in Nigeria where environmentalists and other related professionals can access your products and services.

    This will go a long way in promoting your brand and further enhance effective customer relationships.

    Thanks and Godbless,


  4. My organization is looking for a reliable GIS firm to work with in a pilot project on mapping of crime hotspots in Lagos. I will appreciate any pointers or lead you could give.
    Innocent Chukwuma

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