The first of what real estate developers call “international-standard” malls to open in Lagos was The Palms, which was completed in 2005 in the neighborhood of Lekki. The Palms was low-slung and white, smallish compared to most American shopping centers, with an anemic selection of the eponymous palms placed in planters around the parking lot. Security guards checked trunks before letting cars into the lot and purses before letting shoppers through the sliding doors. The mall’s anchor tenants were the South African supermarket chain Shoprite and the South African superstore Game. The Palms also had a Cold Stone Creamery ice cream shop and a branch of the woman’s clothing chain Mango. The electricity was steady here, the climate controlled. The tiled floors shone. Outside was the informal economy: hawkers selling gasoline from jerry cans, windshield wiper blades, shrimp crackers, and newspapers to people...

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