by Tolu Orekoya
The sprawling city-state of Lagos State has been a headache for more than a few governments. Long left to decay by a combination of corruption and bad governance there has been a slow but steady move to build a future city capable of dealing with 40 million people. A United Nations population estimate puts the city as the number one most populous metropolis on the continent, but no one really knows for sure. Spotty census details and the influx of migration due to population displacement in other parts of the country have forced the city’s numbers to expand massively in a small amount of time.
The efforts of two successive Lagos State governors, Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola have caught the eye of the Financial Times, and say that the progress made in the state may be a model for other expanding cities on the continent.
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What is known is Lagos’s old reputation and that is not good. “Housing congestion, traffic congestion,” says Mr Adediran, reeling off a list in his office. “Broken social and physical infrastructure. Slums. Mountains of refuse blocking the roads. Bad security.”
He pauses, before adding: “But things have changed.”
Mr Adediran is right. While the “go-slow” traffic jams do still occur, the drive from the financial district on Victoria Island to the Lagos State government offices in Ikeja takes 30 minutes, rather than 90 minutes as it may have done a few years ago. On the long bridge across the Lagos Lagoon, where thousands of shacks are perched on stilts in the water, women in bright yellow overalls with “Highway Managers” printed on the back sweep away the rubbish.
Labourers fill in a pothole and replace a set of traffic lights; their “Men at Work” sign includes a sticker saying “Pay your taxes”. A bus speeds by in a dedicated lane, part of the continent’s first bus rapid transport system. Giant concrete pillars signal the progress of a rail system that will soon start ferrying commuters.
This is all part of an ambitious, long-term plan by the Lagos state government to transform one of the continent’s most dysfunctional urban centres into “Africa’s model megacity”. Given that it generates around a quarter of Nigeria’s gross domestic product, the rebirth of Lagos is crucial to the future of Nigeria, which hosts one in six people in sub-Saharan Africa. The country also has the region’s second-biggest economy and is its largest oil producer.
Lagos’s progress is also an important case study for other large cities on the continent. Its rapid growth – the population has risen eightfold from 1.4m in 1970 – and accompanying challenges are not unique. Across Africa, the urban population has grown from 23.5 per cent of the total population in 1970 to nearly 40 per cent today. Though the pace of migration to cities is slowing, high fertility rates mean that African cities have been expanding quicker than in most other parts of the world in recent years, and will continue to do so.
Between 2010 and 2020, Lagos and Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo, will add 3.6m and 4m people to their respective populations.
For more head to : Financial Times