Lagos, currently the largest city in Nigeria, is projected to become the largest in the world by the end of the century. Once a small coastal town, Lagos has transformed into a mega city with a population of 15 million, a number set to double by 2050. As cities grow into mega cities, they often offer better infrastructure and economic opportunities. However, in developing countries, this growth can also exacerbate wealth inequality, as evidenced by Mumbai, India. This article will explore the challenges faced by Lagos, the government’s 30-year plan for the city, and the role of international investments in Nigeria’s development.
The Challenges of Rapid Urbanization
Today, two-thirds of Lagos’ population live below the poverty line. The city struggles with a high crime rate, inefficient public transport system, and the impacts of climate change on natural resources. More than two-thirds of the people in Lagos live in informal housing, including slums, where access to basic facilities like water and sanitation is limited.
Poor public transport mainly consists of minivans and motorcycle taxis, with residents spending over 1500 hours in traffic annually. Lagos also has the smallest land mass in Nigeria, making it difficult to accommodate a growing population and their need for infrastructure. Recurring floods due to poor drainage systems further compound these challenges.
Lagos State Government’s 30-Year Plan
In response to these challenges, the Lagos State Government has developed a 30-year plan to transform Lagos into Africa’s model mega city and an ultra-modern economic destination. The Lagos State Development Plan (LSDP) 2052 focuses on four key objectives:
- Building a human-centric city
The plan comprises over 400 initiatives, each assigned to a specific ministry and categorized into four types, ranging from quick wins to long-term developments. The primary focus of the plan is to create high-value jobs, expand sectors like trade and manufacturing, and develop the city’s tech, film, and startup ecosystems. However, implementing the plan requires strong leadership and substantial funding.
China’s Role in Nigeria’s Infrastructure Development
Nigeria needs an estimated $3 trillion by 2050 to address its infrastructure gap. To secure these funds, Nigeria has been borrowing primarily from China, which has become an alternative to financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank. Today, China is Nigeria’s largest bilateral lender, funding large projects such as railways, hydroelectric power plants, and the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s main four airports.
Nigeria’s dependency on borrowing to fund infrastructure is clear, as the country’s total public debt crossed $100 billion in 2022. Despite this, Nigeria spends about 75% of its annual budget on civil servant salaries and other costs. Lagos State has higher tax revenue than any other state in Nigeria, but most of this revenue is not even collected.
Inclusive Development for a Sustainable Future
While Lagos’ population growth is undeniable, the new infrastructure and opportunities it brings cannot be sustained if the city’s poor and vulnerable populations are not included in the development plan. To create a truly ultra-modern economic destination, Lagos needs to expand its focus from just catering to the wealthy to including all social groups within the city.
When planning new residential projects, the city cannot merely concentrate on skyscrapers and luxury living. It must also develop solutions for low and mixed-income groups. This effort should include creating equal educational resources and employment opportunities, which can help residents afford a better standard of living.
Lagos should avoid modeling its development plan solely on systems from developed countries that urbanized in different economic and environmental periods. Instead, the city must identify its unique strengths and build upon them. One of Lagos’ most significant assets is its population, which holds immense potential for the future.
The Path Forward
Lagos’ transformation into Africa’s model mega city and an ultra-modern economic destination is not impossible, but it requires a comprehensive and inclusive approach to development. The city must prioritize:
- Expanding economic opportunities for all social groups, not just the wealthy.
- Creating affordable housing and infrastructure to accommodate the growing population.
- Developing a sustainable public transport system to reduce congestion and improve mobility.
- Ensuring access to essential services, such as water and sanitation, for all residents.
- Strengthening governance and transparency to ensure the efficient allocation of resources and collection of revenue.
Lagos stands at a critical juncture in its history. If the city can successfully implement its ambitious development plan, it could herald a new era of urbanization in Africa and set a precedent for other cities on the continent. However, realizing this vision will require a concerted effort from government, businesses, and citizens alike. Together, they can build a prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable future for Lagos and its residents.