Mid­dle-class life in Lekki

The Africa Report - - COUNTRY FOCUS -

Malls, art and im­prov­ing in­fra­struc­ture are at­tract­ing peo­ple to this fast-grow­ing part of La­gos

When Face­book founder Mark Zucker­berg vis­ited La­gos last Au­gust, he went on a jog across the Lekki-ikoyi Bridge. It is a land­mark that serves as a gate­way to a rel­a­tively new district of the city: the devel­op­ment of Lekki Penin­sula is about the same age as the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion to which the tech com­pany bil­lion­aire be­longs. La­gos’s ad­min­is­tra­tors up­hold Lekki as an ideal neigh­bour­hood for the mid­dle class. To res­i­dents, the hope is that Lekki’s devel­op­ment can be con­trolled to al­low it to re­main an at­trac­tive piece of real es­tate for a long time, un­like parts of the La­gos main­land. Jerry Agba, a hu­man re­sources pro­fes­sional who lives in a Lekki sub­urb, tells The Africa Re­port: “We moved here be­cause it’s a new area, un­like An­thony, where I used to live. Lekki is de­cent and neat com­pared with other parts of La­gos, so we hope the gov­ern­ment can keep it this way.” Lo­cated on a nat­u­rally formed neck of land, Lekki has been blos­som­ing grad­u­ally since the early 1980s, when the state gov­ern­ment built 80km of roads through what was then mostly a swampy rain­for­est. The road linked the up­scale Vic­to­ria Is­land district to Epe, an an­cient town at the eastern edge of the state.

ALL ABOUT THE MALL

About 10 years ago, Lekki be­came the site of the coun­try’ s first modern shop­ping mall, the Palms Shop­ping Cen­tre. Lo­cated near Vic­to­ria Is­land, it has an­chor stores that in­clude Shoprite and Game – South African de­part­ment stores brands that have since ex­panded their foot­print in the coun­try. Since then, Lekki has be­come a prized res­i­den­tial district, with the sprout­ing up of nu­mer­ous hous­ing es­tates, more shop­ping malls and recre­ational fa­cilit- ies such as beaches, a wildlife con­ser­va­tion area and night-time spots. This growth of ameni­ties is part of what makes Lekki at­trac­tive to res­i­dents. So says Ash­ley Ok­wu­osa, a jour­nal­ist who re­cently moved back to Nige­ria from the United States: “Lekki is a thriv­ing hub, and it’s one of the rea­sons I like liv­ing here,” she says. Draw­ing par­al­lels be­tween Lekki and Ne­wark, New Jer­sey, she counts the abun­dance of es­tab­lish­ments that pro­vide es­sen­tial ser­vices, and even cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions like the pop­u­lar Nike Cen­tre for Art and Cul­ture, as part of what makes Lekki a de­sir­able place to live. “I can find al­most ev­ery­thing I need with­out hav­ing to cross the toll gate or Lekki-ikoyi Bridge,” she adds. The penin­sula is also home to an emerg­ing free­trade zone that is lo­cated fur­ther a field from Vic­to­ria Is­land. Ma­jor in­dus­trial projects in the area in­clude an oil re­fin­ery com­plex cur­rently be­ing built by the Dan­gote Group, as well as a deepsea port and an in­ter­na­tional air­port, both of which are be­ing pro­moted by the state gov­ern­ment. There is also a new shop­ping mall. The No­vare Lekki mall is sit­u­ated in the San­gotedo area, about 4km from the cam­pus of the La­gos Busi­ness School and one hour from Vic­to­ria Is­land in light traf­fic. Set in an area that is still very much un­der devel­op­ment, the mall has been es­tab­lished in an­tic­i­pa­tion of an ex­pected boom. Man­ager of the mall Jo­han Blom notes that the num­ber of res­i­den­tial es­tates within prox­im­ity of the fa­cil­ity un­der­scores a mar­ket op­por­tu­nity: “There are no less than 15 res­i­den­tial es­tates nearby, in ad­di­tion to the Lekki Free Trade Zone area, where nu­mer­ous com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties are al­ready de­vel­op­ing,” he says. Blom points out that since the mall was opened in Au­gust, cus­tomer traf­fic has been in­creas­ing by 30% each month. But de­spite the res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial boom through­out the Lekki Penin­sula, there are no­table in­fra­struc­ture chal­lenges that threaten its ap­peal. One of these is power. Blom notes that con­stant power from the na­tional grid to the area re­mains a chal­lenge, but adds that this is not pe­cu­liar to the area where the mall is lo­cated. Within the hous­ing es­tates and in­ner streets of the main Lekki com­mu­ni­ties, the state of roads are far from ideal, while drainage sys­tems are par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic, caus­ing flood­ing – and traf­fic – when­ever it rains. The well-heeled res­i­dents, some of whose prop­er­ties sit on plots of land that are val­ued at as much as N500m ($1.6m) in the prime ar­eas like Lekki Phase 1 and 2, hope the ur­ban plan­ning mishaps that plague other parts of La­gos will not re-oc­cur. Charles Idem in La­gos

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