LAGOS, NIGE­RIA WHAT IS THERE TO LOVE?

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Special Review | Kenya’s Top Restaurants - Words: PAUL ADEPOJU

Lagos, Nige­ria’s busi­ness nerve cen­tre and com­mer­cial cap­i­tal of West Africa has ev­ery odd stacked against it, yet it re­mains one of the most popular cities of the world. For any­one who loves to sleep a lot, Lagos is not the city for you be­cause it is pop­u­larly known as the city that never sleeps. As early as 3:00, res­i­dents are al­ready on the road and around 5:00, traf­fic be­gins to build up.

No one knows when the last per­son leaves the street – that’s if the street could even re­main empty. Un­like sev­eral other cities across Africa where laws re­strict move­ment and busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties to spe­cific hours, no one can tell Lagosians (as res­i­dents of Lagos are pop­u­larly called) when not to move around. For West Africans, Lagos is Dubai, London, New York and Mecca. It is an African city with the Golden Fleece, the place where all dreams could come true. The city at­tracts skilled, semi-skilled and un­skilled work­ers from across West Africa and be­yond due to the large num­ber of com­pa­nies, or­gan­i­sa­tions and multi­na­tion­als that are in the city. It is there­fore not in­ap­pro­pri­ate to call Lagos the best city in West Africa.

What did Lagos do right, what can other cities learn from it, and what chal­lenges should the state pre­pare for as it con­tends with over­pop­u­la­tion? Lagos’ de­vel­op­ment started when it be­came Nige­ria’s fed­eral cap­i­tal city. Like al­most all cap­i­tal cities in West Africa, Lagos is on the coastal re­gion and had large sea ports where ships berth.

When the cap­i­tal of Nige­ria was changed to Abuja, many West Africans thought the growth of Lagos had been punc­tu­ated. That wasn’t the case as the rate of growth and de­vel­op­ment in Lagos state con­tin­ued to in­crease. More busi­nesses opened in Lagos, many are still open­ing. It is now very clear that Lagos is Africa’s New York.

In terms of gov­er­nance, which is cen­tral to the de­vel­op­ment of any city, Lagos has been ex­tremely lucky. The last gov­ern­ments had been con­tin­u­ous, each con­tin­u­ing where the last stopped, un­like in other parts of West Africa, where there are con­flicts, ac­cu­sa­tions, al­le­ga­tions and nat­u­ral ten­dency of the in­cum­bent ad­min­is­tra­tion to pull down the former’s lega­cies.

Although Lagos state is the small­est state in Nige­ria, West Africa, with an area of 356,861 hectares of which 75,755 hectares are wet­lands, yet it has the high­est pop­u­la­tion, which is over five per cent of the na­tional es­ti­mate.

As at 2006, the pop­u­la­tion of Lagos State was 17.5 mil­lion (based on the par­al­lel count con­ducted by the state dur­ing the Na­tional Cen­sus) with a growth rate of 3.2%, the state to­day has a pop­u­la­tion that is well over 21 mil­lion. This was cor­rob­o­rated by the re­cent im­mu­ni­sa­tion ex­er­cise car­ried out across the state where over 4 mil­lion chil­dren were im­mu­nised. Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, at its present growth rate, Lagos state will be the third largest mega city in the world by 2020 after Tokyo in Ja­pan and Bom­bay in In­dia. Lagos’ strong­est bar­gain­ing cur­rency is its large pop­u­la­tion, which is higher than that of many coun­tries of the world. Lagos state has the largest mar­ket in Africa and it is also rid­ing on the suc­cess of the or­gan­ised pri­vate sec­tor and multi­na­tion­als that started and con­tin­ues to grow, ex­tend­ing to other parts of West Africa.

The nightlife in Lagos state is in­com­pa­ra­ble to any­where else in Africa. What­ever your sta­tus, Lagos has at least a place for you where you can cool off, chill out and re­lax. It has nu­mer­ous clubs, beaches, parks, malls and sev­eral oth­ers for dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of res­i­dents.

Many West Africans be­lieve Lagos is at­tract­ing more at­ten­tion than other cities in Western Africa be­cause it sup­ports all cat­e­gories of in­di­vid­u­als.

“Any­one can sur­vive in Lagos. Even if you don’t have any form of qual­i­fi­ca­tion you can still find a thing to do in Lagos. The pop­u­la­tion here is so large that any­thing can sell. That is why ev­ery­one is com­ing here,” says Oko­rie Au­gus­tine who sells bot­tled wa­ter at night on the Lagos Third Main­land Bridge.

Ayo Akanji is a tech­nol­ogy ex­pert who re­lo­cated per­ma­nently to Lagos. He says it is eas­ier to meet po­ten­tial part­ners in Lagos than any other part of West Africa. “If you go to the right clubs and other locations, you would meet the right peo­ple that you need to ad­vance your busi­ness. This is not easy else­where be­cause the

gap is wide.”

It is there­fore clear that the suc­cess of Lagos is not as hard as rocket sci­ence to de­ci­pher; it is all about its huge pop­u­la­tion. The com­pa­nies here are mak­ing prof­its be­cause the pop­u­la­tion is large enough; the gov­ern­ment is be­ing ap­plauded be­cause it is at­tract­ing more in­vest­ments and the startup scene con­tin­ues to ex­pand be­cause of in­no­va­tions aimed at solv­ing the chal­lenges that the large pop­u­la­tion is fac­ing.

Heavy traf­fic is prob­a­bly the sin­gu­lar chal­lenge that the city is bat­tling with. For res­i­dents who stay off the Lagos Is­land, they have to be on the road as early as 4:00 to es­cape the heavy traf­fic. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is also ex­pen­sive, forc­ing res­i­dents who can­not af­ford the high cost to move to the neigh­bour­ing cities across West Africa. New projects are spring­ing up in Lagos state and more land is be­ing re-ac­claimed from the wa­ters to give way for new struc­tures. Set­tle­ments are get­ting up­graded. And more jobs are be­ing cre­ated for the ever-expanding pop­u­la­tion who still see Lagos as the place where dreams could be ful­filled.

The city is not void of con­tro­ver­sies; as a mat­ter of fact, it is al­most im­pos­si­ble for any other African city to be­come more con­tro­ver­sial than Lagos. Re­cently, the state gov­ern­ment was at the cen­tre of an ex­ten­sive con­tro­versy and na­tional out­bursts, es­pe­cially from Nige­ri­ans who are in­di­genes of the south­east­ern part of the coun­try. They raised dust when the Lagos state gov­ern­ment ‘de­ported’ some of their na­tives who were found roam­ing about on the streets of Lagos. The af­fected re­gions vowed to dis­cour­age their na­tives from con­tribut­ing to the de­vel­op­ment of Lagos state, yet buses from this re­gion are filled daily with peo­ple head­ing to­wards the state.

The rea­son for this is not far­fetched; ac­cord­ing to Fran­cis Mado­jemu, founder of BridgeHub In­cu­ba­tion Cen­ter, more than 70 per cent of Nige­ria’s rev­enue is spent in Lagos.

“Out of ev­ery dol­lar made in Nige­ria, 70 cents is spent in Lagos. The rest of Nige­ria, in­clud­ing the Abuja Fed­eral Cap­i­tal City shares the re­main­ing 30 cents. That is just

Peo­ple keep talk­ing about the traf­fic; only those who are new in Lagos com­plain about the traf­fic. I don’t re­ally en­counter ma­jor traf­fic. The se­cret is to know the right time to leave the house, the route to take and the type of trans­porta­tion to use.”

to show the enor­mous in­flu­ence that Lagos has on the Nige­rian econ­omy.” He added that any se­ri­ous com­pany will strive to be in Lagos.

“It is so sim­ple and straight­for­ward. Lagos has the re­sources, op­por­tu­ni­ties and the mar­ket is large enough for most prod­ucts, why stay else­where? I don’t think this will change any­time soon.”

Although Lagos is rel­e­vant in the present, many still see it as a city for the fu­ture be­cause of the nu­mer­ous fu­tur­is­tic projects such as the Eko At­lantic City project that was re­cently com­mis­sioned by former US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. The state also re­cently com­mis­sioned Africa’s first sus­pended bridge and the tallest ho­tel in the en­tire West African re­gion.

Sev­eral other sim­i­lar land­mark projects are un­der­way, one of such is the Lagos Bul­let Train project; the state is also re­ju­ve­nat­ing old in­fra­struc­tures and res­i­dents are hav­ing the clos­est ex­pe­ri­ence to what hap­pens in the de­vel­oped world.

“Lagos is like a coun­try on its own and it is very unique. I am so proud of the achieve­ment the city has been able to record over the years. It shows that even in the midst of the hul­la­baloos and bad news that char­ac­terise Nige­ria in the for­eign me­dia, Lagos of­fers a bea­con of hope for the na­tion,” says Seun Akande, a Lagos res­i­dent.

World lead­ers are al­ready aware of the bea­con of hope ra­di­at­ing from Lagos, southwest Nige­ria, which is why it is al­most im­pos­si­ble for any world leader to visit Nige­ria with­out vis­it­ing Lagos. One of

Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, at its present growth rate, Lagos state will be the third largest mega city in the world by 2020 after Tokyo in Ja­pan and Bom­bay in In­dia. Lagos’ strong­est bar­gain­ing cur­rency is its large pop­u­la­tion, which is higher than that of many coun­tries of the world.

the lat­est vis­i­tors is the world’s rich­est man, Mi­crosoft’s Bill Gates.

When mu­sic le­gends visit Nige­ria, they are hosted in Lagos. It is no sur­prise that Mary J Blige, Kerry Hil­son, Bey­once, Yolanda Adams, Rick Ross and sev­eral other in­ter­na­tional mu­si­cians weekly throng to the city. Even lo­cal artiste are all in­ter­ested in win­ning their share of the Lagos mar­ket since all the ma­jor record la­bels are op­er­at­ing from Lagos.

In con­tem­po­rary Africa, how­ever, Lagos con­tin­ues to at­tract more peo­ple from across the world be­cause it of­fers the much elu­sive Golden Fleece. It also sup­ports hus­tling more than any other African city.

Even though many de­test the long hours spent in traf­fic, the op­por­tu­ni­ties are over­whelm­ing and the res­i­dents are al­ready ad­just­ing to the Lagos life­style.

“Peo­ple keep talk­ing about the traf­fic; only those who are new in Lagos com­plain about the traf­fic. I don’t re­ally en­counter ma­jor traf­fic. The se­cret is to know the right time to leave the house, the route to take and the type of trans­porta­tion to use,” says Eben Sowah, a To­golese res­i­dent in Lagos.

Ac­cord­ing to him, there is no man­ual that gives all nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion one needs to sur­vive in Lagos; one ac­quires the knowl­edge as one be­comes more fa­mil­iar with the city.

He said: “It took me just 3 weeks to know the city; for my friend, it took him sev­eral months. I don’t know about you. What I know is that at the end, we will all come to love Lagos.”

Lagos state is rich in his­tory, rel­e­vant in the present and po­si­tioned for the fu­ture. Lit­tle won­der the city slo­gan is Eko o ni baje (Lagos will never be de­stroyed). It will al­ways be the only African city that never sleeps.

The nightlife in Lagos state is in­com­pa­ra­ble to any­where else in Africa. What­ever your sta­tus, Lagos has at least a place for you where you can cool off, chill out and re­lax. It has nu­mer­ous clubs, beaches, parks, malls and sev­eral oth­ers for dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of res­i­dents.

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