The Tragedy of Chaotic Urbanization in Africa

August 7, 2019

Economists would argue that in most countries urbanization is a precondition for faster economic development. In cities there is a bigger concentration of critical resources necessary for economic development: banks, enterprises, schools, services, more educated people. This is true, except in cases of completely chaotic, unplanned urbanization. Many large metropolitan areas in developing countries, including on the African Continent, grew fast and massively, without any ability on the part of municipal authorities to provide adequate infrastructure in order to create livable environments. The segment below, from a recent post, illustrates the nightmarish conditions caused by epic traffic congestion in Lagos, the main economic center of Nigeria.

Employees in Lagos are stressed, burned out and exhausted because of ‘hellish traffic’

“Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — Lagos traffic is so snarled and gridlocked that a recent trip from the airport to Ajah, on Lagos Island — a journey shorter than 50 kilometers — took me eight hours. That was two hours longer than my flight from Istanbul to Nigeria.

Welcome to traffic and travel Lagos-style, where the roads are clogged and millions of commuters are choked with frustration about the daily hassle in Nigeria’s commercial capital and Africa’s fifth largest economy.

Disgruntled commuter Yinka Ogunnubi is a typical example, recently tweeting: “Left my house by 5:30 a.m., got to work at 9:10 a.m. This is no longer work, it is suffer-head. Dear Boss, Can I work from home?”

Although many in Nigeria find the city alluring, especially for economic reasons, living in Lagos, the third most stressful city in the world, can take a mental toll.

The city is unhealthily crowded. Despite being the smallest state in the country, it has the highest urban population with an estimated population of 22 million people and counting, more than double New York or London’s tally.

More than eight million people, moving in five million vehicles cram into a tiny network of just 9,100 roads every day. This is the reason why Lagosians spend an average of 30 hours in traffic each week — or 1,560 annually — while drivers in Los Angeles and Moscow traffic spent only 128 and 210 hours respectively in the whole of 2018.

Lagos is projected to become the world’s biggest city by 2100, with a population of 88.3 million. It urgently needs better road facilities and a high-capacity transit system.”

–Shakir Akorede, for CNN • Published 2nd August 2019