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This is Lagos, Nigeria the largest city in Africa.
Home to more than 22 million people, it’s facing a perfect storm of challenges.
So let’s look at how this megacity is trying to modernize.
The biggest challenge Nigeria faces is a population pyramid that’s overwhelmingly bottom heavy.
61% are younger than 25—that’s a lot of jobs to create and houses to build in the
coming years.
This problem is made worse by the extremely poor condition of the city’s infrastructure.
Badly designed and maintained motorways cause people to endure agonizing commute times,
and interrupted access to electricity causes regular blackouts.
Add in the threat of a rising ocean that’s steadily eroding the coastline, and the future
of this place looks bleak.
But perspective is relative, so let’s gain some.
165 years ago Lagos was an island fortress and one of the principal roots of the slave
trade, until the British navy bombarded it into submission and abolished the practice.
But slavery wasn’t outlawed in Northern Nigeria until 1936.
That means any Nigerian older than 85 can probably still remember slavery, or was a
slave themselves.
In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from the British.
But, the country quickly became engulfed in a civil war that killed as many as 3 million
people.
In the dark aftermath of this bloody conflict the country had one thing going for it: oil,
which provided a consistent source of income.
But the temptation of controlling all that black gold attracted deeply corrupt men, and
Nigeria endured decades of violent struggles between power-mad dictators and military officers.
With just two legitimate presidential elections under its belt, in 2011 and 2015, Nigeria
has only had six years of truly peaceful, independent — not completely corrupt — democratic
rule in its entire history.
All this upheaval was amplified by strong ethnic and religious divisions throughout
the country.
So for the federal government to appear legitimate, the capital had to move away from Lagos to
a more centralized, neutral part of the country.
Following in the footsteps of Brazil’s master-planned capital, Brasilia, the Nigerians built an
entire city from scratch during the 1980’s.
The relocation of thousands of government workers drove migration to this new capital,
Abuja, the fastest growing city in the world from 2000 to 2010.
Unfortunately, while Abuja thrived, Lagos languished.
With the city far away now it became even easier for deeply corrupt federal officials
to neglect the megacity’s needs.
But the its downward spiral is quickly changing direction thanks — largely — to one man,
the current governor of the state of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode.
Ambode earned his Master’s in accounting from the University of Lagos and studied abroad
in England, Switzerland, Singapore, and at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in
Boston.
[Osoba]: “Everything about this man is outstanding, everything about him…
He is someone who does not leave a place without changing it for the better.”
Now 53 — with a long career serving the people of Lagos under his belt — Ambode
hit the ground running upon his election in 2015.
He immediately began holding regular town hall meetings.
This helped him tailor his plans to best affect positive change for citizens that they could
see and feel.
He installed a team of competent deputies who’ve helped him implement his mega-master
plan of targeted micro projects to drastically improve conditions throughout the city.
Lagosians are already feeling the benefits of his less than two years in office.
[Citizen of Lagos]: “Today we are happy because the government have done a perfect
job here.
Now we can have a good access roads to get to our homes.
And you can see business around this area, they are doing very well.”
By making road fixes his first major task, Ambode wisely accomplished several important
things that any new leader should immediately set out to do:
1) He gave his team a series of small, achievable goals to accomplish, allowing him time to
weed out bad people and fix flawed management processes that bog down efficiency.
2) He gave himself some time to become comfortable in his new executive role and familiarize
himself with the levers of power.
And 3) He gained the trust of the people by doing something simple, but important: completing
a project that everyone wanted, on-time and on-budget.
Now that his government is working well, Ambode is well positioned to tackle much more complex
problems like improving the efficiency of the bus system; building a massive urban rail
system; providing all citizens with uninterrupted access to electricity; cleaning up Lagos’
badly polluted environment; partnering with private industry to try and give all Lagosians
access to affordable food, housing, and health care; and improving the pay of police, first
responders, and security personnel.
In addition to the construction of several bridges and other traffic improvements, Lagos
is also installing 6,000 new street lights and 13,000 Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
cameras and security sensors for surveillance and crime prevention.
These efforts are working: Lagos was named the most security and safety-conscious state
in all of Africa last year, and Ambode was named Nigerian governor of the year.
By leading the mega-overhaul in the way civil society conducts itself, Ambode represents
one half of the equation in creating a modern Nigeria.
He also seems perfectly positioned to go on to serve as President and lead his people
on their quest to claim their rightful place as Africa’s powerhouse country.
The other half of this modernization equation rests largely on the success of two key mega-projects
under construction in Lagos and Abuja: Eko Atlantic, a financial hub that’s being built
on reclaimed land along the coast; and Centenary City, a gated luxury mini-city outside of
Abuja where elites will live and stay while conducting business in the capital.
[Builder] “The goal is to establish Lagos as the financial hub and commercial hub of
the continent of Africa.”
Geographically, Nigeria is centrally-positioned to lead Africa’s emergence in the second
half of the century, but it must approach development carefully.
With many parts of Lagos, and the rest of the country, living in squalor without good
jobs or adequate housing, spending tens of billions of dollars to build playgrounds for
the rich runs the risk of making the majority of the Nigerian people feel neglected, and
angry.
In fact, the Centenary City project in Abuja is already tainted by allegations of corruption.
Another challenge facing Lagos is the unstoppable rising sea level, which will eventually submerge
most of the existing city.
It faces the same dilemma as many other coastal metropolises around the world: stop building
on land that will likely be completely underwater by the end of the century and start building
inland, or live for the immediate future by building where people want to live now, along
the waterfront.
I’m confident that you’ll be hearing a lot more about Nigeria and it’s rising star,
Governor Ambode, as the confronts these challenges head-on in the years ahead.
I’m glad you enjoyed our previous video in this series about the push to land humans
on Mars.
It started some interesting exchanges around colonizing space generally, how to specifically
reach mars in the most efficient way, and what we should call the global space agency
I proposed forming to make it happen.
Until next time, for TDC, I’m Bryce Plank.
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Africa's Mega-City: Future MEGAPROJECTS

2437 Folder Collection
rcnwxiqtnqj published on May 14, 2017
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