Megacity Lagos

Megacity Lagos


Plumes of smoke, splintered wood and twisted pieces of corrugated iron, surrounded by mounds of debris were frequent roadside sightings in 2016 around Eti Osa Local Government in Lagos State. At times these periodic demolitions of roadside shops and markets caused one to stop in ones tracks because they actually resembled bomb sites in a war zone, where destruction takes place without any immediate moves to remove the ugly damage...  

Market women and informal traders in Lagos contribute massively to the urban economy of the city; through payment of various taxes and levies but also through sustaining transport, construction, food and other sectors, even in times of deep recession. They contribute their share to the internally generated revenue and therefore should expect in return social services in form of local infrastructure, access to low interest credit etc.


The approach of the Makoko Neighborhood Hotspot intends to demonstrate that low-tech, flexible, low-cost and strategic yet precise interventions can increase the share of urban consumers and taxpayers which again increases the city’s overall welfare – opposite to the often implemented top-down, investment intensive and heavily donor or elite-driven big-infrastructure solutions as they have mostly failed in (West-) Africa.

Lagos is a city relying heavily on road use by private cars and public buses.  With the growth of population, inadequate maintenance of the road network, badly maintained cars, insufficient public transport planning, and weak policies on pollution & climate change, roads are congested and pollution is on the rise. It is therefore timely to explore possibilities for introducing cycling as a sustainable non-motorized transportation mode for Lagos which also enhances mobility for the urban poor and increases interaction among nearly all groups. Just like investing in an efficient public transport system, investing in cycling entails social, economic and environmental benefits for cities.

The publication is the result of a year long research process led by Fabulous Urban, Zurich, with local experts and final year students’ examining the relation between urban policies, urban interventions, the role of governance and the different actors in Lagos. The publication looks at four case studies with  detailed overviews, graphics and analysis demonstrating that strategic adjustments in the overall politics and policies guiding the urban development of Lagos are needed to reach out to   all Lagos residents  who is at the center of the urban and economic development.

The publication “Open City Lagos”, a cooperation with Nsibidi Institute Lagos and Fabulous Urban Zurich, intends to initiate a public reflection and discourse on the characteristics of an “open city” where the co-existence of different social groups and the richness of cultural diversity come together to foster growth that is diverse, equitable, creative, sustainable and inclusive.

On December 12, 2015, the Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront Community celebrated the opening of the first neighborhood hotspot. The construction was initiated and supervised by Fabulous Urban, a Swiss architect and urban design firm, with funds from the Swiss Embassy Nigeria. Townplanner Aro Ismaila and Architect Mo Ajala completed the expert team and the community carpenters and artisans built the centre between April and September 2015.


In its efforts to increase its internally generated revenue and to be less dependent from dwindling federal resources, the Government of Lagos made several unsuccessful attempts to tax small business owners in the informal sector, writes Adeolu Adesanya. It’s through a participatory approach that the Government finally succeeded in integrating the informal sector into its taxation system.


If taken as a country on its own, Lagos would be amongst the largest economies in Africa. It has been able to diversify its economy and to considerably reduce its dependence on oil allocations. But its potentials are still huge if it invested in skilled labour force, reduced its bureaucratic hurdles and adopted an inclusive development approach.


From everyday encounters to planning considerations, Kingsley Iweka shares his reflections on the city of Lagos drawing from recent conversations at the Heinrich Boll and Nsibidi Institute’s Open City Lagos Brainstorming Brunch held in April 2015. As one of the project’s shortlisted candidates, he speaks within his personal capacity as a writer coming to terms with how the city accommodates the subjects of his prose.

Lagos is a dynamic, teeming city of over 15 million inhabitants and counting. Even with strained access to services and a housing stock far outpaced by the city’s growth, Lagos remains a magnet for those in other Nigerian states and neighboring West African countries. With an estimated 600,000 people added each year, openness appears to be a defining feature of Lagos. Yet the concept of openness encompasses more than just urban migration and the city’s ability to absorb this influx. It refers to inclusion in terms of the quality of social, economic and spatial conditions in the city.

A city without a slum??? This Eco Trio adventure highlights the reality of the Makoko slum built on the frontage of the Lagos lagoon and Points to feasible ways in which some of their problems can be addressed especially through regenerative planning… This Eco Trio adventure tells more

Road enlargement Amuwo Odofin

A local government should be the closest government to the people but in Nigeria it only has minimal implementation power. This is the experience of the organization Community Conservation and Development Initiatives (CCDI). In their climate change training programmes and various initiatives aimed at building local adaptative capacity for climate change resilience at local government level, they realized that initiatives and planned actions are constrained and hampered by poor land use planning and lack of integration of climate change factors into development agendas. In a participatory research project in Amuwo Odofin Local Government they critically analyzed the scope of actions assigned to local governments compared to state governments on existing land use policies, regulations and laws and developed a participatory risk reduction and management blue print.


Alfa Beach used to be a popular weekend destination for Lagosians, until the ocean washed it away. It destroyed not just a beach, but also the local community’s livelihood and houses. The danger has not subsided: the sea is moving into the land at an alarming pace. How can the people of Okun Alfa cope, and will they be able to organise themselves?


In an effort at expanding the space for discussions on sustainable urban development in Lagos with specific interest on how the new development in Eko Atlantic City can be made to live up to its description as a city of the future, architect and writer Ayodele Arigbabu has created a narrative located in a fictionalized version of the new city, using the experiences of a young girl visiting the city on holiday as an opportunity to learn about the challenges cities face and possible ways of making cities more livable.

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Open City Lagos is a conversation enacted across Lagos and with other cities, with a focus on the day-to-day experiences, grassroots initiatives and new opportunities for development and inclusion. As a project, it was designed as an attempt to re-discover the instances and mechanisms that encourage people from diverse social, ethnic and religious backgrounds to interact and to commonly make use of limited resources with the effect of increasing their personal and collective good.

Makoko Neighborhood Hotspot

The hotspot is an integral part of the Makoko/Iwaya Regeneration plan developed in a participatory approach with the community and local and international professionals. To read more about the colourful opening ceremony and the Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront community

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The Makoko-Iwaya Waterfront regeneration plan is a comprehensive people centered development framework. The major objective is ensuring participation and community ownership. The plan looks at all facets of life and development.

 This plan, if implemented, could turn Makoko/Iwaya community into a worldwide showcase of a sustainable and flood-resilient lifestyle.


It is widely expected that Lagos will become the largest city on the African continent within the next ten to fifteen years, surpassing Cairo. Being a melting pot of numerous Nigerian and West African identities, cultures and religions, Lagos has been offering millions of people dreams and hopes for a more prosperous future. As a coastal city with many of its parts lying just above sea level, Lagos faces the additional and peculiar challenge of flooding. Intelligent and innovative strategies are needed to combine the requirements of economic growth and infrastructure development with sustainable urban governance. 

The Heinrich Böll Foundation runs the Megacity Lagos programme from a liaison office in the City. Cutting across all projects, our partners emphasise the need to include Lagos citizens in urban planning and implementation processes at the local and State Government level. Our aim is to offer a discussion platform where ideas for a sustainable and equitable Lagos can emerge - so that Lagos would be called not only the biggest but also one of the most liveable cities in Africa.


Megacity means mega challenges. This publication looks at answers to Lagos’ pressing questions, such as a rapidly growing population, managing the waste such a huge population produces, adequate and affordable housing at a time when flooding is making land uninhabitable for a substantial part of the year, job creation and transportation. Can Lagos become a model megacity?

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This edition of Perspectives asks, “What are sustainable African cities?”. In so doing, it offers a snapshot of Africa’s urban sustainability challenges, ranging from tensions between heritage and urban renewal.