The City For All

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.

Over the last half decade, portraits of the city have evolved from apocalyptic renditions to a more nuanced narrative that takes into account the internal mechanisms maintaining an interethnic, interreligious and social equilibrium. Strong neighborhood communities exist where young and old, rich and poor. Muslims and Christians and the diverse ethnic and West African identities live closely together supporting and benefitting from each other. With creativity, zeal and an innovative spirit, many are able to find their place within the city and an income that supports their families back home.

Meanwhile, the efforts of Lagos State Government in recent years to improve the infrastructural standard of the city and to encourage foreign investment got wide acclamations both locally and internationally. But it does not come without a price: gated communities are being created for middle and high income class excluding the poor, low income jobs and housing are being destroyed to upgrade infrastructure, gigantic infrastructural projects destroy the fragile ecological systems along the Lagoon and coast. This threatens to deepen social and economic segregation of the populace due to dwindling resources and opportunities and could result in increased tension and conflict with tremendous negative impacts on its socio-economic development not only for the city, but also Nigeria and the whole West African region, already destabilized by local and geo political terror movements.

Taking Lagos as case-in-point, the Open City project aims to spark conversation on how space, urban planning and the collective strategies of urban actors shape the experience of living in Lagos. The project sets to explore the conditions that create and sustain ‘open city’ dynamics, engaging with thinkers and doers in Lagos across multiple platforms. Its intension is to identify how its citizens and their government can gain from the competitive advantage of diversity, mobility and access to complement on-going efforts to address the deep-seated and complex challenges facing Lagos. Towards this end, OCL will also initiate exchanges with other cities around the world where open city initiatives are evident, both through planned activities led by municipal authorities and the strategies taken up by local residents and groups.

This is a project developed by Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS, Nigeria) (, Nsibidi Institute (Lagos) ( and Fabulous Urban (Zurich) (

Getting Involved

The project kicked off with a call for all who live, work and visit Lagos to share their perspectives on the inclusive nature of city. This includes the experiences of new arrivals, the quality of its public spaces, navigating the city, interacting with its boundaries, as well as the concept of openness itself. Responses were uploaded directly on to the Facebook page or sent to

The most insightful and creative submissions will be shortlisted and featured at the exhibition for the Open City Lagos international event in October 2015. A wide array of formats were acceptable within these parameters:

  • Short videos (3-5 minutes)
  • Music, audio compilations and sound performances (3-5 minutes)
  • Photographs (with captions of up to 300 words)
  • Short write-ups (up to 300 words)
  • Drawings, models and sculptures (size and weight limits apply – please check with project administrators)