Thursday, 28th September 2023

Why Lagos development vision leaves citizens behind, by ACRC

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
05 December 2022   |   4:08 am
Notwithstanding increased adoption of technology to leapfrog development in Lagos, insights from ongoing study released by the African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) – a multi-city project, point to limited success, or in some cases, reversed development for intended beneficiaries.


Notwithstanding increased adoption of technology to leapfrog development in Lagos, insights from ongoing study released by the African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) – a multi-city project, point to limited success, or in some cases, reversed development for intended beneficiaries.

ACRC, which brings together researchers, community organisations and practitioners, presents an opportunity to work together to achieve a shared understanding of the political economy of African cities, to identify and address the critical challenges cities are facing.

The research brief summarises central themes emerging from preliminary findings conducted by ACRC’s team. It is further informed by initial engagements with multi-sectoral stakeholders across government, academia, media, private sector, civil society and local community groups in the country.

The City Lead, Prof. Taibat Lawanson, said: “Our aim is to generate robust insights and evidence that will help improve living conditions, service delivery and life chances for all city residents, with a particular focus on disadvantaged communities.

“These findings are being interrogated further as research progresses. They will cascade into the identification of Priority Complex Problems (PCPs) that have an overarching influence on the functioning of the city. There will be additional engagement on how to collaboratively address them through strengthening existing formal and informal systems of governance across various city systems and domains.”

The research said, significant investments have been made in transport infrastructure, industrial zones, technology and broadband infrastructure across the state. Research by the ACRC Lagos team also revealed that these investments had brought mixed results, with successes, failures and some unintended consequences.

In many cases, local peculiarities are overlooked in the deployment of technology options. Most striking is the neglect of informal systems and citizen-led initiatives that are already being deployed to bridge infrastructure and governance gaps, which form the fulcrum of the city’s daily life.

In Lagos, the thematic areas of interest are structural transformation, safety and security, neighbourhood and district economic development and housing. The city systems under interrogation include transport, healthcare, education, waste management, energy, water and sanitation, as well as food distribution, finance, Information Communication and Technology (ICT), law and order.

According to the research, the policies of the government are, to a large extent, not led by evidence or community need; rather, they are pro-formal business and investor driven. There is a need to support the interplay between the city’s formal and informal sectors through the recognition and integration of local initiatives.

Ongoing research also indicates that there is a huge deficit of impactful development for a majority of citizens. This is largely as a result of the emerging technology dependent and transformative model adopted by the government. This model is not informed by localised data or evidence and lacks a nuanced understanding of the city’s development processes and factors influencing them.

Specifically, preliminary findings from research show that there are conflicting rationalities regarding the roles of the state as regulator and as an interested service provider, especially in transport and land. There are significant demands and supply deficits in urban infrastructure provisioning and quality service delivery, especially in electricity, food distribution, water and sanitation sectors.

Similarly, there are irregularities in the roles of various governance institutions, especially those of the community development associations. This is due to the absence or sub-par performance of local government and the usurpation of local government roles by the state government, as well as tensions between federal and state government roles, in light of Lagos’ former status as federal capital.

There are also issues around dependency on food supply chains from areas outside Lagos, with far-reaching implications on the city’s food security, coupled with the ethnic nuances that result in unresolved tensions in market politics, community safety and access to urban resources.

Besides, the influences of land-holding families and land contestations/spatial (re)configurations have resulted in forced displacements, gentrification and urban fragmentation across socioeconomic indicators.

The research also noted the need to recognise, integrate the formal and informal systems in an interdependent value chain, given the dominance of informal actors across most city systems. Increasingly, demand and supply deficits are growing in the business ecosystem, as a result of nuanced influences and/or interests – such as the growth of online microlenders sponsored by Chinese interests, and the institutionalisation of violence in public transport administrative structures.

It says, a better understanding of the stakeholders involved in informal safety and security provision is needed, as well as opportunities for scaling up community governance, while tensions exist around access to justice, especially for low-income urban residents – who make up a dominant proportion of Lagos residents – and the conflicting role of the rule of law as extremely punitive or deterrent.

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