Lagos, one of the most dynamic cities in the world, sinks into the waters
Lagos, the city of “lakes” in West Africa, is under the constant threat of coastal erosion, aggravated by the need for more and more space to house its 20 million inhabitants, and sand for build hundreds of thousands of buildings. Looking for a good shopping in Lagos? Ask the people they can tell you the best markets and shops in Lagos.
As a result of global warming, the waters continue their irreversible rise. The Atlantic Ocean is advancing on the west coast of the African continent by 1 to 4 meters per year, according to a World Bank report (WB, March 2019), destroying everything in its path.
With a considerable cost for the economy of the countries concerned, underlines the WB. For Côte d'Ivoire alone - one of the only countries subject to a detailed study on this subject in the region - the degradation of the coastline cost “almost 2 billion dollars in 2017, the equivalent of 4 , 9% of its GDP ”. Across Nigeria, the economic giant of West Africa, the losses can only be much greater.
Billionaire private investors with strong political backing therefore decided, in 2007, to build the “Great Wall” of Lagos: an 8.5-kilometer dyke made of some 100,000 concrete blocks and “built to last 1,000 years Was designed to protect Victoria Island, the upscale and financial heart of the country.
"In 2005, the coast around Victoria Island was facing imminent danger," said the developers of the project on the official website. "The coastal road had disappeared under the pressure of the water [...], increasing the flooding. Many buildings had been abandoned ”, can be read on this site.
"Today, Lagos is already seeing the benefits of the Great Wall. The formerly flooded roads are now passable and the abandoned properties have been reinvested, "rejoice the developers, who see" in this deflector wall "," a great pride for Nigeria ".
But they did not stop there. Between the wall and the coast, on more than 6.5 km², developers have re-silted the ocean with more than 100 million tonnes of sand dredged from the seabed to found Eko Atlantic, the “Afro-futuristic” district of where they will rise, they promise, the tallest skyscrapers on the continent.
When oil was still over $ 100 a barrel and corruption and money laundering still dictated Nigeria’s economy, it was easy to dream of the "Dubai of Africa". But today, Africa’s largest economy is slowly recovering from the terrible recession of 2016-17 and Eko Atlantic is idling.
Worse, the Lagossians are beginning to feel the devastating effects of the project on the coastline of the surrounding communities. Researchers and residents of the downstream districts of Eko Atlantic say the seawall has only pushed the wrath of the ocean elsewhere and exacerbated the problem in other areas.
"Before Eko, we had nature, palm trees and coconut palms", tells AFP Wasiu Elegushi, historic owner of the land of Alpha Beach, a district of the small middle class, about 12 km east of the construction project.
The Alpha Beach road that ran along the coast has disappeared under the breaking ocean waves.
"The landowners are afraid to build anything here," says Bobby Isowshe, a beach vendor. They are afraid of water. "
Formerly a resort for the middle class of Lagos, the beautiful apartments with sea views built in Alpha Beach a little over ten years ago were taken over by the squatters. A large abandoned house is now almost swallowed up by the sand dunes.
"The water started to rise, rise [...]. Everything was taken away, "laments Mr. Elegushi, who says that" it all started when they launched Eko Atlantic ".
"The consequences of the wall on the tides were obvious to anyone with any interest in this phenomenon," said Tunji Adejumo, professor of urban architecture and the environment at the University of Lagos. "This shows that the promoters had no consideration" for the rest of the coast, denounces this specialist. Eko Atlantic did not follow up on AFP questions.
But the problems raised by the construction of the Great Wall and by the “Afro-futuristic” neighborhood project are emblematic of a much larger phenomenon: the whole of Lagos, a megalopolis built around a lagoon, is sinking into water.
The wealthy developers of Eko Atlantic have only copied the techniques used for decades to nibble space on the waters of the lagoon, in order to house more than 20 million inhabitants - no one knows the exact size of Lagos, the sprawling megalopolis.
The economic heart of Nigeria, Lagos is one of the most dynamic and populous cities in the world. But housing and building land are lacking to house the hundreds of thousands of new arrivals in the "capital of resourcefulness".
Marine cracks and craters
Shoveled sand by shoveled sand, millions of tonnes of sand were dredged from the water to make concrete and expand the surface of the megalopolis. The city is advancing on the water, meter by meter, defying the elements. But around Lagos, the seabed is cracked by as many craters as there are in the Moon.
A confidential study by the local government, which the AFP was able to consult, reveals that the seabed is pierced with holes up to 7 or 8 meters deep, 25 meters from the coast. The currents rush in, gain power and attack the coast. And Lagos, built at sea level, falters.
Each rainy season, floods invade Lekki more and more each year: a trendy district built on rehabilitated swamps in the 1990s. Year after year, it sinks a little deeper into the waters.
Chef Ede Dafinone, president of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) called on the authorities to react last July. "Several communities have already been washed away by the waters," warned the environmentalist. If nothing is done, Lagos will be submerged by 2050.
Lagos, a fiftieth African metropolis
The economic capital of Nigeria, Lagos, with its 20 million inhabitants, is also a laboratory for modern town planning. A destiny built in barely 50 years.
On May 27, 1967, just 50 years ago, Nigeria, a British colony since 1914, became a federal state. Lagos, which comes from Portuguese (and can be translated as lakes), made up of a group of islands in the lagoon of the Gulf of Benin discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century, is its capital. Steeped in history, the city has maintained its status as a center of civilization in Nigeria, populated as it is by the Yoruba, even after Abuja was transformed into the federal capital. At that time, the "city of lakes" was a quiet capital, on the edge of a large green lagoon, where a million people lived. From this colonial era, however, there remains a very clear division between the “Lagos of the poor” and the “Lagos of the rich”, materialized by the Mainland and the islands.
Capital of historic architecture
Today, it is only when the thick layer of humidity and pollution dissipates that Lagos reveals its immensity: from the air, the megalopolis of some 20 million inhabitants spreads out to infinity. Nothing, not even the Atlantic Ocean, can stop its exponential growth.
iBroad Street is located in Lagos Island. Before and after. © DR
As evidenced by Broad Street, the nerve center of the capital. At the time, Broad Street was just a place where local families lived, but in recent years the main street has turned into a business center and is home to the headquarters of major financial corporations. Sign of this galloping demographic growth, the exodus which knows the rest of the country. We run to come and try our luck in the economic capital of West Africa, which has become a megalopolis of all possibilities. Fifty years later, estimates vary between 17 and 22 million inhabitants. Lagos is the tenth largest city in the world.
"Each year, the equivalent of twice the metropolis of Toulouse arrives in Lagos," explains Guillaume Josse, quoted by AFP, geographer for the Groupe Huit, a research firm specializing in developing cities. But it was not until 1997 that Lagos existed on an architectural level.
Lagos, between traffic jams and unsanitary conditions, a caricature?
“All African cities face the same problems: violent urbanization, land management, pollution ... But Lagos is a caricature. Its challenges are so immense that they seem insurmountable, ”he continues. The island of Lagos for example, an old fishing village, now a metropolis made up of numerous infrastructures, skyscrapers and modern markets.
Lagos is one of the largest cities in the world without a metro system. Most people get around in yellow minibuses, called Danfos, in private cars, or in the back of motorcycle taxis called Okadas.
Results: many Lagosians lose several hours every day in traffic jams. One estimate even claims that a motorist loses five years of his life in traffic. Little space therefore for cycling, despite the growing number of users who use this means to circulate in the city. The municipal authorities have spoken since 2013 of cycle paths, but they have never been built.
Lagos is not done with the slums
The housing issue remains a huge challenge, with a shortage of around 16 million housing units in a country of 180 million inhabitants, according to the Nigerian Federal Mortgage Bank. Lagos is also poor neighborhoods, like Yaba, but above all, Makoko. A city on stilts in the city. The slum has been nicknamed "the Venice of Africa" and yet it is largely built of sheet metal roofs and tarpaulin, immersed in a halo of opaque smoke a mixture of wood fires and pollution generated by generators .
Victoria Island, Lekki, Eko Atlantic: these new neighborhoods for the wealthy
Barely fifteen years ago, Lekki was nothing more than a vast swamp infested with mosquitoes. Today, it is absorbing galloping urbanization, one of the fastest in the world. An architectural consulting firm estimates that 72,000 inhabitants, almost all of the upper class, arrive each year on this wet inlet.
But the Lagosians show an ingenuity to any test to compensate for the failings of a State often absent, in particular during the two decades of military dictatorship (1975-1999). More building land? The wealthiest build dykes, dry up swamps or silt up the ocean to build the "Dubai of Africa". The poorest are building plots of land on the lagoon with tons of waste mixed with sand.
In the past five years, the economy has improved, government has become more stable, security has improved. And new neighborhoods are emerging. This is the case with Eko-Atlantic, the largest real estate project underway on the African continent. This project addresses the second challenge that Lagos faces - one is urbanization and the other is climate change. Ultimately, the artificial island will extend over 10 km2 and will welcome nearly 500,000 residents and 300,000 daily visitors. The construction began in 2008. Today, in the middle of the sand, the first two buildings emerge and appear roads, bridges, lampposts, and even just planted mini-palm trees.