Trading Up: Nigeria's Infrastructure Fix

Article excerpt

During its half-century since independence, Nigeria has gained a reputation for inefficient use of its natural resources and a weak government system of patronage and high corruption. However, with the democratic election of previously de-facto President Goodluck Jonathan, experts believe that the country will finally be able to take off in growth. According to the economist Jeffrey Sachs, Nigeria has the potential to join the BRTC countries, turning it into BRING (Brazil, Russia, India, Nigeria, China) by the end of the decade. Despite the country's reforms since the death of the dictator Sani Abacha in 1998, it has been slow to develop its core infrastructure, with funds allocated for public projects often lining the pockets of government officials.

With 250 ethnic groups and division between the Islamic north and Christian south, Nigeria has a history of conflict. The possibility of conflict between parties that share different group identities is often aggravated by a lack of basic residential infrastructure. In the Nigerian state of Lagos, with a current population of 15.5 million and a UN-projected population of over 24.5 million by 2015, many lower-income residents occupy tenement properties with minimal functionality due to lower costs. The most common design of such properties, known as you-see-me-I-see-yous, is characterized by overcrowding and multiple families with different socio-cultural backgrounds sharing the same common room--a design said to have been imported from Brazil at the end of the slave era.

In a recent study by Covenant University Professors Oni Ayotunde Olawande and Durodola Olufemi Daniel, which focuses on the causes of frequent conflicts in the low-cost tenements, residents of lower-income housing across multiple neighbor- hoods of the Lagos metropolis ranked eight reasons for the various causes of conflicts, including misrepresentation, threats to parties' interests and concerns, and non-settlement of bills. The relative importance indices were between 53 percent and 81 percent, with 81 percent of respondents naming inadequate infrastructure (e.g. kitchen and bathroom facilities) as the primary cause of clashes within residents represented by the study group. The results emphasized the role an adequate quality and supply of housing could play in reducing problems in rapidly growing Lagos. Subsequently, the Lagos state government has started providing land and support to developers with the capacity to increase housing inventory, especially units for low-income residents. The country's Federal Housing Authority will increasingly rely on private developers to do this.

In order to productively accommodate its high annual population growth rate of four percent, under the direction of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Lagos state government has busied itself w'ith urban planning and coordinated with international developers to expand its road system, that will increase real estate value and accessibility to its central business districts. New projects include the expansion of the Lekki Airport, which is being managed by the Lagos Airport Development Company (LADC), a project company created under the Lagos state government. …