Expert View on a New Lagos: An interview with Olufemi Olarewaju

Peter Adeyeye, Lagos Community Manager
Lagos, 8 June 2016

Lagos will be the second or third largest city in the world by 2050 according to Urban Africa. This population growth must be in tandem with developmental solutions. Olufemi Olarewaju, Ph.D. is Co-Founder of the Sustainability School, Lagos and founding Executive Director of the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network Nigeria, an organization at the forefront of promoting sustainable solutions to urban challenges in Lagos. He shares his views about a new Lagos.

What will you describe as the major challenges in Lagos?

If I had to say it in a single statement, I would say ‘we lack the capacity to respond’. The issues that urbanizing cities face globally are the same with Lagos: rapid population growth, rural urban influx and a teeming youthful population all driven by desire for economic opportunities. Everybody then wants to live in Lagos which now translates into other challenges like stress on transportation, stress on housing, sanitation and so on, all these coupled with existing infrastructural deficits translates to challenges in every sphere of life.

How can Lagos grow more equitably?
I see it from two ways.

Firstly, I think Lagos must restate its development strategy. If we look at the challenges that we face and we look at other cities that are facing similar challenges, we should ask ourselves how they are solving these problems, so taking a global context and seeing how we can domesticate these solutions. Secondly is to use the concept of circular economy which simply addresses efficient use of resources to address four key things. And waste management. Lagos generates about 12,000 tonnes of waste daily meaning that Lagos has to design an efficient waste management system where wastes don’t get to landfills but converted to energy for use. Also look at the water, about 60% of Lagos’s territory is filled with water, we have to develop the water ways for transportation. Also, because of the massive influx of people into the city, there is need for increased attention to informal settlements and finally security of citizens should be prioritized. These four things have to be addressed rapidly.

Can you site a project that can be expanded on in Lagos?

The light rail transport system can be expanded on. AlsoI know that Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA)have the capacity to translate from waste collection into a proper waste management entity so that they can capture all the economic potential that lies in an efficient waste management scheme.

How can Lagos work with a more participatory process?

Basically it means that the city should engage in a more inclusive and participatory processes. Permit me to share what Sustainability School, Lagosdesigned as a vision statement for Lagos during its just concluded training on circular economy which reads that, ‘As a leader in Africa, Lagos will be a clean, planned and smart commercial city that has transparent and responsible governance, a cohesive and healthy community, enabling environment for business, innovation and entrepreneurship and an effective waste and emissions systems’, this came out from about 37 people during the training. Having done that, we broke the team into eight thematic groups; energy, water, sanitation, electronic waste, plastic, built environment, transportation and food systems to develop appropriate solutions to these major urban issues. These are all private sector-driven but we are carrying the Lagos government along, and as we move ahead we expect greater collaboration.

What are your final words for Lagos as a fast growing megacity?

By 2050, Lagos will be the 2nd or 3rdmost populous city in the world. It has the opportunity and resources to achieve its development goals if it can deal with its social issues and thereby help facilitate a strong investment climate.

Photo credit: Olufemi Olarewaju

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