Opinion: Plans To Build The Dubai Of W. Africa In Lagos Aren’t Radical Enough

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Written by Staff

From CityMetric. Opinion by By Gbenga Oduntan.

The government of the state of Lagos – Nigeria’s former capital – has proudly proclaimed it is building a new city that will become the new financial center of Nigeria, and perhaps West Africa. The scale of the Eko Atlantic project is immense, and progress is being achieved through a team effort between investors, planners, engineers and contractors.

Pitched as Africa’s answer to Dubai, Eko Atlantic is a multibillion dollar residential and business development that is located as an appendage to Victoria Island, and along the renowned Bar Beach shoreline in Lagos. The plan is that it will consist of 10 square kilometres (3.86 square miles) of land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. It’ll be home to quarter of a million people, and employ a further 150,000 people who will commute on daily basis. The new district will be billed as a 24-hour, green-conscious, world-class city, which can attract and retain top multinational corporations.

There is no shortage of doubters and critics of the initiative, which is seen as an exercise in runaway neoliberalism by a country that cannot even ensure 30 days of continuous power supply to its citizens. The truth, however, is that Lagos deserves its dream Eldorado and the economic case for Eko Atlantic is sound.

The only problem is that the plans are in fact not radical enough. Our argument is that this project is under-imagined and should be shored up urgently to match other international projects in the fast-developing countries…cities in which the governing system is defined by the city rather than by state, provincial, regional or national laws.

This would mean that Eko Atlantic city would operate under high standards of transparency and good governance. Its security would be handled by independent policing standards – a move which could extend to other aspects of its civil and criminal justice systems. Its sanitary, health, energy supplies, environment and other regulatory rules should be pegged with comparable standards in cities like London, New York, Paris, Dubai and Shanghai.

All this would ensure that the laws under which the territory operates are, in essence, free of stifling national regulation which has stood in the way of most African cities operating at optimal levels.

Bad systems are the reason most African cities do not attract much-needed international investment at appropriate levels. Bad rules have tied down the development of Lagos, along with 1,000 other African cities, since their independence from colonialism. The problems include corruption, mismanagement, political interference, unresponsiveness, overbearing religiosity, nepotism, human rights abuses and incompetent presence of the state.

Eko Atlantic ought…to provide a petri dish to run a very new kind of African city.

Lagos will have to work with the federal government to be able to create a special zone of reform…

Such arrangements and concessions should be easier now as the constellations have aligned for the first time in Nigerian history. The Lagos state is now run by the same government and party that rule the country. This arrangement will allow Lagos to make more credible promises to investors across the world.

Read more at CityMetric.