Megacities case study - Lagos


Sanitation Day

  • Fastest growing megacity in the world
  • Wanting to re-do the city to make it modern
  • Saturday is sanitation day
  • Last Saturday of every month
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History of Lagos

Until the 15th century, Lagos was a small fishing village on an island. In the 20th century, Lagos made the capital after the British Rule made it. It remained the capital of Nigeria after independence from Britain in 1960. However, in 1991, the Nigerian government moved to Abuja, which became the new capital of Nigeria, although Lagos retained its importance as the country's central trade and commerce. 

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Population & Area

  • Lagos has a population estimated at around 21 million, making Lagos the largest city in Africa. Lagos surpassed Cairo in size in 2012 to become the largest city in Africa.  
  • The city has expanded onto the mainland west of the lagoon, with Ikeja the capital of Lagos and Agege over 25 miles away from the main island of Lagos. 
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A large amount of Nigeria's industry is based in and around Lagos and it is now the major financial centre in West Africa. The city also has a major international airport and a busy seaport. The city of Lagos is a major economic vocal point in Nigeria, generating around 10% of the country's GDP. Lagos is also the major ICT hub of West Africa and potentially, the biggest ICT marker in the continent. It also has been ranked on the most expensive cities in the world.

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Why do people want to move there?

  • There are better employment opportunities
  • Tertiary jobs such as lawyers, businessmen, computing, and finance are in demand
  • Transport links have improved
  • Public taps, water vendors, boreholes/wells
  • Electric supply is better in the urban rather than rural
  • Earn more money and have a better quality of life
  • Healthcare and education is also much better than rural areas
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Squatter Settlements in Lagos

Squatter settlements are found in urban areas of Lagos. They seem to be in a linear pattern on the edge of the urban area. Squatter settlements are west of the lagoon and north and north-west of the CBD (central business district). However, there is a large area of squatter settlements on Victoria Island, east from the CBD. The one furthest away is 30km from the rest of them.

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Challenges of urban growth- Makoko


There aren't enough formal jobs for all the migrants - people have to make money any way they can in the informal sector, e.g. by scavenging in the Olusosun rubbish dump for items to sell.


  •  Houses in Makoko are flimsy, wooden huts on stilts in the lagoon
  • There is only one primary school in Makoko and many families can't afford to send their children to school
  • Communal toilets are shared by 15 households and most of the waste goes straight to the lagoon below- it's always full of rubbish and raw sewage. This causes health problems, e.g. Cholera
  • Water can be brought in Makoko from a communal water point but that can be up to 3km away.
  • The only electricity comes from illegal connections that often cut out.
  • There are high levels of crime in Makoko- the slum is self-policed by gangs called 'Area Boys'
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Lagos water supply

Water vendors- 16%

Well or borehole- 55%

Public tap- 14%

River- 4%

Piped water- 11% 

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Lack of toilets

Bush- 2% 

Pail Latrine- 33%

Pit Latrine- 55%

Septic tank- 10%

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Rising sea threat

  • Most of Lagos lies less than two metres above sea levels
  • Roads quickly turn into rivers and drains overflow, flooding streets, and homes with sewage
  • Squatter settlements are built without any proper drainage 
  • Land reclamation that has been reduced the area of water for flood water to drain too
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Traffic and congestion

  • The average commuter in Lagos spends over three hours in traffic every day
  • It makes Lagos one of the most congested cities in the whole world
  • 40% of new cars in Nigeria are registered in Lagos, which occupies just one per cent of the country's surface area
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