Lagos is a paradox. Populations estimates run wild from 14 to 17 million and the 2006 census revealed that 74% of the population was under the age of 30, making it the most youthful city and yet, as the central economic powerhouse of West Africa, rich in oil, unemployment is well over 50% while incredibly 46% of Nigeria’s formally employed live in Lagos.
The discrepancy between Lagos’ wealthy elite and the squalor that surrounds it is beguiling, but it seems that everyone in this city wants desperately to succeed. Hustling is a way of life for the youth, a capitalistic drive in a city without electrical power. The good news is the expanding the growth of the middle class. However, finding a job in Lagos even with an expanding banking, telecommunications and services sector, remains extremely challenging. A degree in university is fundamental only to obtain an interview but in this patriarchal society references and bribes will ensure the job.
The city is divided between the mainland –primarily residential– and Lagos and Victoria islands in the south where the affluent not only live but control most of the business opportunities. Public transportation is dangerous, slow and inefficient while housing is so expensive tenants must pay one year of rent upfront for concrete blockhouses blackened by smoke from diesel generators and former fires. It is common for eight people to squeeze into a single room, known as “Face Me Face You.” Clean water is scarce and local street water vendors conspire against city authorities that would deprive them of work. Only 0.4 percent of Lagos’ inhabitants have a toilet connected to a sewer system. These are the facts for millions, so the youth line the streets, the highways and the sidewalks selling anything from furniture to cell phones, –informal transactions in the city are actually 60% of its economic activity.
A population explosion is in place in Lagos and no oil price is going to change that.CLOSE