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Lagos, Nigeria: A possible model for urban Africa

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Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

(Read caption) An aerial view shows the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, on Nov. 1, 2011.

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I don’t often write about southern Nigeria on this blog, nor do I often write about my interest in urban transportation issues in Africa (especially because I am no expert on either topic!), but this Associated Press story on French aid to Lagos’ bus system ($100 million total) is definitely worth a read:

The French Foreign ministry said in a statement Friday that the funds will go toward Lagos’ $330-million urban transport plan.

[...]

Lagos launched its first bus rapid transit line in 2008. However, the city still relies mainly on individually-owned and poorly-run rickety buses.

Lagos has won a lot of plaudits in recent years for the development strategy pursued by Governor Babatunde Fashola, who has relied on local taxes to broaden government services in the city and in the state. Lagos isn’t perfect – crime, poverty, and pollution are still major problems – but a lot of eyes are on the city as a potential model for other Nigerian and African cities.

A transportation revolution in Lagos could contribute to that perception. Around the world, public transportation in cities is a major concern, including in the US where I personally believe most major cities have a public transportation deficit. Having strictly private transportation in megacities is a recipe for a high rate of fatal accidents, massive pollution, congestion, and overall inefficiency. There are relatively few strong public bus systems in Africa (Dakar has one, and I used it frequently when I lived there), and even fewer urban train systems (on a side note, check out this article on the subway in Algiers), so it could be very important that Lagos is taking this step forward.

– Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.


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