Heart of Arts

The University of Lagos and The Future of Lagos

Toyin Falola


When conversations like this arise, the question that dominates the mind of everyone is the projections on the future of the megacity of Lagos. Many have made rather large propositions that cities are like human beings—they develop with time and expand within the scope of what is supplied to them and the products thereof. As everyone envisions a future and as changes through epochs happen to individuals, it is the same with every city. To draw an example, Lagos, before the proliferation of the slave trade and colonial adventures in Nigeria, might not have been the most important city in Nigerian history. Greater attention was given to Sokoto, Oyo, and other cities that determined the cultural and conceptual trajectories of the Nigerian people. However, the city of Lagos has grown with coastal contacts, colonization, globalization, the situation of the old Federal Capital, and commercial peculiarities. Today, one would talk about Lagos before talking about any other city in Nigeria.

But considering the contemporary transformation of the city and the concepts of “global standard of practice,” the future of a city like Lagos, no matter the extreme of the imagination, can hardly be seen outside of its lofty aspirations. However, every city’s future should consider its past and contemporary situations with an alignment to necessary advantages and shortcomings. In this regard, the construction of lofty aspirations for the future of Lagos would be a mere utopia covered by fogs of uncertainties if the right considerations are not made. The future of Lagos must be in the context of a high technological ecosystem, high per capita income, economic advancement, proper drainage systems, and many others.

To capture the unending arrays of projections of what would be the future of Lagos, one may just classify the aspirations into two: ending many of the debacles that are almost crippling it and its citizens; and, secondly, expanding on the innovative and projected aspirations for a future city. It is with this and coupled with the realities and predominance of the cities, that one would be able to carve out, properly, the future of Lagos. In the context of such projections of the predominant realities that could make or mar the dreams of any future, the subject and position of the University of Lagos come to bear.

In the previous piece of this series, how the University of Lagos has been of considerable importance to the state of Lagos, its past, and its propelling realities have been established. The relationship between the city and the university can be traced back to the inception of the University with a comfortable but suiting assertion that it has been in place to fulfill the relevant immediate needs of the nation and the city at that time and that it has been able to contribute to the growth process of Lagos along the trails of history.

So, suppose the University has been pivotal to the past and contemporary situations of the state. In that case, it must, therefore, not be an element to be disregarded in discourses around the possibilities of its future. From the above, it then goes to say that the University of Lagos must be symmetrically pivotal in resolving the problems of the city as well as the certitude of innovations and developments anticipated where the two parameters are considered as the scoreboard for the crystallization of such projections.

The problems of Lagos are enormous, and this piece may not be able to address most of them. Based on healthcare, environment, stability, education, and infrastructure, Lagos ranked the second least livable place in the world in 2022. One of the major problems of Lagos State that is linked to this fact is the issue of accommodation of its large residents. The population of Lagos is about 20 million, which comprises people from different walks of life. However, while it is possible to easily get a job in Lagos, disregarding the payable salaries, the bulwark might be in getting a suitable place to put one’s head. The housing availability in the city is far from meeting the continuous demands of the people and this has made the available ones very expensive and quite impossible to afford. Hence, the citizens settle for slums and informal residentials, building structures in unbefitting places, and sleeping in open places, including under bridges.

In 2022, the World Bank stated that about 50 to 70 percent of persons who reside in Lagos live in slums and informal houses with a sharp cut from adequate amenities and resources. This implies that only about 30 to 50 percent of the total population does not live in slums. While this problem persists, the future of Lagos will continue to witness difficulties as it raises questions about its citizenship, safety, health, and other core tenets of a peaceful and modern society. The University of Lagos can provide human resources through the right partnership for a long time and a sustainable housing system with innovations and strategies.

The first approach is to provide developmental strategies for those areas regarded as slums and undeveloped to allow access to facilities, potable water, and other resources. Advancements must then be made toward redistributions of residential concentrations across the state. These strategies should be towards making it possible to access and navigate between all parts of the city so that one would be able to work and live at different extremes of the city with ease. This means that the diffusion of this congestion would drive residential developments in other untapped places.

This would also be made easy by providing strategies for revisiting the housing systems of Lagos. While the old structures could be renovated, there should be housing plans for new structures that would encourage sustainable housing systems, co-housing arrangements, modular housing, and other housing strategies that would provide more housing options to people. The University can also advocate for the establishment of public-private arrangements that would target partnerships for workers’ residential facilities. While the University may not be able to provide financial assistance to the city, it could provide intellectual aid and well-researched strategies and blueprints to provide reasonable solutions.

The solution to many of the problems of the city of Lagos rests largely on an increase in the availability and accessibility of infrastructures. Infrastructural development is a thread that holds all developmental possibilities in the city together. Infrastructural development in Lagos is apparent but is not as evenly distributed as needed by the dynamics of the city. The housing problems, as stated above, cannot be resolved without the necessary knowledge and skills. For instance, it would be difficult to connect distant places of Lagos to allow one to reside at one end and work at the other. These infrastructures also draw on the Federal government’s interventions. The role of the federal government is to provide fast and accessible resources that would make it possible to reside in another state and still be able to work in Lagos.

Providing infrastructure is not just about erecting structures anywhere and anyhow; it involves strategic ideations and enforcement to effectively concretize the conception of development. The University of Lagos has been a hub for innovative development and entrepreneurship and has been credited for its dedication to inciting people into breeding ideas that could change the world. It implies that where those preparatory and strategic steps are needed to turn the many debacles facing the city, the University of Lagos is the right institution to approach.

This chain of logic extends into the second arm of the expectations of the future of Lagos, that is, the accomplishment of anticipated novelties and innovations. These suppositions include the creation of a smart city, technological advancement, and other sustainable developments that would match the realities of the future. It also connotes breakthroughs in science and their enactments and other social dispositions that could turn the city into the commercial and innovative headquarters of the world.

Today, Lagos is the location of many of the businesses and start-ups that tend toward contemporary realities. Presently, it is the home of about 88.4 percent of the total start-ups in Nigeria, and each has largely been embracing technological solutions or is based on technological solutions. Lagos is, therefore, the capital of Africa’s marriage of business sectors with technology. It is positioning itself as one of the potential early cities to fully enact smart city dynamics in its system.

The future of Lagos as to anticipated enactments of ideations aligns with the contemporary realities of the University of Lagos and its preparedness for the actualization of these anticipations. The University has produced some of the prominent tech startups and solutions in the continent and currently ranks as one of the top three universities in entrepreneurship in Africa. The realities of the progression of the university have connoted the fact that it has been responding to the high-level demands of both the city and the nation, and considering the prospect, with the right partnership with the government and people of Lagos, I am confident that the University would provide the know-hows, projections, and intellectual resources for the future of Lagos.

Lagos and Lagos State need the University of Lagos! The Governor of Lagos must ask the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos: What can your university do for us? She can set up a committee to come up with a comprehensive list of what is possible. Professor Folasade Ogunsola can then pose her question: Your Excellency, what can you do for us?


PS: This is Part 2 of the series on the University of Lagos.

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