Editor’s note: Lagos has the potential to become one of the world’s top 100 destinations within a decade. It has the potential, but what about the reality on ground? The Legit.ng columnist Mawuna Koutonin offers a glimpse into what Lagos could look like in 2025, and what Governor Ambode needs to change in order to set things up for a large-scale development.
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In June 2025, Time Magazine released a lengthy article featuring the extraordinary project and team which, in less than ten years, have transformed Lagos, once a dusty and crime-ridden state, into one of the top 100 best places in the world to live and do business in. Quality of air is better than in Paris or London. Unemployment is lower than in Germany. The state’s GDP is now the first in Africa above Johannesburg, Cairo, and Pretoria.
In less than ten years the city became the financial and entertainment center of Africa, with Nollywood becoming bigger than Hollywood in terms of number of movies and revenue. Crime has almost disappeared, and a decade of a responsive and accountable government has raised the revenue per inhabitant to the same level as in China, Brazil or Poland. In term of people's happiness, the international happiness index now places Lagos at the same level as Finland.
We are now in July 2015, ten years earlier, just at the beginning of that transformation. Lagos is already a megacity of 21 million people with a strong internal brand. If Lagos was a state in the United States, its GDP would be higher than the one of 14 other states, including New Mexico, Delaware, North Dakota.
The GDP of Lagos state alone is already bigger than the GDP of Kenya, and bigger than the combined GDPs of 25 other African countries. Inside the federated states of Nigeria, Lagos contributes 25% to the national GDP (or 32% to non-oil national GDP) while being the smallest of the 36 states.
Lagos is 65% of Nigerian tourism, 50% of national port revenue, over 70% of international air traffic, and 50% of national energy consumption.
The state economy growth has been estimated to be 7% during the last three years. Lagos adds 600,000 new inhabitants every year, growing at a rate of 6 to 8% a year, ten times faster than New York or Los Angeles, which makes it one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. In the upcoming year, Lagos is poised to become the third megacity in the world just after Tokyo and Mumbai.
That's a solid foundation to build on.
LAGOS STATE DEVELOPMENT PLAN 2012-2025
Unfortunately, the huge potential for growth in Lagos is threatened by the lack of adequate infrastructures and appropriate value systems.
Power supply is erratic and expensive. Cost of electricity represents 20 to 40% of the cost of production in a typical manufacturing company, more than double what a company in emerging or developed country pays for the same unit of electricity.
The electricity sector faces chronic shortage and supply interruption. The state estimates the current power demand to stand between 5000 to 8000 MW, while the current supply fluctuates between 900 MW and 1200MW, leaving an enormous power gap. Beyond the supply gap, power transmission and distribution losses are estimated at 40%, almost four times higher than the rest of the continent losses estimated at 11%.
Over one million cars are on the road everyday in Lagos, transporting about seven million people over the 9900km of roads. Road transportation represents 93% of total passengers and good traffic in the state. At rush hours, it’s almost impossible to move across the city, making average Lagosian to spend three to five hours in traffic every day. To achieve an acceptable level of traffic fluidity, it’s estimated that the state should increase its spending on the transportation sector from N20 billion in 2008 to N880 billion by 2025.
Current water supply is 1200 billion litres per day, while the demand is estimated at 3,600 billion litres per day. The current water service covers only 44% of the state, leaving countless areas with no potable water supply.
The telecommunication sector has grown rapidly during the last years. Telephone density is estimated to be around 69% in Nigeria, but is certainly much higher in Lagos. There are approximately 55 million Internet users in Nigeria, which means 32.9% penetration rate (the double of the African average). Like for telephone density, the Internet penetration is certainly much higher in Lagos, but the city is still far behind in the league it wishes to play in.
The education sector is slow to adapt to the changes affecting the economy, and one is consistently exposed to the outcry of employers and managers regarding skills deficit or insufficient number of skilled people in the labor market. Currently, the talent deficit represents the single most threatening factor to the economic growth of the state.
Literacy rate is reported to be above 61% in Lagos, but only 14% of students are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) faculties. Many sectors like computer sciences, finance, infrastructures, etc. face huge deficit of skilled people.
People's creativity and hunger for success is visible at every encounter and corner of the city; however, lack of appropriate support system and spaces to harness and channel that energy had induced despair and fatalism, which seem to have overtaken a big part of people.
A visible disconnect seems to exist between "the bottom 80%" and "the top 10%" of the people. The top 10% has the education and the skills to help the bottom 80%, but just don't care much.
Sadly, the solution to any problem in Lagos seems to be "to buy," not "to invent, create"!
In terms of branding, Lagos still has a very poor external perception. Because of poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, tourists and visitors to the state are still recommended to get over five vaccines before leaving their country, with another lengthy list of security warnings from their ministries of foreign affairs and friends.
The city is very dusty, and the air pollution is probably one of the worst in the world after Beijing. With approximately one million cars on the road each day, and 40% of Nigeria’s total fuel used by the city residents, Lagos injects about three tons of lead into the air daily.
The state generates over 1.5 million cubic meters of wastewater everyday, and solid waste is visible at almost all corners of the city.
Sixty-four percent of the state population is living on less than $2 a day (N270), only 31% have access to formally paid job, and 57% are reported to be self-employed. The vast majority of the inhabitants are employed in the informal sector or economy, with scant revenue undermined by an inflation rate consistently high at or around 10%.
Beneath the surface, the state is awakening to the above challenges, and has set ambitious goals in the state development plan to create enough wealth during the next ten years to end poverty and bring widespread benefit to all the citizen of the state.
— reduce unemployment rate to 5% or less;
— bring formal paid job rate to 60% of total workforce in the state (from the current 30% rate);
— bring the manufacturing sector from 4% to 43% in the state’s GDP;
— elevate the state annual GDP growth to 7 – 10%.
The official slogan of the state is "Lagos, a centre of excellence". Not a local excellence, but a global excellence, which means sparking world-class solution to address local needs, and the needs of the world!
The new governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has ten year to design, plan, and deliver on the future the most powerful city in Africa deserves.
Mawuna Remarque Koutonin is an editor of SiliconAfrica.com and a social activist for Africa Renaissance. Koutonin’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class human potential development school in Africa in 2017. Follow @siliconafrica on Twitter.