LAGOS: Positioning a smart city

‘’ An African city is going to host the major burgeoning entrepreneurship ecosystem. The opportunity is open and Lagos must seize it. Silicon Valley didn’t grow in a vacuum… the government matters and policy matters.’’ – Prof. Fiona Murray, Dean of Innovation, MIT, USA

‘’ Eighty-six people enter into Lagos every hour… greater than Mumbai, that is only 79. New York is 7, London is 9. But, when you have 86 people entering into a city every hour, and staying…This is a huge challenge for leadership.’’ – Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode

Remember this street lingo, ‘See Paris and die’? It celebrated and affirmed the beauty, elan and panache of Paris, the France capital as a tourists’ haven from the 60s through the 80s. As a country, Germany is renowned for its strong automobiles, especially, Mercedes Benz. Switzerland is acclaimed for its wristwatches. India is celebrated for its high potential in ICT and Bollywood, its movie industry. China is acclaimed as the most populous country in the world. Saudi Arabia with the annual Moslem hajj is a preferred tourism destination point, even to non-Moslems. In Africa, Kenya is popular for its Safari while South Africa is noted for its Sun City.

But when Lagos is mentioned as a city, what readily comes to mind? What is the brand DNA or positioning of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre? Lagos is a city in flux. Over the years, Lagos has metamorphosed from Lago De Curamo of pre-colonial days to the colony of Lagos. And from the Lagos colony to Lagos, the centre of excellence, the mega city that is fast transforming into a smart city. This evolution is in tandem with the dream of the founding fathers of Brand Lagos.

Depending on which angle you view it, Lagos is like an elephant. And like many emerging city-states, Lagos presents a sharp contrast to the average observer. To some, Lagos is a city in a hurry; a city of hustle and bustle. With its huge population and perennial auto traffic snarls, to others, Lagos is a city bubbling with energy. And to some, Lagos is the city of aquatic splendour: a land of boundless opportunities, where dreams flourish in the ambience of reality. Indeed, Lagos is a city of success stories in business and entrepreneurship, arts and entertainment, sports, politics, ICT and the sciences. And all these success stories are woven in the furnace of intrepid resilience. Little wonder, Lagos was recently admitted as one of the 100 Resilient Cities in the world.

Lagos is unique in many aspects. Lagos is the home of the richest blackman in the world – Aliko Dangote. Lagos is also the abode of the richest black woman in the universe – Folorunsho Alakija. Nollywood, the world’s largest movies industry also finds a home in Lagos. Lagos holds the record as the home of the highest number of stand-up comedians in the world. And only in Lagos, will an ordinary bread hawker finds fame and fortune by a stroke of luck and hard work. Ask Olajumoke Orisagunna.

By 2019, Lagos is going to be the home of the largest oil and gas refinery in the world. The refinery almost nearing completion is owned by Dangote. By 2019, Lagos is poised to be Africa’s 3rd largest economy. With a GDP of $91 billion, Lagos is currently Africa’s fastest growing market and the 5th largest economy in the continent. With a presence of over 2000 manufacturing companies, 200 financial institutions and the largest collection of small and medium enterprises in Africa, Lagos is currently the home to 65 percent of Nigeria’s businesses.

With an estimated population of 24 million people and over 15.2 million of them within the ages of 15 to 64 years, Lagos is positioned as having the largest share of the active, working population in Sub-Saharan Africa. With the current strides of government in the construction and completion of critical infrastructure that will incubate new economies, there is no doubt that the active working population especially the youths bubbling with creative energy will be gainfully engaged.

Entertainment, Sports, and ICT. These are the three productive and profitable sectors that will not only creatively engage the active youths and spin new entrepreneurs but will also fast track the positioning of Lagos as Africa’s city-state. Nothing underscores the assertion that Lagos is an emerging smart city than the submission of Mark Zuckerberg, owner and founder of the globally acclaimed social media brand, Facebook who visited Lagos last year. Lagos was the first city in Sub-Saharan Africa to be visited by Zuckerberg. The Facebook creator who had a breakfast meeting with Nigerian Internet developers and technology-savvy entrepreneurs at Co-creation Hub Nigeria in Yaba, an emerging ICT clusters when asked on his choice of Lagos as the first port of call in Africa enthused : ‘’ I feel there is a great energy here in Lagos. I have been going around the world, to differ- ent cities, and we’ve been doing town hall meetings. And we’ve been sitting down with people on Facebook communities, hearing from them about our user services and how we can do better. Here in Lagos, I want to not just sit down with members of this community, but sit with developers and entrepreneurs. The reason for that is I feel there is great energy here and I think the world needs to see that.’’

Happy birthday, Lagos, Africa’s emerging smart city.

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