By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos.
Nigeria has one of the fastest growing mega cities worldwide; and that city is Lagos, an Oxford Professor of Economics and Public Policy has declared.
Professor Paul Collier, Director, Centre for African Economics at Oxford University disclosed this at an international leadership symposium on the theme: “Living Well Together, Tomorrow – The Challenge of Africa’s Future Cities” held in Lagos.
“Lagos,” he added, “will be the great city of the 21st century.”
Collier who was the keynote speaker on the occasion said that between now and 2050 Africa’s population will triple, pointing out that this requires sustainable urban development plan to accommodate the rising population density.
According to him, Africa is growing slowly because African leaders make wrong policy choices.
Turning to Nigeria, he expressed disappointment that the country has not utilized adequately the blessing of its oil deposit for its national development.
The don however stated that falling price is a huge opportunity for adjustment. “70 per cent of Nigeria’s physical revenue is oil,” he asserted.
He provided an outline of the cities of the future, noting: “The future will be dominated by coastal mega cities ,” of which Lagos is leading.
The Oxford professor recommended a term “Golden Alliance” between government and the business community in building future cities.
He highlighted the criteria for achieving this to include another term: Miracle Productivity,” and explained that it has to transform the lives of the ordinary people. Energy/power supply, and connectivity, education, having clear land registry, among others are also essential elements in achieving mega, resilient, sustainable cities of the future.
Still emphasizing the essence of convenient movement of the people, Collier called attention the need for effective and people-friendly city .transport system. “Private cars cannot have pre-eminence in city transport,” he elaborated.
He also stressed the importance of providing affordable housing. According to him the problem of affordable housing starts with architects. “Start from what people can afford,” he advised. “Three per cent of the population in Africa have their own buildings. More than 23 per cent charge on interest rate is crazy; interest rate per cent should be low.”
He advocated “New Block of Livability.” describing it as delivering good social services to city dwellers.
On the importance of education in tackling the challenge of future African cities, Collier said, good quality primary education will generate good quality city development.”
Building livable future mega cities can only be feasible through good, effective and accountable leadership, he narrated.
Mega city needs huge public money to be spent. Build the tax system. Key things to tax is when you tax activities you tend to get less activity. Tax land and building. You need a public register of land, he recommended.
The scholar illustrated his standpoint by pointing out that London in the 19th century did not get it right until the 20th century, while China has built three functional cities very fast in the 21st century.
To get the future cities right, he explained the importance of networking by stakeholders, between scholars and practitioners on one hand and practitioners and the government on the other hand. “Share knowledge network,” the professor stressed.