Business day Newspaper- dated 18th April, 2013.
Story by Erejuwa Gbadebo
Property development provides many benefits to any discerning economy. More than just providing accommodation and shelter to the people of a state, it drives economic growth, with its effect felt in other areas like telecommunications, banking, insurance and retail. Indeed, one only needs to look at the various shopping malls, like the palms and Ikeja City Mail, to understand how much potential lies in property foreign, renowned retailers, the employment of labour, access to quality goods and services, and the availability of leisure centres like cinema halls – its benefits for the Nigerian economy are enormous.
It is in this regard that we consider Nigeria’s exponential economic growth and development of the past decade as perhaps best symbolized by Lagos State, arguably the country’s most populous state and certainly its economic hub.
Home to over 21 millions people, Lagos State has witnessed tremendous, enviable economic growth, buoyed by its status as a former federal capital city, its vast human resources and geographical location, its industrial concentration and its rapid growth in the area of property development.
Shedding the toga of an oil dependent state, Lagos has, since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, focused on boosting its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) via a structured, well-implemented taxation programme and an aggressive drive for economic diversification and fiscal independence. The result of this is a current targeted monthly IGR of N23 billion, up nearly 400 per cent from N600 million monthly in 1999. Much of this change can be attributed to a rapid growth in the area of real estate and property development, spurred on by the influx of people and organizations from other states and indeed from other parts of the world. Although a lot has been done to cater to the needs of these people, with estates constructed and business districts revamped, more is required. In this respect, the proposed Eko Atlantic City (recognizing that in African cities where rapid population growth has overtaken good planning, land-use management and the provision of infrastructure, satellite cities are often the most logical way of relieving the congestion in the core city) is proposing an integrated satellite city for Lagos which will provide residential, employment, business, social, educational and recreational opportunities.
Built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean, the city plans, amongst other things, to target 400,000 residents and 250,000 commuters flowing daily to and from the island, return the coast to its previous position in the 1950s and 1960s, and reverse the damage wrought by erosion, over the years. The original idea for the Atlantic City arose when the Lagos State government expressed a need for a permanent solution to the coastal erosion plaguing the Bar Beach in Victoria Island, as well as a safeguard for Victoria Island from the threat of flooding. Thus, between 2003 and 2005, the developers and city planners of the Eko Atlantic City – South Energyx Nigeria Limited – engaged in a feasibility study with international experts to look for a ‘once and for all’ solution for the problem. It is proposed that the new city, a 10square kilometre development, will have water-front area, tree-lined streets, and efficient transport system and mixed-use plots that will combine residential areas with leisure facilities, offices and shops.
The Eko Atlantic City is important for many reasons. Not only will it build on Lagos’ reputation as the “land of aquatic splendour”, it will serve as a tourist attraction. It is also considered that the new city will help to decongest areas of Lagos, the state constantly having to struggle with the toll of rapid development and economic growth. The job opportunities and economic prospects the project provides are also enormous – thousands of people will participate in the construction of the city, and it is only expected that the financial return will then be spent in Lagos.
The Eko Atlantic City will also establish Lagos as a modern city firmly on the world map. This is particularly important when we consider that Lagos is one of the fastest growing cities in the world – indeed, many analysts have pointed to Lagos being the second fastest city in Africa, and the seventh fastest in the world. With all this growth, however, has not come a benefitting recognition, as the state’s congestion, unbalanced population explosion and lack of commensurate, critical infrastructure are regularly cited as drawbacks to achieving the “modern city” status.
More than anything, however, is what the Eko Atlantic City symbolizes. It embodies the determination and the resilience of the Nigerian spirit. It also represents the willingness and ability to diversify from oil as the primary source of wealth for Nigeria’s economy.
The Eko Atlantic City reflects what the country is truly capable of given the right blend of visionary leadership and an adequate deployment of resources. The Eko Atlantic City is a true beacon of what the world should expect from Nigeria, and indeed the African continent in the near future – progress and development