Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, is fast becoming one of the largest cities in the world — 21 million people are thought to live within its limits and its population is expected to surpass Cairo’s by 2015 to becoming the biggest city in Africa.It’s also becoming notorious for another reason — the unbelievable traffic.
Joshua Hammer recently wrote about the city’s automobile problem for The Atlantic. “My driver chose this coastal route while taking me from the Benin border to Lagos, a distance of about 40 miles,” Hammer writes. “What I had assumed would be a routine commute turned into an epic, 12-hour journey, and a lesson in the dysfunction and criminality of Africa’s most populous nation.”
What’s behind the nightmare? A report today by Jon Grambell for the AP points out two major reasons for the traffic. First, geography. The city’s financial hub sits on an island with only limited access. If something goes wrong on these roads, the entire city gets backed up.
Photo: Google Maps
Then there’s also the sheer number of cars that have been brought into the rapidly expanding city. Grambell writes that 27,000 new vehicles were registered officially in 1995. In 2010 that figure had expanded to about 230,000. Fuel subsidies have made owning a car cheap and feasible for many low-paid city residents.
There may be another indirect issue, however.
In his article Hammer points towards Tom Vanderbilt’s 2008 book “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)” which directly links traffic jams and government corruption. In Nigeria, this holds true — the country’s military elite have had strong ties to a small Northern elite who control the trucking industry. Together they have used their influence to shoot down any attempts to improve the country’s dilapidated rail system, leaving the country’s underdeveloped roads full of heavy vehicles.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that Lagos was Nigeria’s capital city. This has been amended (The capital of Nigeria is Abuja).
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