EIU Global Reports: Should Lagos really belong on “least liveable cities” list?


The result of the survey and data collation as presented by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) this August, places Lagos, Nigeria at number 137 in a list of 140 countries. What this means is that it is 4th out of the five World’s Least Liveable Cities for the year 2015. The city is no stranger to the bottom part of the list, as it has found itself there for years at a stretch now, either as 3rd, 4th, 5th, or thereabout. Two of the hindrances to Lagos climbing among the ranks this year is the Boko Haram activities in Nigeria and overpopulation, according to the EIU. Otherwise, the city has witnessed gradual marginal improvements.

EIU rankings for best and worst cities to live in are usually based on five major categories that include Stability, Healthcare, Culture and Environment, Education, and Infrastructure, all of which carry different weighing points and various sub-categorised indicators. The survey is carried out by economic, business, financial, and political analysts from the different countries around the world.

Lagos is the largest metropolitan area in Africa. It is the most populous city in Nigeria, the second fastest growing city in Africa, and the seventh in the world. The population in Lagos has experienced tremendous growth since the late 20th century, when it was just shy of 1.5 million people. Currently, there are about 21 million people in the city, and counting.

Another characteristic of the city is the high level of commercial activities that take place there, and this is one of the major reasons of attraction and domiciliation of expatriates from all over the globe, rather than tourism. Majority of the central business districts are located on the “Island”, while most of the industries are located on the “Mainland”. Tourism is still undergoing a very gradual development. Although there are a number of noteworthy attraction sites present, naturally, Lagos should be one of the cities listed high on any tourist’s list, given its strategic location and resources, plus other advantages. But it is not. Not even in Africa.

The above – and more – brings forth the question of what the “Most Livable Cities”, according to the EIU, possess that Lagos does not, and why it has continued to occupy the bottom tier of liveability by garnering such low ratings, despite being such a force to reckon with in important matters like international commerce and entertainment globally.

Going by the criteria for rankings that the EIU put in place, it’s really not that difficult to find an answer to the previous question. On the surface alone, Lagos is popular for a lot more things that are negative in comparison to the positive aspects. Traffic congestion, noise pollution, air pollution, overpopulation, poor living conditions, are but a few of the factors pulling the city down, despite all noticeable efforts at development.

More to the core of the issues preventing Lagos’ general progress are crime, disorderliness, violence, police brutality, corruption, abysmal levels of infrastructure, cultural, social, and environmental negligence, and more. In the midst of all these, the government’s sole occupation seems to be the erection of modern-looking structures to match those found in developed cities abroad. Ongoing talks about a prospective project involves making the Eko Atlantic Nigeria’s answer to Dubai, as regards business and residence.

Not that this approach to development is not a step in the right direction – which it very much is – but it seems a bit myopic. And so, the Lagos government and capable private companies/individuals need to take other steps in the direction of a deeper, more transformative and sustainable kind of development. To start with, reduction of pollution, crime rates, corruption, pari passu increment of standard infrastructures in education and healthcare sectors, and upping the standards of living would do well for the city.

Even though the EIUs reports have been met with certain criticisms, such as them simply being anglocentric, because they equate “liveability” with speaking English, it is difficult to ignore the effectiveness in their rating methods in pointing out the downsides of a city to its inhabitants. Melbourne, Adelaide, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, and Vienna, take the top five spots for Australia, Canada, and Austria respectively, based on the categories provided by the EIU. Melbourne, for example, has retained its number one spot for the 5th year running now.

Music, arts, landscape, and other attractions that these top cities are praised for are elements that Lagos also possesses. However, the deterrents listed earlier keep it from reaching the heights that it can attain in actuality, more so with its present economic status in the world. For example, Lagos also has possibilities to advance its transportation, by maximising the various means and modes available to the fullest, but the sector is riddled with challenges till date.

Thankfully, this year’s reports, and others before it, have not entirely adversely affected the economy of Lagos in the global scheme of events. However, the government should not take this for granted, or continue to approach these issues with a cavalier attitude, and do much more than erect posh-looking buildings, ‘temporary roads’, and other superficial short-lived ‘adjustments’ to avoid such rankings in the future, and promote the city in a better light throughout the globe. Also, because as the saying goes, “a good name is better than riches”.

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