Thursday, April 1, 2010

UK to invest £30m in Nigerian public transport system

Anyone who has experienced the "molues" and "danfoes" - the notorious buses and minibuses of Lagos - will understand the word anarchy. They carry huge numbers of people round the African mega-city but they respect no traffic lanes, bus-stops or policemen, many are falling apart and they belch some of the the dirtiest smoke in Africa.

But Britain is hoping to bring some order to the city of legendary traffic jams and road rage by trying to rationalise its public transport system. Over the next few years it will invest more than £30m increasing the number of bus routes, bringing in bigger buses and helping to build two new train lines to go through some of the most densely populated areas of Lagos.

Lagos has a population of 16 million but the Nigerian government expects this to grow to over 25m in the next 20 years, leaving the city authorities unable to provide clean water and electricity, or to keep pace with the growth of slums. Unless investments are urgently made in the infrastructure, says the UK's Department for International Development, the situation will become critical. It now plans to invest in improving slum areas in other African cities.

The switch to investing in the urban environment rather than rural areas marks a significant shift in approach to combating poverty. Until very recently most aid has been directed at rural areas to try and stem the flow of people to cities and boost agriculture. But there is a new understanding that hunger in large cities and poverty is now as bad in cities as in rural areas.

"Investing in urban areas is a different set of challenges," said international development minister Gareth Thomas. "We have watched the rise of the mega-city, especially in Africa. Places like like Addis Ababa, Cairo and Johannesburg will all see massive expansion over the next 20-30 years. Unless we act now people will only live in slums.

"People find it difficult to access work outside their own impoverished areas due to lack of transport and potential industry around the slums is hampered by unreliable electricity sources," he said.

UN predictions show that, by 2030, 700 million people will live in towns or cities in Africa and of them, 70% will live in slums.

The Guardian

Related stories: CNN does special on Lagos

Documentary on rebranding Nigeria

Britain plans to build £1m Jail in Nigeria for Nigerian criminals serving sentences in Britain

BBC reports on Nigeria's free trade zone

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