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Lagos, Nigeria: A Study in Anarchy and Negotiation


F. Hoelzel

Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design, Stuttgart, DE
About F.
TU Dortmund University, Department of Spatial Planning, Dortmund, Germany
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Lagos is a megacity like no other. Not so much because it is predicted to become the world’s most populous city – with approximately 80 million inhabitants in 2100 (Hoornweg and Pope, 2017) – but rather because Lagos has nothing that is really public. There’s no crystal ball, nevertheless, it is likely to say that Lagos will never have (functioning) centralized services. Classic urban planning and classic developmentalism call for large-scale infrastructure and centrally organized urban services. The logic, followed by the UN and development banks establishes a strong link between well-functioning and accessible infrastructure on the one hand, and development and prosperity on the other hand. Not in Lagos. Even though the already big West African metropolis has almost no public infrastructure and services, it has become Africa’s top startup ecosystem, for instance (Omoruyi, 2022). On the micro-scale, residents thrive by giving resourceful responses to the conditions of partly extreme vulnerability (Harrison, 2006). As a result, and despite of the lack of an efficient central government, the city functions quite well. By studying the informal water provision of Otumara, an inner-city slum community in Lagos, the paper draws from the observation of everyday practices recommendations for practical-normative urban planning approaches. In doing so, the substantive policy problem (water supply) is used to analyze actor constellations (Scharpf, 2018) and to decipher the conflict of elite urban visions versus everyday realities of the urban poor majority (de Satgé & Watson, 2018).
How to Cite: Hoelzel, F., 2022. Lagos, Nigeria: A Study in Anarchy and Negotiation. Bhumi, The Planning Research Journal, 9(1), pp.18–34. DOI:
Published on 20 Dec 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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