Ukemeabasi Esiet

Christian | Nigerian | Urbanist | Photographer

Nigeria’s Urbanization Prospects

Did you know that, in addition to having a massive population, Africa is still 60% rural? Maybe you already did, but did you also know that population statisticians expect the continent to be 56% urban by 2050?

Moreover, while the global rural population is set to peak in the next decade or so, did you know that 90% of the global urban population’s 2.5 billion increase is expected to be in Africa and Asia?

These are just two of the findings from the United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects published in 2014. In this post, I’ll drill down on the key findings as they relate to Nigeria.

Nigeria on the rise

Nigeria has the largest rural population in Africa at 95 million and is expected to increase this number by an additional 50 million by 2050. But Nigeria not only leads in rural dwellers, it also leads in urban population.

Nigeria went from 30% urban in 1990 to 47% urban in 2014 and is expected to be 67% urban in 2050. Between 2010 and 2015, Nigeria experienced an average annual rate of urban population increase of 1.9%, second only to Burkina Faso’s 3% in West Africa.

In fact, Nigeria is one of three countries (alongside India and China) that will account for 37% of the projected growth in the global urban population between 2014 and 2050. Nigeria alone will have added 212 million city dwellers within the next 34 years, while India will add 404 million and China will add 292 million.

Also, Lagos has the honor of being one of the three current African megacities (cities with 10 million or more residents) and the 19th largest city in the world with an estimated population of 12.6 million residents in 2014. The UN anticipates that Lagos, Cairo (Egypt), and Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo) will be joined by Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Johannesburg (South Africa), and Luanda (Angola) by 2030.

What does this mean for urban planning and development policy in Nigeria?

This explosive growth in Nigeria’s urban population will definitely have an impact on Nigeria’s citizens, natural environment, and economy. The U.N. report lists policy implications for national and regional governments, but I have personalized them for Nigeria.

The Nigerian government must:

Implement policies to ensure that the dividends of urban growth are distributed equitably and sustainably. This goes beyond subsidy reinvestment and poverty alleviation schemes and requires a holistic approach to urban planning and management. This approach is meant to enable Nigerian cities to generate better income opportunities, expand basic infrastructure, improve access to services, reduce slum populations, and preserve natural assets.

Vary the policies it implements to prepare for and manage the spatial distribution of city populations and internal migration to minimize the harmful effects of policies that restrict rural-urban migration. Instead of blocking the influx into major cities, the government should aim for decentralized growth across the nation so people can find opportunities in cities closer to home.

Use policies that help to balance the distribution of urban growth so that urban populations are not excessively concentrated in one or two main agglomerations in every country. This recommendation relates to the preceding point but emphasizes the reduction of negative impacts. These policies will help to mitigate the negative environmental impacts of massive agglomerations such as massive waste generation and natural resource depletion.

Generate accurate, consistent, and timely data on global trends in urbanization and city growth so that good information feeds effective policy programs. From state census bureaus to LGA statistics offices, Nigeria needs to build a robust collection of datasets that are essential for effective policymaking.

Apply competent, responsive, and accountable governance strategies that effectively use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to sustain manageable urbanization. Let’s finally embrace the 21st century across all level of government by ending the current over-reliance on paper records and looking for secure physical and cloud-based data storage solutions. We have CcHUB, iDEA, and abundant local ICT talent that can be put to work to address this issue.

Let’s finally get to the point where Nigerian cities offer the best quality of life for their residents.


I obtained all of the figures stated in this post from the following report that can be accessed on the UN DESA website:

  • United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2014). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/352)

A version of this article first appeared on one40plus tMe on May 28, 2016


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This entry was posted on March 23, 2017 by and tagged , , , , , .
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