Lagos on the Up and Up: French Aid for Buses

I don’t often write about Southern Nigeria on this blog, nor do I often write about my interest in urban transportation issues in Africa (especially because I am no expert on either topic!), but this AP story on French aid to Lagos’ bus system ($100 million total) is definitely worth a read:

The French Foreign ministry said in a statement Friday that the funds will go toward Lagos’ $330-million urban transport plan.


Lagos launched its first bus rapid transit line in 2008. However, the city still relies mainly on individually-owned and poorly-run rickety buses.

Lagos has won a lot of plaudits in recent years for the development strategy pursued by Governor Babatunde Fashola, who has relied on local taxes to broaden government services in the city and in the state. Lagos isn’t perfect – crime, poverty, and pollution are still major problems – but a lot of eyes are on the city as a potential model for other Nigerian and African cities.

A transportation revolution in Lagos could contribute to that perception. Around the world, public transportation in cities is a major concern, including in the US where I personally believe most major cities have a public transportation deficit. Having strictly private transportation in megacities is a recipe for a high rate of fatal accidents, massive pollution, congestion, and overall inefficiency. There are relatively few strong public bus systems in Africa (Dakar has one, and I used it frequently when I lived there), and even fewer urban train systems (on a side note, check out this article on the subway in Algiers), so it could be very important that Lagos is taking this step forward.

11 thoughts on “Lagos on the Up and Up: French Aid for Buses

  1. There’s also the issue of making sure that a public transportation system is cheap enough for the people who need it the most and on time. If they can guarantee those two while avoiding excessive corruption from the large amount of money being moved it would definitely be a sign of Lagos’ growth.

    • I’ve ridden on those buses, they are cheap enough and quite popular.

      My problem is with safety, the drivers move around like lunatics.

  2. I live in Lagos.

    I don’t see the French money significantly improving the situation here. The problem isn’t really a lack of buses, but a lack of roads and poor bus driver training. I think the money would be better spent on the light rail network – more efficient and less polluting.

    Lagos simply doesn’t have the road network to support a robust mass transit system.

    Secondly, it is a loan, not aid. The money will be paid back.

      • Training bus drivers is not rocket science. I am not convinced that Lagos state needs more money to train bus drivers. What is needed is better orientation and more commitment.

  3. I think this is potentially a great initiative, and I agree that a modern transport system is essential to build a prosperous and modern city (I agree with Maduka that rail is far superior), but I wonder – have any experts considered the likely effect on those who make a living in the private transport sector? Will the new system likely generate sufficient direct and indirect jobs to offset any losses in the existing network?

    • I hear that former private bus drivers are being employed as drivers for these new buses. I kind of suspect that is true, because the driving is really bad. Each bus also has conductors.

  4. I think you should occasionally write about Southern Nigeria, because Southern Nigeria is the economic engine of West Africa and the rest of West Africa / Sahel regions cannot and does not develop in isolation to Southern Nigeria.

    For example, you cannot really understand the nature of evangelical Christianity being practiced in Nigeria’s Middle Belt if you don’t understand its roots in Southern Nigeria. You should take a little time to explore the impact of moderate Islamic groups like Nasrul Lahi L Fatih Society (NASFAT) on the practice of Islam further North.

    Also consider how Governor Fashola’s performance contrasts with Abuja’s incompetence. This rekindles an old debate about the devolution of power from the Center and the future internal political architecture of Nigeria.

    (Fashola has quite a few imitators in Southern Nigeria, and the view that Nigeria is best served by a weak center and strong local governments is really gaining traction: I heard this from three bank security guards this morning, one from South-Eastern Nigeria and the other two from the Middle Belt. “Confederation” is a word you increasingly hear on the streets of Lagos.)

    **As a one time graduate student I FULLY understand the dangers of blowing the scope of your research project.

      • Let’s put it this way. Nigeria is a diverse nation, consisting of more than two hundred different ethnic groups. In order to manage the diversity and complexity, the constitution allows for many provisions and compromises at the center that limit effective governance.

        For example, the Federal Cabinet must have at least 36 members (one from each of Nigeria’s 36 states). In addition, all appointments at the center should reflect “Federal Character”. The result is an unwieldy, bureaucracy at the center, not fit for purpose.

        Increasingly, the Federal Government is losing the ability to execute projects or provide public goods (electricity is a good example). In the better educated South, local state governments are not as bound by as many restrictions and are more responsive and dynamic.

        It is more of an economic consideration than anything else.

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