• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Experts insist on infrastructure investment as solution to urbanization challenges

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Infrastructure challenge in Nigeria is quite enormous and investment in its provision has not been encouraging and this is compounded by the country’s growing population and rapid urbanization which put pressure on existing facilities.

Experts have continued to insist that investment in infrastructure is critical to solving this problem and also in curbing the widening housing demand-supply gap in Nigeria estimated  at 17 million units.

Housing demand in major Nigerian cities such as Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt is estimated to be growing at the rate of 20 percent annually while urbanization, which is currently growing at the rate of 40 percent in other countries, is growing at 48 percent in Nigeria

According to the experts, housing crisis in the cities across Africa has direct correlation to urbanization and, at 48 percent, Nigeria’s urbanization growth is the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“There are some positive aspects of urbanization in relation to economic development and worldwide cities have emerged as key nodes in globalized economy which serves as gateways to national economies”, notes Johnson Chukwuma, a structural engineer., in an interview with Business Day.

An analytical view of urbanization shows a strong causal connection between it and economic development and development experts believe that no country has grown to middle income without urbanizing.

“No country  has grown to high income without vibrant cities and this is because urban areas facilitate agglomeration of economies as costs are reduced through the learning, matching, and sharing of knowledge, labour, infrastructure etc”, Chukwuma agrees.

The challenges of urbanization, he opined, were there in terms of infrastructure for water supply, transportation, waste collection and disposal, and controlling air and water pollution, adding that there were also challenges in social infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, urban housing, etc.

Africa has an annual housing need of four million units and over 60 percent of this number is needed in urban areas, even as it is feared that this need will rise to five million a year, almost entirely in cities and this reflects new housing needs and not existing back-log or stock depreciation.

The Federal Government of Nigeria estimates that 720,000 new houses per year are required to fill the existing gap in housing demand and cities like Lagos need to invest in infrastructure for sustainable developments especially in the areas of housing.

Problems, however, exist and those considered inimical to housing supply include non-availability of developer-finance, planning and building regulation, cost of infrastructure, access to land among others.

Planners and managers of Lagos  estimate that the state has about five million housing units deficit and  Chukwuma advises that in order to tackle the challenges to housing, the state government should stimulate investment in infrastructure by providing funding solution for lenders by linking them with the capital markets, adding that government should also leverage private capital through public private partnership (PPP) initiatives.

“Lagos faces the problem of a dual city as a large port city serving as a window into all regions of the world and also as a congested centre of opportunity for migrants”, Chukwuma noted, listing three benefits that a sustainable city could achieve, namely, ecological sustenance, social harmony and economic growth.

He  pointing out that “depending on the level of development and focus shifts, a successful plan is one that ensures that whichever aspect is made pivotal, all the three benefits and the city advance competitively”.