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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December, 2004, 18:09 GMT
Is your city too chaotic?
Clearing rubbish in Lagos
Clearing rubbish in Lagos

African cities are exploding. According to the UN, Africa has the fastest growing urban population in the world.

By 2015, it is estimated that Lagos will be the third largest city on earth with up to 24.3 million residents.

Mega-cities like Lagos are battling to cope with poor infrastructure and planning. Unsightly heaps of waste, poor sanitation, slums, pollution and lack of security are very common.

Next month African governments are meeting in Durban to tackle these problems.

In 1992 Tanzania launched a UN-backed project which seems to have made Dar es Salaam an easier place to live in.

But some argue that their city's chaos adds to its vibrancy and that more functional cities have less character.

Africa Live is asking: Is your city too big to function? Does your city veer towards the chaos of Lagos or a more controlled Dar es Salaam? Are you proud of your city or do you want it to change?

We want to know what it is like to live in your city. And if you've got a photograph of your city, please send it to africa.live@bbc.co.uk.

Tell us what you think by using the form on the right and join the debate on Wednesday 15 December at 1630GMT and 1830GMT on the BBC World Service.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, please send us your comments with your telephone number, which will not be published.


Lagos is a problem-ridden city. So unmanageable that even the Nigerian government abandoned it to construct a new capital Abuja from scratch. The failure of the Nigerian government to find solutions to problems the city faces is unsurprising nonetheless. Lagos is a microcosm of the much bigger universal lack-lustre approach of the Nigerian leaders to everything in that oil-rich country.
Linus Agu, Seattle WA, USA

Lagos has a uniqueness that is reflected in its "sparkling" daily activities that are unpredictable as well as lacking in any boring experience. There is always something exciting happening.
Bernard Oniwe, Nigerian

Cameroon seems to be the only country in the world where urban planning has no meaning
Austin Achunkwe, Cameroonian in Korea
The story of Cameroon's cities is a regrettable one. Cameroon seems to be the only country in the world where urban planning has no meaning. What is called a city in this country is nothing but a jumble of assorted structures punctuated here and there with mountains of refuse, abandoned cars and pools of mosquito infested water.
Austin Achunkwe, Cameroonian in Korea

I am proud of my city today. Hergeisa the most peaceful city in Somalia. The infrastructure of the city, population growth and peace has led to an improvement in living standards.
Mubarak Salah, United Kingdom

My country Ethiopia has similar problems of explosion due to excessive population increase, especially the capital city, Addis Ababa. The estimated population is around 4 million which the city can not accommodate at all. There are not enough houses or jobs. Thanks to the new mayor of the city, Arkebe Equbay he is now taking the initiative to clean up the city and to construct apartments for the people who can afford it least.
Asrat Begashaw, Israel

Well Nairobi is really becoming congested with the increase in motor vehicles and bad roads. Traffic is causing mayhem in the city.
Rahul Bharadwaj, Nairobi, Kenya

No place on earth is as dirty as Kéra in Addis Ababa
Babush, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
No place on earth is as dirty as Kéra in Addis Ababa. The city administration pretends to make Addis Ababa the hub of East African commerce and the capital of Africa. No one in the administration cares about housing, clean water supply, air pollution etc. Lack of hygiene is one of the major triggers of HIV/AIDS infections in the capital! In Addis Ababa the NGOs are doing a great deal more to improve the quality of life of the people than the city administration.
Babush, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

I have lived in Accra the capital city of Ghana since 1973 and have watched the city slowly grow. The city continues to expand on the fringes with little or no planning. In the central business district hawkers and sellers have taken over the streets and the sidewalks. This makes driving a nightmare during the day. It is becoming chaotic and a pain to live in Accra.
Koku Quist, Ghana

One can never be proud of a city where a 15 minute flood will cause a one hour delay in traffic. Lagos is a typical example of lack of foresight and planning. Diseases spread very fast in densely populated areas. I believe those at the helms of affairs need to do something about the effects caused by an increasing population.
Anthony Arojojoye, Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos is great! Too often only the bad side (which is widespread) is shown, but i'll take the hustle and bustle of lagos over the deadness of Amherst MA (where I go to school) any day!!! Lagos lacks planning.. look at Abuja... in 15 years it will probably be as busy as Lagos, but at least the city was planned.
Michelle, Nigeria

Many aspects of Lagos are chaotic and dirty, but there are also many parts of Lagos that are very impressive and beautiful. Parts of Lagos such as Victoria Island, Ikoyi, and Lekki are outstanding, and very hospitable, with a large non-African population living in those areas comfortably. No disrespect to our beautiful brothers and sisters in Ghana, but I just came back from Accra which I must admit is cleaner, more quiet and calmer than Lagos. However, looking at visible infrastructure and modernity, Accra paled in comparison to the best that Lagos had to offer.
Patrick Egwu, Nigeria/England/USA

Yaounde is the worst shanty town I have seen in Cameroon.
Teboh Manett, Cameroon
Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon, is the worst shanty town I have seen in Cameroon. No sewage disposal system, poor roads, poorly-planned town. In fact the worst town you can dream of staying in.
Teboh Manett, Cameroon

A chaotic city is a reflection of its inhabitants, and vice versa. If noisiness were to be a measure of productivity then my quiet beautiful city of Asmara would have been rated badly. I will give "A" to Asmara (Eritrea) when it comes to serenity and calmness.
Yohannes, Eritrea

I work in Nairobi , the city is so chaotic, traffic jams, all the rubbish lies on the road. You wake up at 5.00 am, you reach the office at 9.00am. This city needs a good planner
Daniel Kibaga, Kenya

I believe Lagos is chaotic, rowdy and sometimes uncontrolled, but that's what makes it special. It contains some of the most happiest, if not the happiest people in the world. It's about the only city in Nigeria that fits a well-balanced cultural diffusion of any class, race, religion, or ethnic group. Not only is it the cheapest city, it has the most technology and the second-best infrastructure. I believe the government are taking it slow and steady and in a few years things will begin to change.
Michael Feyisayo, Nigeria/USA

I am a Nigerian and I can reliably say that most cities in Nigeria like Port Harcourt, Kano, Warri, Owerri etc are exploding. The major cause is inefficient planning. These cities have no proper plan for refuse disposal, traffic control and even basic amenities proportional with the rate of population increase. The result is a chaotic scenario of government doing the much they can and abandoning the citizens to do the rest by collective or individually sponsored environment cleaning activities.
Kingsley Chimaobi Iheanacho, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

There used to be many street children on the road, but they are not found in Kigali these days.
Albert P'Rayan, Indian in Rwanda

Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is a small and beautiful city. People who have never visited Rwanda may be thinking, based on media reports, that it is a country known for ethnic divisions, genocide and violence. Having lived in Kigali for almost five years, I can say that it is a peaceful city where citizens and foreigners are very secure. There are many UN and non-governmental organisations from different countries. There used to be many street children on the road, but they are not found in Kigali these days.
Albert P'Rayan, Indian in Rwanda

I live in Dar es Salaam about four kilometres from my work place. But it takes me more than half-an-hour to travel from home to work. I have taken to work long hours just to escape the agony of traffic jams in the evenings. I wish more office blocks would be constructed out of the city centre to reduce congestion.
Wesley Nsomba, Tanzania

I live in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia. But since the civil war, there have been an increased number of internally displaced persons in this small city thus making it overcrowded. Monrovia also faces other problems such as lack of a proper sewage and garbage disposal system.
Emmanuel B. Davis, Liberia

Who needs "character" from the stress and filth caused by a dysfunctional city. This goes against the grain of the human or animal instinct to want to survive. These residents who argue in favour of this "character" are making excuses for living their lives wallowing in their filth, or they live in the elite parts of the cities and romanticise it.
Duncan, SA

My town, Bamenda in the North West of Cameroon, used to be a showcase of a beautiful and clean town. Nowadays it is a slum. It has no roads. Garbage piles have become a landmark. If you want to come to my house just pass the first garbage heap on the bend, go round the other very big heap, climb on the next and you will see my house near the next garbage heap. Houses crop up everyday like mushrooms without any specific planning. There is total anarchy in the town as the council fights everyday with hawkers. My town has metamorphosed into a jungle. I am ashamed of it.
Teneng Lucas Chefor, Cameroon

No city is too big to function, look at Johannesburg in South Africa.
Fatso, Zimbabwe

The thing with African cities is the inability of the city fathers to provide services for rate payers. No city is too big to function, look at Johannesburg in South Africa. We just need people who are committed for the good of the environment to take office not opportunists who survive through corruption.
Fatso, Zimbabwe

I doubt Lagosians would love it if Lagos became less chaotic. Order is something unknown to Lagosians, they would probably feel like a fish out of water.
Tayo, Canada

I don't believe any of the African cities is too big to manage. The major problem lies with the government and the professionals saddled with the responsibility of managing these cities. For instance, when I was working (NYSC) in Abuja in 1998, green areas such as playing grounds and open spaces into petrol filling station, residential plots, corner shops etc. The damage is now being done to the beautiful city of Abuja which is going almost same way as Lagos.
M.O. Adepoju, Uk

There is no city as chaotic as the city of Lagos in the world but I guess that's the beauty of this city.Where ever you look, you see only people, millions and millions of them live in this city. I guess that makes it special too.
Sheikh Umar, Nigeria

Although the facilities may not be good enough, people who grow up in vibrant cities of Africa are usually proud of the city because of the feeling of 'activity' going on in those places. No matter how bad Lagos is, people who live there still proudly declare they are Lagosians.
Emeka, Aba Nigeria

Lagos is the most difficult place to live on earth I think. We need a UN backed solution like what happened in Dar es Salaam.
Chex, USA

The growth of cities in Africa poses real dangers in terms of political instability.
Stephen Gitau, Kenyan in USA

I recently returned from Nairobi where I was amazed by the amount of traffic. The roads are jammed with vehicles - most of them unroadworthy, the streets are jammed with people, remaining space is taken up by garbage and other odd items. It is a big mess. The growth of cities in Africa poses real dangers in terms of political instability. It is a revolution of the darkest kind waiting to happen.
Stephen Gitau, Kenyan in USA

I agree that Lagos as a whole is chaotic, that the population is increasing every second and that with minimal facilities in place, the federal government's input to increase facilities for Lagosians is minimal. I suggest that more jobs should be created in surrounding states (like Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Edo etc) to enable some people to relocate to those states. By so doing the government can now begin to control the chaos of Lagos.
Emmanuel T. Oyekunbi, Nigerian in USA

The government needs to do something to alleviate the headache that is Lagos. Lagos is heavily overpopulated for its size. It needs more roads, bridges and an intercity rail system. This would aid in drastically reducing traffic and population. And most important of all, there seriously needs to be a solution to the fowl stench of sewage and rubbish that litters the state.
Ifeanyi Nwakwesi, Lagos, Nigeria/ UK

Lagos is a place where you have to constantly be on your toes, sharp and think fast.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos, Nigeria

Life in Lagos is a classic example of suffering and smiling at the same time. It is everything rolled into one. The good, the bad and the ugly and that is what makes the city tick. It is a complicated city where the street boys who harass motorists and passers by also help put off a fire outbreak in a house or a car. Lagos is a place where you have to constantly be on your toes, sharp and think fast to be ahead of conmen who roam the streets.It is a fast moving city with no dull moments.A city where you can move up the ladder and dine with the high and mighty.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos, Nigeria

The Nigerian Government in conjunction with the Lagos state authority should work together to decentralise government offices, industrial plants and other job-creating activities to other Nigerian states. This will reduce the stress and congestion being experienced in Lagos.
Dr. O Olukolu, USA

Lagos is the commercial hub of Nigeria if not the whole of West Africa. Some smaller countries don't have the resources, wealth and facilities Lagos has. Yet, even as a Nigerian, I can only live in Lagos if I have a helicopter. I have never stayed in Lagos beyond a few days. I find the pace of life too fast. As for the traffic situation, I would rather not talk about it.
Tony Izuogu, South Africa

Thankfully, the problems affecting African cities are not due to their size. African indolence and lack of planning, make for a chaotic situation.
Charles, Montreal, Canada

Character is good and Lagos does have character.
Anon, Nigerian in Munich, Germany

I love Lagos. It is small but huge at the same time because of the people. Excessive, chaotic living is getting the better of the city. But too much control will turn it into any other big city in the world. Character is good and Lagos does have character. A dead city is like salt thrown in the sand and for me Lagos and all other big African cities will die if they go to either of the extremes of planning or of no planning what so ever.
Anon, Nigerian in Munich, Germany

I just recently returned from Nairobi where I was amazed by the amount of traffic. The roads are jammed with vehicles most of them not roadworthy, the streets are jammed with people, remaining space is taken by garbage and other odd items. It is a big mess. The growth of cities in Africa pose real dangers in terms of political instability. It is a revolution of the darkest kind waiting to happen.
Stephen Gitau, Kenyan in USA

I agree that Lagos as a whole is chaotic, that the population is increasing every second and that with minimal facilities in place, the federal government's input to increase facilities for Lagosians is miniscule. I suggest that more jobs should be created in surrounding states (like Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Edo etc) to enable some people to relocate to those states. By so doing the government can now begin to control the chaos of Lagos.
Emmanuel T. Oyekunbi, Nigerian in USA

What is the largest city in Nigeria and Africa, that looks like a war-torn sewage dump, supposed to represent! Nigeria?
Ifeanyi Nwakwesi, Lagos, Nigeria
I live in Lagos, I am sure I don't need to talk about the chaos in Lagos because it is already known. However, I will say that the government needs to do something to alleviate the headache that is Lagos. Lagos is heavily overpopulated for its size, but it can cope if the powers that be put their head together and come up with a resolution. Lagos needs more roads and bridges. Lagos also needs intercity rail transportation as another alternative. This would aid in drastically reducing traffic and population. And most important of all, there seriously needs to be a solution to the fowl stench of sewage and rubbish that litters the state. What is the largest city in Nigeria and Africa, that looks like a war-torn sewage dump, supposed to represent! Nigeria?
Ifeanyi Nwakwesi, Lagos, Nigeria/ UK




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