FUTURE LAGOS | Rethinking the future of the Lagos lagoon

“The Lagoon City first of all has to add qualities instead of being the next parasitic urban development.”

lagoon pic2

In an attempt to develop visionary perspectives for the future of Lagos, Nigerian experts and DASUDA (Dutch Alliance for Sustainable Urban Development in Africa) launched a Lagos Lab earlier this summer.

 future lagos logo

Words: DASUDA  Editing: Olamide Udoma

On Thursday 25th June DASUDA organised a seminar with stakeholders, possible shareholders and partners, to share and tested the results of the first Lagos Lab workshop. The week long workshop focused on the big themes of Water, Housing, and Mobility in relation to the meaning of the Lagoon and in the context of an explosive growing city.

The starting point of the seminar was the vision that the lagoon is the source of Lagos and can become the vibrant heart of a 21st century worldwide renowned metropolis.

Looking At Lagos

Rapid Population Growth: The population growth of Lagos picked up in the 70’s and 80’s and then even more since 1990. The mega-city’s population is now increasing by 70 people each hour and with an average age of its citizens of 19 years the existing population of 23 million will double within one generation.

Urban Pressure On The Water Edge: The expanding city is both moving outwards in a vast sprawl and inward pressing the urban boundaries into the lagoon where floating villages exist like Makoko and reclaiming land has become the norm.

Hidden DNA Of The Lagoon: Despite the misuse and mistreatment (e.g. pollution and unused waterfronts) of the Lagoon, Lagos originated at the lagoon and it is part of the city’s DNA’. Therefore it is important to use its undiscovered potentials to serve the emerging city at its best.

Growth Map

Smart Moving Lagos

The challenge of coherent networks: Coherent networks for cars, public transport, cyclist and pedestrians are the main challenge of every city, but a consistent system is crucial and allows every person to choose the travel mode best suitable for their purpose instead of just one network dominated by cars in which everybody is fighting for space.

Opportunities for Lagos: A megacity with 23 million inhabitants and 16 municipalities is a great challenge for transport planning.  An extra opportunity in the lagoon area is the possibility of travelling by water. Ferries are an extra mode of transportation potentially covering 10% of the trips of new developments, this would have a big impact in avoiding congestion.

mobility split

move mobility 1move mobility 2

Housing and Lagoon

There is a wide variety of typologies along the water edges. From high density low rise informal dwelling at water edges to low density low rise luxury individual villa’s, from informal floating neighbourhoods to high rise apartment buildings. With the growth of the population the challenge is to provide a good living environment that can cope with densification.

The analysis of the demographics tells us that 70% of the 23 million citizens live of an income 39.000 Naira or less. Meaning that a huge task in providing very basic housing solutions needs to be taken up. At least partly bridging the supply gap of 193.000 units needed per annum. Social housing development in middle density and mixed use, but most of all catered to the specific situation with contextual design and community driven solutions.

Providing a broad sense of living space: The urban objective should be to create living spaces that accommodate the whole range of functions, needs and wishes of various target groups living with and around the lagoon.



Lagos Lagoon Approach

The lagoon is much more than a water body. It is a system that works with the land and wetlands that feed the lagoon with fresh water by their natural flows. Seeing the lagoon as the main outstanding asset of Lagos is what has been taken as starting point for the Lagos Lab Workshop. This Lagoon City Approach starts at the lagoon as central source and has the aim to recreate the Lagoon as a vital heart of Lagos.


Principles of the Lagoon Basin

Adding value to a cleaner and safer water environment might be the key to create sustainable solutions for Lagos. The concept consists of water basins that catch various qualities of water from the main land and have filter areas to create a clean water basin. These ring dike structures are first of all located at strategic sites along the lagoon edges, where they are an addition to the shore length and create the possibility for well serviced landings for ferries across the lagoon. With controlled regulations the ring dikes can be extended to facilitate new developments for housing and public space.

urban dev1urban dev2

  • Clean Water basin:  Located at the lagoon shores these basins collect water feed in from small rivers and land drainage. With natural helophyte filters the basin water can be cleaned and used within the basin for fish farming and surplus can overflow to the lagoon system and add to the general water quality.
  • Ferry city connectivity: The mobility and connectivity of the existing citizens in neighbouring areas can be highly improved by creating a well serviced landing for a new system of Ferry City connections with secured parking facilities for car, bike, taxi and bus and a wide feeder route through the neighbourhood with quality public space for walking and cycling.
  • Inclusive Housing provision: Housing in a mix of categories can be developed as a continuation from the existing diversity along the lagoon shores. By cross subsidy financing development models and objectives of mixed use developments these new developments are aiming to be highly inclusive.
  • Public Space liveability: A city is defined by its public space, therefore incorporating streets with lots of space for pedestrians and using the new water edges by creating parks and leisure space with safety and security for all citizens is a crucial principle of the Lagoon Basins concept.
  • The concept of Lagoon Basins is modular. A possible scenario can start with one basinas a pilot, a pioneer front runner to test and experience all aspects. New locations can be identified while development of the first basin continues.  Participation in planning, developing, building and operating the Lagoon basins with local communities and stakeholders at the locations is key.

During the Lagos Lab workshops the dialogue fed the idea of establishing a Lagoon Steering Board as an entity with mandate from Federal and State governments to be able to optimize all aspects and be a clear partner for all stakeholders to address all issues with such a development.


Next Steps: The Lagos Lab will be back in October with an updated outcomes of the seminar and Lab.

lagoon city 1


lagoon city 2

First Lagoon City basin development


lagoon city 3

Growing model over time


DASUDA is the Alliance for Sustainable Urban Development in Africa and was established in 2012 by Robert van Kats, Remco Rolvink, and Mark Hendriks. It now consist of over 15 companies and institutes in the Netherlands and multiple local partners that participate in projects in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ghana. Aim is to achieve sustainable urban development in an integral way  with local stakeholders and long lasting partners.


  1. Image: Dasuda
  2. Image: Move Mobility
  3. Image: Move Mobility
  4. Image: ARCTIC Infrastructure
  5. Image: Dasuda
  6. Image: Dasuda
  7. Image Dasuda


About FutureLagos

Olamide Udoma is a researcher, writer and filmmaker holding degrees in BSc Architecture, MA Design and MPhil Infrastructure Management. Olamide has worked in London, South Africa and Nigeria with various organisations focusing on transport management, slum upgrading and housing rights in urbanising African cities. At Our Future Cities NPO, she is the Lagos manager and editor.