Nigeria Diary: Eko Atlantic, a new development envisioning a new future

We are in the normal bumper to bumper traffic along the busy streets of Lagos.  Ayo expertly steers our black KIA around the yellow painted vans crammed with passengers known as Danfo buses.  He zips past some equally bright three-wheeled Tuk-Tuks and then outmaneuvers the myriad of mopeds and other assorted cars and SUVs which manage to spread out across every inch of asphalt – all at the same time.

This is Lagos traffic
This is Lagos traffic

We reach our destination and Ayo turns the KIA off of the clogged street, past a few bored security guards and onto an unpaved road devoid of traffic.   Before us: a vast expanse of white sand stretches to the Atlantic coast.

Eko Atlantic
Eko Atlantic

This is not a public beach. It’s a working construction site for a daunting planned development known as Eko Atlantic.  Dredgers are working around the clock to fill the area with sand and create a brand new island that – according to its website – will be home and workplace to more than 250,000 people.

This sign of the future is on the construction site
This sign of the future is on the construction site

The project began in earnest in 2005 and the managing director of South Energyx Nigeria Limited, the firm responsible for the project , predicts the “The first residential tower will open in 2016.”

Eko Pearl Tower
Eko Pearl Tower

Design renderings for the completed ten-square kilometer (3.86 sq mi) mixed use development showcase tony waterfronts, leisure facilities, retail shops, upscale offices and “tree-lined streets with efficient transport systems.”

Artist's rendition of Lagos's Eko Atlantic
Artist’s rendition of Lagos’s Eko Atlantic

Today in 2014,  Ayo and I see signs of underground surface drainage pipes and the beginnings of roadway infrastructure.

The Eko Atlantic  construction site yesterday
The Eko Atlantic construction site yesterday

We watch a few minutes while gigantic dump trucks move mountains of sand.   Then Ayo slowly merges back into the busy streets.  These are not lined with trees, but rather teeming with vehicles and people of all shapes and sizes.

Satellite view of Eko Atlantic island so far. How will it look in the future?
Satellite view of Eko Atlantic island so far. How will it look in the future?

I look out of the window as we leave Eko Atlantic.  In spite of its present problems, Nigeria is clearly envisioning  – and working toward – an improved tomorrow.

And speaking of tomorrow- tomorrow I will present as part of a panel at a Nigeria Infrastructure Building Conference.  I look forward to hearing the other participants’ visions and plans.

In gratitude for this experience here in Lagos,

Gina

P.S. Do you know about Nigeria’s Eko Atlantic project?  What do you think?  Look forward to hearing from you!

 

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Daily Danger Zone – or another day, another walk to school.

[To better experience today’s essay, please fill your head with the loud sounds of honking cars…]

We live less than a block from Lulu’s elementary.   You might think that would make for a delightfully stress-free walk to school each morning.

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Lulu, standing just outside our palazzo – ready to run the gauntlet.

But we also live in Italy, where apparently it’s a good idea to create a chaotic intersection on a narrow hill street, just steps away from an entrance to a school.  So our walk is not so delightful.

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Cars converge from three directions at the base 17th century Roman Emperor, Ferdinand the Third.  Above him, it’s two-way traffic. Below him, just one-way.  There are no signal lights. No easy-to-read direction signs. And no sidewalks.

This is looking up the hill toward our house - the green shutters on the right.. yikes!
This is looking up the hill toward our house with the green shutters on the right.. yikes!

I tell Lulu to play “baby duck” – so she stays close to me in single duck-like-file. But many drivers still seem to close their eyes and put one hand on the horn and use the other to gesture for us to get out of their way.

Don't be fooled, this is not a sidewalk, just a little safety space next to the entrance of a lovely B&B. Lulu's school is the gate at the bottom of the hill.
Don’t be fooled, this is not a sidewalk, but it is the little safety space next to the entrance of our friend Barbara’s B&B – just below the intersection.  Lulu’s school is the gate at the bottom of this hill.

It’s nothing like the five-lanes of traffic I used to brave when I drove to work back in Washington, DC.  But this five-minute daily stroll with Death is heart pounding.  So far, we have cheated Him.

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Ferdinand getting his left traffic-waving hand repaired earlier this summer.

But our traffic monitor Ferdinand has not been so lucky.  When we first moved in, he only had a right hand.  And now, as he motionlessly waves us on with his newly attached left hand, I laugh to myself thinking he probably lost that hand…

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..by being hit by a car.

My hat is off to cross-walk guards everywhere! Salute!

Baci, Gina