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WCD: Enhancing The Value of Cities and Communities in Nigeria

Cities and communities are powerhouses of economic growth and the bedrock of modern civilization. The interdependent relationship between the inner core, transition zone and periphery settlements have played (is playing) a tremendous role in the stretching of human civilizations across countries, borders and regions of the world. Until 2009, more people lived in rural than in urban areas. Today, 55% of the world’s population reside in towns and cities and it is projected to swell to 75% by 2050. The most interesting fact is that much of the growth in urban populations will happen in Asia and Africa, especially in China, India and Nigeria where fertility rates remain high.

The first paragraph is a clarion call for relevant stakeholders to place a premium on the development of cities and communities. Values that cities and communities bestow on the environment and national development are numerous but I’ll examine four aspects of value that they offer in this piece and how to enhance them. They are economic value, social value, environmental value and innovation value. These four values are interconnected but they form the impetus that serves as a backbone for the development of where many Nigerians yearn to visit and refer to as ‘saner climes.’

Economically, cities and communities provide efficient infrastructures and services, attract the most talented and provide economies of scale. As we have come to know, there are certain products and services that will not sell anywhere apart from Lagos. Adding to these, cities and communities receive more investment and stimulate economic growth. Over the years, we have seen people migrate from rural regions to cities in search of ‘greener pasture.’

However, cities require effective overall leadership across all spheres to harness the tangible and intangible resources it provides else its strength can be its weakness. The more people move into cities the more responsibility is on the hands of stakeholders. The Government or leadership of cities must combat poverty in cities by promoting economic development and job creation. People migrate into cities primarily for work. If they find none, they resort to illegal means of satisfying their desire. There must be a program that can engage people in all levels of education. Intensive urban growth can lead to greater poverty if the government is unable to provide services for all people. Also, the government must Involve local communities in the affairs of the overall local government. Cities must seek ways to accommodate immigrants and prevent factors that can trigger urban blight.

Socially, cities provide a point for-of-mix for various ethnic groups and people. Cities are a good rallying point for strengthening cultures and diversities. The government must seek to help foster this organic mix by providing an environment void of ethnic discrimination and equal opportunity that helps civic engagement and social tolerance. in addition, social objectives must be integrated into the development plans of cities. The social life of cities has attracted numerous people into it. For example, the Lagos City marathon is a platform for interaction, meeting new people and socially engaging city residents. Cities must function for all not only for its indigenes.

The environmental value of cities and communities can be a curse or a blessing depending on the approach of stakeholders towards the environment. While the immigration of people into cities opens up more rural areas and enhance development, there is a nexus between urban development and the environment. As the population in cities and communities’ surges, more environmental challenges ranging from transport, housing, waste management, pollution, etc. are faced. It magnifies global threats such as climate change, water and food security. Adding to these, the number of slum dwellers is likely to be on the rise if adequate infrastructures aren’t provided.

To combat the housing challenges that emanate from cities, the government must provide all kind of housing that fits all classes of people in the society. Housing schemes must not only address the rich but must incorporate the poor and middle class. A transport system that befits the megacity must be provided to ameliorate the bottlenecks associated with the movement of people and goods from one point to another. Other means of transportation must be massively invested to reduce the number of people on the road and reduce the combustion of automobile fuels that affects air quality.

The waste management systems must be functional and effective to cater to the increasing production of all kinds of waste from the population. Concentrated energy use leads to greater air pollution with a significant impact on human health. Tree planting must be totally embraced and the care of green spaces and parks as a key element in urban planning must be incorporated. With a dirty environment, the environmental values of cities declines and people cannot go about their economic activities in an environment with a foul smell and poor air quality that poses threats to their livelihood.

The Innovative value of cities and communities relies on the proximity and diversity of people. This quality creates employment, aids the exchange of ideas and breeds new ideas. As cities expand, new business and business models erupt. In addition, city and community stakeholders engender creative means to tackle problems that arise from the surge in urban population. In recent times, we have seen how economic, social, environmental and other challenges have been creatively tackled by city residents. Cities and communities stimulate innovation across spheres and industries. The duty of the government in cities is to provide an enabling environment for innovation to thrive, create healthy competition that boosts economic growth, and reward the hard work of innovators across industries.

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