Mapping Lagos Slums

8/23/2020 -

66% percent of Lagos's population lives in "slums". This map visualizes where these populations are located, as a way to make visible these communities and the issues facing them. Some of these issues include displacement and disbursement by state authorities, as well as fires, sanitation concerns, electrification and flooding.
Lagos slums include, Makoko – the infamous floating slum and Otodo Gbame - which was illegally cleared by local authorities leaving it's inhabitats displaced.
These communities are perhaps the most visible manifestation of the profound income inequality in Lagos. While the oil and finance industries have buoyed a few thousand Lagosians into stratospheric wealth (marked by gleaming black Escalades and boutique markets selling French oysters), one-fifth of the city's 21 million residents are either living in or at risk of poverty, according to a 2016 Oxford University study (Source:
The maps below highlights these settlements within the urban matrix of Lagos:
notion image
  1. Ajegunle, Lagos, Nigeria
  1. Amukoko, Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria
  1. Badia, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Lagos, Nigeria
  1. Bariga, Oworonshoki, Nigeria
  1. Makoko, Lagos Mainland, Lagos, Nigeria
  1. Ijeshatedo, Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria
  1. Iwaya, Lagos Mainland, Oworonshoki, Nigeria
  1. Mushin, Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria
  1. Somolu, Lagos, Nigeria

Why Slums are Important

Slums in some form or the other are common to urban areas all around the world. A better term for slums might be "unplanned" or "organic" urban settlements, which are settlements which form when migrants to a city or displaced people who build their own settlements from scratch because formal housing is too expensive and the government is unable to provide sufficient housing for these groups. Slums are often heavily populated, lack public services and don't offer long-term tenure.
Urban researchers view slums as central to cities life forces and a bastion of equality in a sense since people can take it upon themselves to plan out and construct their own enclaves within the matrix of a city. But slums are generally considered to be illegal in cities because the government does not approve them prior to their construction, hence they might be demolished or otherwise penalized by the government. Researchers like Eugenie L Birch have argued that cities would be better off embracing slums and empowering residents to build more sanitary lodgings that are more resistant to fire and flooding. In addition to this, slums can be recognized as legitimate settlements and receive investments to build schools, libraries and other community resources.
Alternative settlements in slums can also be models of more sustainable architecture. The Slums of Medellin in Colombia are good examples of integrating city infrastructure and amenities with organic or unplanned settlements. like cable cars that take residents to the center of the city and well-situated community spaces. This sort of collaboration between individual agency, community organization and government support might just be the best means that cities will have with managing their swelling populations.
Contrast this against the habit of cities to undergo big "ultramodern" development projects in order to attract foreign investment and new enclaves for the super rich to further insulate them from the rest of the growing urban population. Lagos' Eko Atlantic is the latest in a long string of residential and commercial mega-projects aimed at "modernizing" the city, while largely ignoring the complex factors of urbanization and taking away money that would otherwise be very well suited for transportation and cultural infrastructure.
More fundamentally, however, the central promise of Eko Atlantic—that it is possible to ‘start over’ and build an exclusive city within a city—is flawed. The high property values clearly illustrate the class of urban resident the new city hopes to attract. But these urban elites require a huge number of service workers; drivers, cooks, street sweepers, recharge card sellers, barbers, construction workers, mechanics and more to sustain their lifestyles. In cities, everyone wants to live where the jobs are and where the economic buzz is greatest. Even if the urban poor of Lagos are priced out from the fancy new developments of Eko Atlantic, they will find their way to informal settlements and abandoned properties. Based on the share of Lagosians who can realistically afford to live in Eko Atlantic, many of the residential buildings are likely to be empty anyway. Even Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Banana Island already have vacancy rates as high as 30 percent in their wealthier areas. (Source:
More recently, the Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) announced plans to identify slums in the state and the Federal Ministry of Housing, headed by ex-Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola

This article is the first in a series of posts where we'll try to shed light on various geopolitical issues in urban areas across the continent. We've been getting our hands dirty with GIS tools to build familiarity so we can make the maps more visually engaging and interactive, and scouring the internet for databases and archives of enlightening geographical data. We're also more than open to recommendations for projects to undertake in this regards.