13 Feb George Packer

In 1950, fewer than three hundred thousand people lived in Lagos. In the second half of the twentieth century, the city grew at a rate of more than six per cent annually. It is currently the sixth-largest city in the world, and it is grwoing faster than any of the world’s other megacities (the term used by the United Nations Center for Human Settlements for “urban agglomerations” with more than ten million people.) By 2015, it is projected, Lagos will rank third, behind Tokyo and Bombay, with twenty-three million inhabitants.


In the dirty gray light of Lagos, hwoever, Neuwirth’s portrait of heroic builders of the cities of tomorrow seems a bit romantic, and Brand’s vision of a global city of interconnected entrepreneurs seems perverse. The vibrancy of the squatters in Lagos is the furious activity of people who live in a globalized economy and have no safety net and virtually no hope of moving upward.