Monday, November 16, 2009

Informal Cities

Swiped from the Africa Unchained blog:

An excerpt from Robert Neuwirth's Lecture 'The Extroverted City of System D' a contribution to the book Open City:

In Lagos, everything is informal. The bus system is informal—the government got out of mass transit business decades ago (though it has recently stepped back into public transport with a bus rapid transit line) and the system that includes more than 75,000 danfos was held together informally by the National Union of Road Transport Workers as one-part mass transit and one-part Ponzi scheme. One of the largest formal supermarkets in Lagos buys most of its product from informal wholesalers. Some major multinationals here distribute their products through informal networks. And informal merchants invest in the formal world.

Authorities in the city acknowledge that as much as 80 percent of the work force—and Lagos has between nine and 17 million inhabitants, depending on where you draw the boundaries and who’s doing the counting—is involved in the informal sector. The federal government also suggests that somewhere around 60 to 70 percent of the country’s economic activity derives in some way from the informal sector—and this means that, in aggregate, merchants like Prince Chidi Onyeyirim and Fatai Agbalaya are more important to Nigeria’s future than Shell, Mobil, and Chevron, the multinational oil giants that pump sweet crude from the Niger River Delta.

As Mega-Cities continue to explode in population around the world (particularly in Africa) they continue to stretch the conceptual frameworks of what cities were meant to be and how they are organized. Most modern cities may appear to chaotic but when examined closely, they are heavily structured and organized systems that control and dictate the flow of traffic, development, water, sewage, air and open space. The lack of those uniform structural systems in dense urban places creates chaos and challenges the belief of whether that urban place is truly a defined city jurisdiction with a definitive boundaries to the city's power of influence and control. The uninformed mega-cities of today have no beginnings and endings to the jurisdiction's scope of power.

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