Sunday, February 02, 2014

Developer building private city for the ubber-rich

I found this rather interesting story through Daily Kos, which redirects into another Kos link.  The original source story can be found in The Guardian:
It's a sight to behold. Just off Lagos, Nigeria's coast, an artificial island is emerging from the sea. A foundation, built of sand dredged from the ocean floor, stretches over ten kilometres. Promotional videos depict what is to come: a city of soaring buildings, housing for 250,000 people, and a central boulevard to match Paris' Champs-Élysées and New York's Fifth Avenue. Privately constructed, it will also be privately administered and supplied with electricity, water, mass transit, sewage and security. It is the "future Hong Kong of Africa," anticipates Nigeria's World Bank director.

Welcome to Eko Atlantic, a city whose "whole purpose", its developers say, is to "arrest the ocean's encroachment." Like many low-lying coastal African countries, Nigeria has been hit hard by a rising sea-level, which has regularly washed away thousands of peoples' homes. To defend against the coastal erosion and flooding, the city is being surrounded by the "Great Wall of Lagos", a sea defence barrier made of 100,000 five-ton concrete blocks. Eko Atlantic will be a "sustainable city, clean and energy efficient with minimal carbon emissions," offer jobs, prosperity and new land for Nigerians, and serve as a bulwark in the fight against the impacts of climate change.
This new city is being funded and built by a financial empire called The Chagoury Group, along with some African and international banks.  The Chagoury Group "was a close advisor to the notorious Nigerian dictatorship of the mid 1990s, helping the ultra-corrupt general Sani Abacha as he looted billions from public coffers."  With Nigerian oil revenue flowing into the corrupt military government and elites, they are discovering they have no place to spend their money in a nation of extreme inequality: 
In congested Lagos, Africa's largest city, there is little employment and millions work and scavenge in a vast, desperate informal economy. Sixty percent of Nigeria's population – almost 100 of 170 million people – live on less than a dollar a day. Preventable diseases are widespread; electricity and clean water hard to come by. A few kilometres down the Lagos shoreline, Nigerians eke out an existence in the aquatic slum of Makoko, built precariously on stilts over the ocean. Casting them as crime-ridden, the government regularly dismantles such slums, bulldozing homes and evicting thousands. These are hardly the people who will scoop up square footage in Eko Atlantic's pricy new high-rises....
As elites in Nigeria and elsewhere have embraced such inequality as the very engine of growth, they have re-established some of the most severe forms of colonial segregation and gated leisure. Today, boutiques cannot open fast enough to serve the Nigerian millionaires buying luxury cars and yachts they'll be able to dock in Eko Atlantic's down-town marina. Meanwhile, thousands of people who live in communities along the coast expect the new city will bring displacement, not prosperity, says environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey. To get their way, the developers, backed by industry and politicians, have trampled over the country's environmental assessment process. "Building Eko Atlantic is contrary to anything one would want to do if one took seriously climate change and resource depletion," he says.

The wealthy and powerful may in fact take climate change seriously: not as a demand to modify their behaviour or question the fossil-fuel driven global economy that has made it possible, but as the biggest opportunity yet to realize their dreams of unfettered accumulation and consumption. The disaster capitalists behind Eko Atlantic have seized on climate change to push through pro-corporate plans to build a city of their dreams, an architectural insult to the daily circumstances of ordinary Nigerians. The criminalized poor abandoned outside their walls may once have served as sufficient justification for their flight and fortification – but now they have the very real threat of climate change as well.
So the end result is that we have this enormous, luxury city, which is sitting off the coast of a nation filled with extreme poverty. The big question I would have, and in the comments on Kos, who is going to take care of the city infrastructure?  Who is going to perform the maintenance of utilities, provide food, haul trash away, own and operate a myriad of shops and stores?  If there are restaurants in this city, who will perform the menial jobs of waiting on tables, or busboy services, or washing the dishes?  Who will be working the low-wage retail customer service jobs?  Stocking the grocery shelves?  Cashiers?  Will the individuals working these low-wage jobs be able to afford to live in this city--especially if the rents for this city's housing rises to astronomical prices?  Or will these low-wage workers come into Eko Atlantic from the surrounding slums?  Because if the ordinary Nigerians realize the disconnect of their living in slums and extreme poverty, while working in Eko Atlantic and the opulent wealth of the rich, how long will it be before 170 million people in a nation start to revolt against a city of 250,000?

Here is a YouTube video of what Eko Atlantic will look like, once completed:

YouTube video of Eko Atlantic's Business District:

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