Did You Know? Half of Nigeria’s Population Live in Urban Areas


The world’s population is becoming more urban. The old,
rural bastions of culture are being sapped of inhabitants, as young people move
to the towns and cities in search of the material promise of the contemporary
world, and older custodians of village life pass to the great beyond.

Nigeria is undergoing this change as well. Data from the
United Nations
suggests that about 51% of its citizens- just over
half its inhabitants –now live in urban areas. That’s a significant jump from
the much lower percentages recorded in preceding decades. And there’s no sign
that this is slowing down anytime soon.

We get a feel of the speed of this transformation when we
examine the records for preceding years. Graphs charting the transition of
human habitation in Nigeria from overwhelmingly rural to largely urban all show
a steep rise in the percentage of the population that call a town or city home.
In 1960, only 15% of the country’s people lived in urban environments. Today,
urbanites constitute a slight but continually growing majority.

If you’re an older fellow who’s lived in any of Nigeria’s
major cities
, you’ll probably have noticed that your city has added
in geographical size and number of people. The once serene open fields may have
been taken over by markets or apartment blocks, and the sparsely populated
outskirts are now a densely populated suburb of the city. The traffic jams are
heavier, the streets are clogged with roaming humans, and there are several
times more commercial establishments than there were when you were younger.

The Hows and Whys of an Urban Explosion

And it’s not just that villages are getting static or
bleeding souls. In many places, they’re either becoming urban centers
(urbanizing from within) or they’re being swallowed into nearby towns and
cities. We find this in the absorption of rural enclaves on the edges of Lagos,
Abuja, Port-Harcourt into these cities and practically every major metropolis
in the country.

Globally, about 68% of the world’s people are expected to
live in urban areas by 2050. In certain countries- especially in upper-income
countries –a clear majority of people already live in cities. Nigeria, India,
and China could contribute up to 35% of the growth in the number of the world’s

Economics is known to be the chief driver of the increasing concentration
of people in urban centers. Every year, millions leave the less affluent
countryside for urban areas, which tend to hold more economic opportunities
than what’s available back in their villages.

While there’s some degree of dispute around whether these
population shifts are inspired by a false perception of the riches of the
metropolis, studies do show that poverty and inequality tend to be greater in
rural regions. That’s true for Nigeria as it is for a large number of other

Nevertheless, it’s quite evident
that the stereotype of the rich city which fuels much rural-urban migration doesn’t
mirror the reality that starry-eyed, wealth-seeking prospectors from the
hinterland find when they move to towns. Opportunities may exist, but they tend
to be limited. And because infrastructure isn’t keeping up with the influx of
people from without, it can be quite hard to build sustainable businesses from
scratch in such environments.

The Cities With the Biggest Population Growth

According to the UN’s World
Cities in 2018
data booklet, these cities are Nigeria’s most
populated urban centers (in descending order): Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Abuja, Port
Harcourt, Benin City, Onitsha, Kaduna, Aba,
and Uyo. These cities account for just over 16% of the country’s population;
about 6% of Nigeria’s inhabitants live in Lagos.

The report also projects that these conurbations will continue to grow for the next few decades. By 2030, one out of every three Nigerians will live in these ten cities.

Featured image source: guardian.ng


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.