This article was first published by The Africa Report.
Snaking away from Lagos’s centre towards the west lies the Lekki-Epe axis, a fast-urbanising strip of land that runs along the Atlantic. Alaro City is at the end of this road, in the Lekki Free Zone, close to the new airport and port projects that Lagos city planners hope will free Nigeria’s economic hub from its daily traffic heart attack.
“Almost without exception, sub-Saharan African cities are broken”, says Steven Jennings, the CEO of Rendeavour, an African new-city builder, referring to congestion, lack of planning and logistics.
“There are major issues around land title and ownership, the cost of enforcing property rights can be prohibitively expensive”, says Jennings, who cut his teeth in African city building on Kenya’s Tatu City project and learnt a thing or two about the subject the hard way.
His Rendeavour group, operational for the past 10 years, has been tapping into the huge pent-up demand for a more chaos-free urban environment. By guaranteeing secure title, controlling the building-approvals process and fixing the infrastructure gap, the hope is to lure customers seeking to exit the choked centre of Lagos.
It is taking off. The first client to have opened is an Ariel Foods, run by its chairman, Dhiren Chandaria, a member of the entrepreneurial Kenyan Chandaria business family.
Their therapeutic food factory sits on around 30,000m2 of land at the front of the development. And they are not alone.
As Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu noted at the recent opening ceremony: “I am equally pleased to welcome Universal Homes, HMD Africa, Sana Industries, Loatsad, Kenol and ASB Valiant to the Lekki Free Zone. The confidence of international and Nigerian investors is a testament to Alaro City as the location of choice for businesses in the Lekki Free Zone and to the ease of doing business in Lagos State.”
Executive director of Universal Homes John Latham says units in the first phase of 500 apartments for sale at Alaro City will start at $55,000 and a further 2,000 will be added.
Lessons learnt in Kenya have been invaluable, says Yomi Ademola, head of West Africa for Rendeavour. In particular, the sequencing and roll-out of infrastructure, creating “complete, developed, liveable and workable enclaves that are not disrupted by subsequent construction when we move on to other enclaves.”
Alaro is not the only new city being built in the metropolis. Eko Atlantic City continues to grow on land reclaimed from the ocean in downtown Lagos.
It has created some healthy competition. But as Jennings points out. “Their reclamation costs are around $1,000 per square metre. Our site-levelling costs at Alaro are about $1 per square metre. So they have this massive cost structure they have to try to recover from their clients.”
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