Lagos is a port city and the most populous city in Nigeria. The metropolitan area originated on islands, including Lagos Island, that were protected from the Atlantic Ocean by sand spits. The city has expanded onto the mainland west of the lagoon, however, with Ikeja, the capital of Lagos, and Agege over 25 miles northwest of Lagos Island. Lagos has a population estimated at 21 million in 2016, which makes it the largest city in Africa.
The Lagos State Government estimates the population of Lagos at 17.5 million, although this number has been disputed by the Nigerian Government and found to be unreliable by the National Population Commission of Nigeria, which put the population at over 21 million in 2016. Lagos surpassed Cairo in size in 2012 to become the largest city of Africa. The population was estimated at just 11.2 million in 2011 by the United Nations.
City Size and Population Density
The city of Lagos covers an immense area, coming in with a total of 1,171.28 square kilometers (452.23 square miles). With the population continuing to grow, and currently exceeding at least 17 million residents, the population density is around 6,871 residents per square kilometer (17,800 per square mile).
Lagos was originally inhabited by the Awori group of the Yoruba people. Today, it has a very diverse population due to heavy migration from other parts of Nigeria and surrounding countries. The Yoruba are the dominant ethnic group. There are more than 250 ethnic groups represented in Lagos, however, including the Hausa, Igbo, and Fulani. Small minorities of American, British, East Indian, Chinese, white Zimbabwean, Greek, Syrian, Lebanese and Japanese are also present in the city. In the mid-19th century, many ex-slaves of Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban descent and emigrants from Sierra Leone created communities in Lagos, along with ex-slaves from the Americas. They became missionaries and merchants in the city.
While there are many millionaires in Lagos, about 66% of the population lives in slums. The city has been dubbed the "mega-city of slums," with millions living in and around the lagoons with no access to roads, clean water, electricity or waste disposal. The World Bank has identified 9 of the largest slums of the city for upgrading with a $200 million loan from the United States, which would benefit about one million people. One large slum is Makoko, which has no security and rampant crime.
Lagos Population Growth
Lagos has enjoyed tremendous growth, reaching 21 million from just 1.4 million as recently as 1970. The city now generates 25% of Nigeria's total gross domestic product, and it has many millionaires. It is also the 8th fastest growing city in Africa. Unlike the rest of Nigeria, Lagos is an excellent example of what is possible when the government offers energy and other initiatives to its residents.
Oddly enough, in 1999 the United Nations predicted that the city's metropolitan area, which had only about 290,000 inhabitants in 1950, would exceed 20 million by 2010 and thus become one of the ten most populated cities in the world. It is certainly close - between the predictions and current estimates - and we will continue to watch as the growth unfolds in this city.
Lagos is also a window to the future. In about 25 years, at the rate Nigeria is currently growing, it will have a population of 300 million, or the same as the present-day United States, all living in an area the size of Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. With the population doubling over the last 15 years, living standards across Nigeria remain poor. Today, 25% of Africans are Nigerian.
By 2050, Lagos' population is expected to double once more, which will make it the 3rd largest city in the world but with less infrastructure than any other large cities of the world.