State of World Population 2007

Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth

image of State of World Population 2007

In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. Urbanization—the increase in the urban share of total population—is inevitable, but it can also be positive. This Report looks beyond current problems. It examines the implications of impending urban growth and discusses what needs to be done, with specific attention to poverty reduction and sustainability.

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The promise of urban growth

Adegoke Taylor, a skinny, solemn thirty-two-year-old itinerant trader with anxious eyes, shares an eight-by-ten-foot room with three other young men, on an alley in Isale Eko several hundred feet from the Third Mainland Bridge. In 1999, Taylor came to Lagos from Ile-Oluji, a Yoruba town a hundred and thirty miles to the northeast. He had a degree in mining from a polytechnic school and the goal of establishing a professional career. Upon arriving in the city, he went to a club that played juju—pop music infused with Yoruba rhythms—and stayed out until two in the morning. “This experience alone makes me believe I have a new life living now,” he said, in English, the lingua franca of Lagos. “All the time, you see crowds everywhere. I was motivated by that. In the village, you’re not free at all, and whatever you’re going to do today you’ll do tomorrow.” Taylor soon found that none of the few mining positions being advertised in Lagos newspapers were open to him. “If you are not connected, it’s not easy, because there are many more applications than jobs,” he said. “The moment you don’t have a recognized person saying, ‘This is my boy, give him a job,’ it’s very hard. In this country, if you don’t belong to the elite”—he pronounced it “e-light”—“you will find things very, very hard.”

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