“The right to the city is much more than individual freedom to access urban resources, it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is also a common rather than an individual right, since this transformation inevitably depends on the exercise of collective power to reshape urbanization processes. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious but most neglected human rights.” – David Harvey
Human populations have increased over time. As more people were born, smaller groups in society found reasons to come back together to form groups, and with the advent of farming communities. A small number of those settlements became what we now call cities. This type of evolution often conforms to a transformation from one method of systematizing work to a different pattern.
According to the National Geographic Society, “Urbanization is the process by which cities grow, with an increasing percentage of the population living in the city, while the Encyclopaedia Britannica viewed urbanization as “the process by which a large numbers of people are permanently concentrated in relatively small areas, forming cities”.
Without an iota of doubt, the earth’s population has prospered relatively, and our economies have become more industrialized in recent years, with the result having many more people moving to cities.
The 2020 edition of Demographia World Urban Areas reports that approximately 70% of the world’s population lives in urban areas with less than 500,000 inhabitants or rural areas in 2019. Approximately 30% lives in urban areas with 500,000 inhabitants or more. Only 13 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas of approximately 5 million or more.
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is not left out of this progress. The country is experiencing rapid urbanization with a rapidly growing population. According to a report published by Statista last year, it was revealed that in 2020, Nigeria’s population was estimated to number 206 million people. Between 1965 and 2020, the number of people living in Nigeria increased regularly at a rate of more than two percent. In 2020, the population grew by 2.58% compared to the previous year, and about half of Nigeria’s total population now lives in cities, up from 39% in 2005.
Unfortunately, the rapid and largely unplanned and graceless urbanization in most Nigerian cities has suffered from urban blight and worsened shortages of services, including access to land and housing, basic services, solid waste, drinking water supply, electricity and efficient urban transport services. , affordable housing, waste disposal systems and wastewater management, and simultaneously led to the abandonment of buildings and infrastructure, high unemployment, increased poverty, among others. These pressing trends, coupled with compromised institutional environments, particularly at the local level, are limiting Nigeria’s potential to reap positive benefits from urbanization.
Therefore, the time has come for what can best be described as “Regeneration of Urbanization”. To remove the cloud from the air for clarity, a global news organization, urban regeneration can be described as “a comprehensive and integrated vision and action that leads to the resolution of urban problems and that seeks to achieve lasting improvement within the condition economic, physical, social and environmental aspects of an area that has been subject to change” (Roberts, 2000, 17).
Without a doubt, urban regeneration places communities at the center of decision-making when it comes to place-making. Hans Skifter Andersen, Adjunct Professor in the Department of the Built Environment at Aalborg University, argues that urban regeneration would transform, strengthen and recreate places to act as a catalyst for new investment to benefit the local community.
According to Sir Gabriel Oladipupo Ajayi, Chairman of ARCON (Architects Registration Council of Nigeria) in a recent interview with the Nigerian Tribune, the aim of urban regeneration projects as a solution to urban blight in Nigeria is:
“Help existing cities to be redeveloped by them to help create more roads, highways, and transportation systems, as well as create new residential areas, industrial sites, and commercial areas.”
This is a clear call to action for Nigeria to partner with ARCON to build a true place that meets the needs and aspirations of the country’s cities.