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University of Lagos Summer School 2022

The Wits-TUB-UNILAG Urban Lab held its sixth annual summer school from 26-30 September 2022. It was hosted by the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development (CHSD) at the University of Lagos, Nigeria under the theme of solidarity and community resilience.

Through the project funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the summer school brought together MUS (Urban Management) students from SoAP at Wits, their counterparts from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), as well as PhD students from UNILAG and the Habitat Unit at Technical University of Berlin (TUB). A team of staff from Wits and TUB accompanied the students and co-produced the summer school offering with colleagues at UNILAG. Researchers, academics, practitioners and civil society actors joined various sessions, to help the team consider how community resilience can be enhanced across cities in Africa.

Following a warm welcome by high office bearers at UNILAG, the substantive programme kicked off with a city tour that introduced the day-to-day experiences of residents of Lagos. It focused on inequality between residential communities and included the prime real estate project of Eko Atlantic and downtown Lagos CBD, vibrant street trading and ‘slum’-like areas, thus offering a glimpse into the socio-economic circumstances of city dwellers.

The team spent the next day at UNILAG, exploring resilience strategies and community resilience from a variety of perspectives. A variety of scholars and practitioners from the region shared insights. They included Dr Millicent Akaateba from the SD Dombo University of Business Studies in Ghana and Dr Muyiwa Adegun from the Federal University of Technology Akure; Dr Basirat Oyalowo from the CHSD, Deji Akinpelu, a co-founder of Rethinking Cities; Mrs Bimbo Oshobe, founder of the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation; and Dr Lanre Bakison from the Lagos State Tpl Femi Dada Lagos Resilience Office. A campus walking tour gave insight into UNILAG’s postcolonial architecture and its relationship with the Lagos lagoon which lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lagos State. As evening approached, students and staff were treated to a night of dance and Afrobeats.

For the following two days, the Urban Management students from Wits and UNILAG conducted group work, each allocated a ‘slum’-like settlement, Oworo, Bariga and Iwaya, in which they undertook transect walks and interacted with community leaders, with the help of local guides. SoAP and TUB staff members were fortunate to meet the leadership of Makoko, Nigeria’s famous floating slum and take a cautionary walk-about (photographing was not welcomed due to continued eviction threats and high levels of anxiety in the community).

Makoko is a long-established settlement partly on incrementally reclaimed land and partly on stilts reaching into the Lagos Lagoon. Observing the fishing activities gave a glimpse into solidarity and community resilience. PhD students also had the opportunity to present their progress and PhD journey, with inputs from their peers as well as TUB, UNILAG and SoAP academics. The team of visiting staff were also given the opportunity to meet with UNILAG academics in their fields of interest.

The summer school culminated in the Urban Management students presenting their field work findings. The merging of the South African and Nigerian perspectives of what makes a resilient community was thought-provoking and eye-opening to both staff and students. For a photo collage of the student presentations, click on the following link:

Following afternoon visits to local markets, the summer school closed with a celebratory reception in ‘Senate House’ where students and staff members mingled with senior university management such as Professor Ayodele Victoria, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UNILAG and Gerald Heusing, the country representative of DAAD. For a snippet of the celebratory cocktail dinner, please click the following link: 

For most of the SoAP students and staff on the team, the summer school offered their first visit to Lagos. It was also the first time that the Urban Lab team across the three universities met in person after the 2020 Covid 19 restrictions and lockdown. The lockdown in 2020 prevented the urban lab from convening the summer school which was meant to be at Wits. In 2021, due to the continuation of travel restrictions, the urban lab held a successful virtual summer school. A report of the 2021 virtual summer school can be found here. So, the 2022 Lagos summer school was a time to meet new team members and reconnect with old friends after three years of online meetings and remote working. For the students, it was a time to experience another side of the world, discover many commonalities with their Nigerian counterparts, and learn from global scholars.

Particular thanks go to Prof. Taibat Lawanson and her team at UNILAG for graciously receiving us to such an exciting and well-conceived programme, Lucas Elsner at TUB, and Zakiyyah Ayob and Taki Sithagu at SoAP for facilitating the logistics of TUB and SoAP staff and students.