Our team has arrived safely in Lagos. It’s been an interesting and action packed first few days. We’ve spent the majority of our time getting to know one another, the local team, and scouting the city, and our challenge at hand……incredible traffic congestion in a city of 20 million plus.
After arriving and settling in on Thursday, we spent Friday at the IBM office. We had an opportunity to meet with Taiwo Otiti, IBM’s Country General Manager for Nigeria, and his impressive team. Since they all live in and around Lagos, and have to deal with the terrible traffic congestion everyday, there seems to be a sense of curiosity as to just how our team is going to tackle the situation. Here’s a photo of our team with Taiwo and Gladys Agwai, a woman who recently moved from Atlanta to join the IBM team in Lagos (pardon the thumb over the top):
Just to give a sense for how bad the traffic is here in Lagos, our trip from IBM to our hotel is roughly 16 kilometers or 10 miles. That drive took us nearly 3 hours, and longer for some of our colleagues. That’s pretty much the norm. Everywhere we go, there’s traffic. To make things worse, there are bus/commuter lanes but people don’t tend to leave those clear for buses. Or we actually saw some open bus lanes with the buses sitting in traffic right next to them.
We have our first meeting with the government agencies on Monday and we’ll provide updates on our plans and progress. But we absolutely have our hands full. It’s what we all signed up for as part of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Program ( #smartercities Challenge).
Beyond the traffic, we have witnessed the poverty stricken areas which seem to be the majority in Lagos. Just think about this. New York City has roughly 8 million people. 20 million in Lagos. Just the mere congestion and crowded streets are overwhelming. But factor in the level of poverty and it’s fairly alarming to see how the majority of people live here.
Since the city is on the water, there are large populations of people living in shacks on stilts. People get around on small boats in these areas. Here are a few photos from one of the bridges we crossed:
Even given the poverty and stress that all of this traffic congestion can cause, we have found the people here to be extremely friendly and helpful. So we go into our project with high hopes.
We’re all getting used to “Africa time” in which everything moves slowly, and things take much longer than home. Just getting a sandwich for our road trip today took more than an hour.
All in all, it’s been an interesting first few days, and we’re eager to get the work underway. The local team has been tremendous and we look forward to getting to know them better, building some lasting relationships, and putting a dent in this traffic problem.