Makoko, Nigeria does not officially exist. This area of Lagos, Nigeria does not appear on any maps or plans of the city. Originally set up as a fishing village by immigrants from the Egun ethnic group, Makoko is now home to around 300,000 people from different communities. It is made up of six villages – two of these villages are based on land (Sogunro and Apollo), whilst the other four (Oko Agbon, Adogbo, Migbewhe and Yanshiwhe) are built on the Lagos Lagoon. Since September 2019, the non-governmental organisation Code for Africa, which is based in South Africa, has been running a project to finally put Makoko on the map.
How will the project work?
Six women from Makoko have been trained by Code for Africa, which actively hires women, to record around 1,000 images of the area using drones in the sky. These pictures will then be put together to create one larger image in the latter stages of the project, which will involve other residents. Parts of Makoko which have been recorded through these drones include a cassava-processing plant on stilts, a butcher, a traditional medicine clinic and pawnbroker.
What are drones?
Drones are types of aircraft which do not require a pilot and can be operated by people on the ground. They are useful for gathering data in areas where access is difficult on the ground but can be manipulated to spy on people or disrupt other aerial modes of transport.
What are the benefits of this project?
Mapping Makoko will make improvements in the area simpler to carry out, as the villages lack drinking water, mains electricity, police stations and hospitals. According to Chief Albert Jeje, one of Makoko’s five rulers, many houses have no numbers, meaning up to 50 people can end up using the same house number. The project will also raise awareness about the need to protect the unique way of life in Makoko. As residents are being trained in how to record data about Makoko, the area can be easily remapped in the future.
What are the disadvantages of this project?
Some of the inhabitants of Makoko are suspicious of the project. This is because in 2012, the state authorities in Lagos ordered police to remove local inhabitants from their homes because they saw Makoko as an environmental danger. The police set fire to some buildings and one inhabitant was killed. Although the authorities eventually respected the residents’ resistance to their plans, many houses were demolished. This is a common trend in Lagos, where the local government often tries to get rid of poor suburbs to make way for new building projects. The data from this project could therefore be misused to help the authorities more easily try to locate and then evict Makoko’s residents again.
Mapping projects using drones can make a positive impact within communities by raising awareness about areas which are isolated and receive little aid from the government. However, it is important that the data recorded by such projects is not misused against local residents’ wishes.