Wakaabout Series: Lagos, Sex Pods and Robot Radios

futures_festival
Photo Credit: African Futures Tumblr

By Pelu Awofeso

Lagos affectionately called Lasgidi is the former capital city of Nigeria that has remained the country’s business hub. Pelu Awofeso, Nigeria’s travel guru, gives us insight in what Lagos has the ability to look like in 2060. In this Wakaabout Series, Pelu uses the pidgin English term for “one who is always on the move”, waka about to guide you through the African Futures Festival concurrently held in Lagos, Johannesburg and Nairobi.

What is the city of Lagos going to be like in, say, 2060–and beyond? That is freaking 45 years away, but the truth is that some young Lagosians are already creating the different possibilities.

The Lagos of that faraway future is a technologically advanced world of flying cars, underwater transport service in a cylinder, robotic house-help and 3D laser printing technology, “available commercially for those wanting to print instant houses, furniture and even temporary girlfriends”.

This much (and more) was showcased at the African Futures Festival of the Goethe-Institute in Lagos. Also, concurrently held in Johannesburg and Nairobi, the project sought to get into the mind of the African creative and intellectual by “following potential narratives and artistic expression in literature, fine arts, performance, music, film, and various digital formats”.

The Lagos event had 10 display booths. One of the exhibits I found most thought-provoking was Omenana a digital publication focused on speculative/flash fiction. In one of the stories, essayist Temitayo Olofinlua recreates the disorderly Computer Village market in the Ikeja area into a sanitized tech-driven commune re-christened Computer City; it doubles as a Software Free Trade Zone bounded by east, west, north and south gates, where goods and services are paid for by merely thumbing a scanning device (ATMs as we know them today are a relic of a forgotten past). The City also boasts 25-story transparent glass buildings, robot shops and bicycles and motorbikes are the preferred modes of transportation.

Another booth at African Futures Lagos

Booth at African Futures Lagos

“We Africans need our own visions of the future,” says editor Chinelo Onwualu in the ‘Issue X’ edition. “More than imagining cool devices and technologies, we need to dream up solutions for our present-day problems. We desperately need visions, both better and worse, that center our experiences and concerns. A future that doesn’t treat us as side characters, extras or backdrops.”

In Amogunla’s imagined Computer City, there is a Yabacon Valley (where software developers congregate) and Naijasoft replaces Microsoft as the dominant brand. “It is the only place in the whole of Africa where leading software sellers sell their products. People come from everywhere to buy Naijamade software.”

In this ultramodern setting, many of the streets still retain their names as they exist presently. And conscious of that fading past, Amogunla pays affectionate tribute to a time before the congested device-hub took root and uprooted the original tenants. “Long before computers were sold here, long before this area became known as Computer City there were some shops on this street that sold medical supplies to the many hospitals around the area,” she writes of Medical Road.

The tablet of the future is not an apple--according to illustrator and graphic designer Ibrahim Ganiyu, it is an 'Ifablet'

The tablet of the future is not an apple–according to illustrator and graphic designer Ibrahim Ganiyu, it is an ‘Ifablet’

The Future of Lagos are today's teenagers

The Future of Lagos are today’s teenagers

At the ‘Lagos 2060’ booth, Lagos is an even far more hi-tech society. A free-standing republic, sex pods (whatever that means) and robot-dating are practical realities. And sometime in 2070, “The Lagos Megacity Board has proposed the Makoko Submarine City expansion”. I understand the underlying statement: Makoko today is a slum and an environmental disaster.

‘Lagos 2060’ is the creation of ‘Imagineering Lagos’, a collective of creative technologists, writers and cultural producers given to conceptualizing what the mega-city is likely to look like in the distant future. “We are bad at planning our cities,” says Olamide Udoma of Future Lagos, one of the brains behind ‘Lagos 2060’, which has four other members. “It is called scenario planning. Rather than looking into the future and planning ahead, our governments are often reactionary. They try to solve problems only when they arise when they actually should be thinking about our accommodation needs, our transportation needs, our educational needs and so on will be like in, say, 50 or 100 years from now and then plan accordingly. That is how The West works.”

An even more radical futuristic Lagos presents itself in the Booth devoted to future design, anchored by talented graphic artist and illustrator Ibrahim Ganiyu. There, tablets have morphed into Ifablets, inspired by the Ifa corpus of Yoruba cosmology. Described as the “de facto oracle device of the era”, it “contains all knowledge and can be sought for guidance on all issues”. The Ifablets, complemented by an army of Nseloku droid robots, are hailed as self-repairing and totally environmentally friendly, designed to serve humans in every capacity–farming, industrial and security, among other utility values. According to the wall caption, “An Nseloku is built to last a hundred years, after which it will bury itself within the Nseloku Trees’ Park as it dissolves back into the earth”.

So are you in future mode yet? If yes, then answer this question posed by ‘Lagos 2060’: “What hashtag will be trending in #Lagos2060?”

You can find more information on the African Futures Festival here. Pelu Awofeso is an award-winning travel journalist and blogger. See more of his travel stories here.