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Did You Know? How the Lagos Business District Was Created

Lagos’s Central Business District still maintains a lot of the allure that drew migrants from across the country into the city several decades ago. Its high rise buildings are still the representative images of the metropolis in the imaginations of many who have not yet visited it.

And there was indeed a time in which the district was truly the center of business in the now sprawling megacity. The country’s largest banks, construction companies, and government offices were once situated almost exclusively in and around Lagos Island. The Marina, with its impressive structures, was the commercial showpiece of a young and upcoming Nigeria.


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Today, the CBD isn’t the only major concentration of corporate entities in Lagos. That sphere has broadened to include Ikoyi and Victoria Island. There’s also a considerable corporate presence springing up in Lekki. Ikeja, the state’s seat of political power, has a good deal of high-level business going on in its precincts as well.

Yet, the old Business District carries its mantle as the historic forerunner of these later conurbations. It’s a blend of the formal and informal sectors, where large financial institutions and industrial conglomerates share the same streets with petty traders.

A Brief History of the Central Business District

The main CBD is actually situated on Lagos Island’s southeastern region. In pre-colonial days, the area was part of a wider territory held by the native Aworis. The island itself was only sparsely populated, a sharp contrast to its presently crowded state. The local economy revolved around fishing and farming.

Starting in the late 1800s, the east of the island was settled by descendants of African slaves from Brazil. Many of them became merchants and became wealthy off a booming trade in imports. Perhaps the most famous of these early inhabitants were the Da Rochas; one of them, Candido Da Rocha, is said to have been Lagos’s first millionaire. Many of these families lived along what is now the Marina.

As the population of the city grew, the business landscape and physical look of the district changed. Both residential and commercial sites went up. This transformation sped up after the country’s independence. The oil boom of the 1970s saw an influx of new wealth, which funded the construction of many of the more modern structures that are still visible in the area. The modern office blocks were a sign of an economy on the rise, rearing to take on the world.

There was a slowdown of this construction trend in the late 1980s and 1990s, as commercial activity nationwide went into stagnation. At about the same time, some of the old residential areas were taken over by smaller-scale businesses and informal enterprises. Markets like Balogun and Idumota grew rapidly.

Key Business Areas

The key areas for business in the CBD include the Marina Road and Broad Street, both home to some major corporate headquarters; the Balogun and Idumota markets; Tinubu Square; and others.

Marina Road is a motorway stretching over a significant portion of the island’s southern end. Major public offices in the area are the Nigeria Ports Authority, the Lagos State Old Secretariat, and the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund. The United Bank of Africa (UBA) and First Bank both have their headquarters on the street. The Nigerian Stock Exchange is located within the Central Business District.


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The Idumota Market, located to the northwest of Marina, has thousands of shops in it. It’s famous for being a major distribution hub for Nollywood movies. A much less regarded site of the district is the Soldier Idumota cenotaph, which was erected in 1948 in honour of the African soldiers who fought in the Second World War.

Another commercial center, the Balogun Market, sprawls over such a large distance that it’s often called West Africa’s biggest market. It’s one of the most important places for the trade of clothes and shoes in Lagos.

Other key areas of the district are the Tinubu Square, which is one of the island’s historic sites; and Freedom Square, which has become a major events arena. 

Featured image source: Property Insider


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Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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