“Welcome to Lagos” is the best documentary on Africa I’ve seen. When the BBC first brought it out two years ago they presented it as the first of a series on life in mega cities. Sadly, they must have had second thoughts (or, more likely, budget cuts) because I’m still eagerly awaiting the next instalment. (You can see the whole series here.)
I know exactly why I love Welcome to Lagos. The documentary makers have the same core belief about the urban poor that I do: they are the most innovative and resourceful people on the planet. Watching the series you can’t help but gape in awe at how the people adapt to what most of us would consider inhospitable conditions (to put it mildly). From the rapper who finances his debut album by scavenging scrap at the dump, to the college student who finances his study by cutting trees and floating the logs down to Lagos, the documentary catalogues these and other triumphs of human ingenuity. It also harnesses the full power of the medium to drive home a point that countless others have made before: the urban poor are not to be pitied, but admired and, above all, respected. Could you make a go of it in Lagos?
We in the global health community could learn a thing or two from the slum dwellers. With health care budgets around the globe stretched to/beyond the breaking limits we need to be more innovative and resourceful than ever. And the beautiful irony that Welcome to Lagos makes clear is that the keys to unlocking these two mystical forces lie with the very people we are coming to help.
This post was written by Luke Disney, Executive Director of North Star Alliance.