Dubai Image: Hotels CombinedBY MOHAMMED BELLO YUNUSA
Dubai is not a hidden destination for glamour policymakers, politicians, small and big business people and leaders of countries that are constantly in search of pleasure and money among others. Indeed for global shopping, Dubai is the destination for many including leaders of African countries. My mission to Dubai is to learn and see things for myself. I am curious to know how other nations are governed and other cities outside Nigeria exist.
The first incidence of how other countries are ruled at the material time of writing this was the British Prime Minister Liz Truss’s demonstration of ‘I am in charge.’ In a swift move on the British political chess board, the Prime Minister sacked the Chancellor of the Exchequer mainly because “the mini budget went further and faster than the market expects”. Such a budget was making a negative wave on the economy and that was bad for the citizens and businesses. Truss quickly appointed another to reverse the damaging policies. Thereafter, Truss assumed responsibilities for the prevailing economic and political woes; she resigned! African countries need someone to call the shots and assume responsibilities. Knowing who is in charge of Dubai city did not come to me this vividly.
Sure, I did not come to Dubai to study how it is governed. With knowledge acquisition and dispensing as my trade, I came to Dubai in search of new ideas and perspectives. This is to last for a week. With time limitations, I only had glimpses of the beautiful city. Though the city has a record of sand storms, it lacks the filth of Nigerian cities and the potential for flooding as in Lokoja. There are no uncovered drainage and littered polythene bags.
The small fishing village of the 15th century has become a sprawling city that provides commerce and pleasure to the global population. For shopping, education, health and leisure and other tourist attractions, certainly, Dubai is a place to go. Dubai is a safe and secured city. It is said that you can leave your bag of money on the street and come back for it the following day without a heart attack. On the first day in the city, I ventured into a grocery. The elderly Pakistani shopkeeper volunteered an assurance that I should feel free to go anywhere any time without fear of kidnap, one chance or any harm to my person. A taxi driver confirmed that safety and security in the city at all times do not exist anywhere outside Dubai.
The serenity is inherent in vehicular traffic. The city is extremely neat. The roads are kept clean by appointed persons. However, the streets can be littered with SPA advert handbills. Don’t pick any as you may be led to buying services from the opposite gender. Other than the fact that there is effective separation of vehicular traffic from pedestrians, drivers generally respect pedestrians like their parents. The entire traffic can come to a stand still for only one pedestrian to cross the road. Yet no horn sounds. I am sure people don’t greet people with vehicle horns there.
With the overlaying road network and metro line interchanges, added to massive and exotic building structures, Dubai is a fine example of concrete jungle. All urban services, cables and pipes are well encased in mother earth. Those that cannot be encased are at the rooftop of buildings. Rooftops are places for gas cylinders, air-conditioning engines and swimming pools. In all these I did not see or hear the sound of electricity generators. Yet, bulbs do not blink let alone go off. The electricity is a good manager of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Water supply is as forceful on the thousandth floor as it is on the ground floor. Dubai is a place where city infrastructure works just as the city never sleeps.
Dubai appears to be ahead of its time. Urban development is set to attract new investments. In several places, construction of high rise buildings, commercial or residential, is ongoing. Yet, there are several notices on vacant places as adverts of residential or business places. A place to rent is not an issue for new investors and entrepreneurs. The rate of building development is promoted by the non-payment of tenement rates by property owners. The only tax people pay in the United Arab Emirates is value added tax. This makes workers’ personal income wholly personal.
In this jungle and amazing infrastructural performance, a few houses have flower pots on their balconies in the high rise residential buildings. Along the streets and open spaces, there are few plants. A view of the city from the window of the hotel only reveals limited instances of trees and shrubs in the city. Few plants dot the city. Urban vegetation is a major challenge for the city. With the sand storms, huge possibilities of emissions of pro-climate change gases, the city can be better with increased density of plants and shrubs. The state in collaboration with residents can do something.
The bottom line is that Dubai is safe, secure, functional and economically boisterous though bereft of climate change mitigation item, urban vegetation cover. The wonder is: what are the take homes that leaders and policymakers of Africa bring back? African leaders and policymakers need to add value to their national development from experiences of other countries and even cities. If we cannot think it out, we should be able to copy. This is desirable because of our levels of development and performance. The state of many African cities, including Nigeria is, unfortunately, to say the least, dysfunctional, unsafe and unattractive to investors and enjoyment seekers. It is time for governments to begin to measure the influence of foreign visits, study tours and others by leaders and policymakers on policies, actual development and quality of life in Africa. Experience of other countries must be brought to bear on our vision and activities for the good of our lives.
The development, governance of and service delivery in Dubai is overwhelming and impressive. In the next full travel package to Dubai, do me a favour, pencil me down.
Yunusa is Executive Director, Socioeconomic and Environment Advocacy Centre, Zaria