Infrastructure for all delivers inclusive development

Dr Olajumoke Akiode is passionate about the need for her home country, Nigeria, to build sustainable infrastructure that meets the needs of all citizens and achieves inclusive economic growth.

As Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Ethics and Sustainable Development (CESD), Dr Akiode and her team provide evidence-based policy research and recommendations to enhance Nigeria’s infrastructure so it services the entire population, including marginalised groups like women, children and the poor. 

It is pioneering work, and CESD is the first non-profit, non-government think tank focused on sustainable and inclusive infrastructure delivery in Nigeria.

‘To enhance livelihoods and social wellbeing, infrastructure must be inclusive and mainstreamed across all institutions,’ says Dr Akiode. ‘The training I received during the Public-Private Infrastructure Partnership (PPIP) course at the University of Queensland in Australia introduced me to how infrastructure delivery using PPIPs can include inclusive procurement methods.’ 

The training Dr Akiode received also strengthened her advocacy skills on gender and social inclusion, which she now relies on to engage with policymakers, including at stakeholder roundtables and when presenting at conferences, most recently at ‘Resilient Lagos Week.’

Dr Akiode’s team has organised two sustainable infrastructure delivery seminars, one in 2016 and one in 2018, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to engage in forward-looking discussion and examine research output on infrastructure delivery in Nigeria. 

Emerging from the 2016 seminar was the recommendation to found Women in Infrastructure Community Africa. This advocacy platform, with more than 100 women members involved in the infrastructure sector in Eswatini, Nigeria and Rwanda, began operating in 2018. 

The 2018 seminar led to communities of practice and sector organisations pushing forward on Sustainable Development Goal 9, building resilient infrastructure. 

CESD’s work at the seminars has been recognised by the Lagos Statev Government and the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development at the University of Lagos. Lagos State is trailblazing in its policy shift towards gender and social inclusion. For example, buses in the rapid transit system are fitted out with ramps for passengers with physical disabilities and seats are reserved for those with special needs, including pregnant women, women with children and the elderly. Progress has also been made on engaging female drivers.

CESD has also trained more than 100 stakeholders on infrastructure delivery, including professionals from public and private sectors, civil society organisations, academia and members of informal
sector groups.

The CESD team actively engages with policymakers at federal, state and local levels, in both public and private sectors, to promote understanding about the importance of gender issues in infrastructure planning policy.

Organisations the team engages with include the Australia Alumni Association in Nigeria, Nigeria Economic Summit Group’s Infrastructure Policy Commission, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, industry practitioners, including Inter Bau Construction Limited, and relevant civil society organisations.

Despite the many successes, the work of Dr Akiode and her team is not without challenges, including the Nigerian Government’s non-ratification of gender and social inclusion agreements. 

Funding is also needed to create awareness of, and build capacity for, fast-tracking the adoption of CESD’s policy recommendations. 

Dr Akiode is supported through strong links with Australia, which are important to her work with CESD and the Women in Infrastructure Community Africa. She networks with other Australia Awards alumni, including professionals from other countries involved in infrastructure. 

Dr Akiode also maintains strong links with her Australian course facilitators and Australian Government representatives in Nigeria. 

Feature from Alumni News Volume 27. Click here for full Alumni News.

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