Remembering the father of African geography, Prof. Akin Mabogunje

Emmanuel Kwarteng September 26, 2022
Professor Akinlawon Ladipo "Akin" Mabogunje -- Photo via

It is the responsibility of African urbanization scholars, average Nigerians, and policymakers to do more than just pay respects to the inventor of contemporary building regulations. The continent owes it to Akin Mabogunje to take steps to realize his vision of inclusive cities.

Professor Akinlawon Ladipo “Akin” Mabogunje was born on October 18, 1931, in Kano State. He was a Nigerian geographer.

He served as the International Geographical Union’s first-ever African president. He became the first African to be chosen as a Foreign Associate of the American National Academy of Sciences in 1999. He was awarded the Vautrin Lud Prize and made a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.

In 1948, Mabogunje graduated from Ibadan Grammar School, completing his secondary education. His geographic prowess became apparent at this point. He earned his doctorate in the same field from the University of London in 1961, and in 1965, he was appointed as the first geography professor in Nigeria at the University of Ibadan.

He has produced numerous book chapters, journal articles, conference papers, papers that were solicited, research papers, books, and memoirs in national and international journals, magazines, and publications, among others.

‘Urbanization in Nigeria’ – 1968

Mabogunje’s groundbreaking study was on urbanization in Nigeria. Part of it came from his doctoral dissertation, and more was added when he visited Northwestern University in the US in 1963 as a visiting scholar.

The book offered a compelling account of Nigerian cities’ pre- and post-colonial histories. It also provided strategies for overcoming urbanization-related difficulties from an African perspective. It outlined the early 1960s as the beginning of urbanization in northern and southern Nigeria prior to colonization. It explained how colonial rules and regulations affected the layout of cities.

In his book, Mabogunje argued that the mere existence of experts is insufficient to drive forth urbanization.

He was also blatantly honest in his writing. He provided vivid, lovable, and emotional depictions of the streets of Ibadan and Lagos in Urbanization in Nigeria. Readers were urged to go through time with him and to understand the persistence of the problems facing those cities today.

Other legacies

The influence of Mabogunje goes well beyond his influential book.

He provided urban and regional development consulting services to the Nigerian government and numerous states, educating politicians and bureaucrats on the potential impact and shaping of research institutes on policy.

He also designed the building blocks on which Nigeria’s real estate industry was built. His efforts led to the establishment of organizations like the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.

The Nigerian Real Estate Developers Association was established in 2002 as a result of his leadership of the Presidential Technical Committee on Housing and Urban Development.

He had a crucial role in the conceptualization of Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, while serving as an advisor to the Federal Capital Development Authority, between 1976 to 1984.


In 2017, he became the first African to win the Vautrin-Lud Prize, one of several honors he has received. The award is considered the highest honor in geography.

President Muhammadu Buhari also praised Mabogunje for the significant roles he took in the structuring, growth, and demographics of the nation, on his 90th birthday in 2021. The professor’s book, “Urbanization of Nigeria,” according to Mr. Buhari, served as a reference for the work of the federal capital development authority and the national census board.

Professor Mabogunje passed away in August 2022. He was 90 years old.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 26, 2022


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates